BURLINGTON, N.C.—Yennsy Diaz
got too much of the plate in his first three outings this season. In his next three, the 19-year old Dominican righthander didn’t get enough of it.
If his most recent start was any indication though, the Blue Jays’ preseason No. 19 prospect might have finally found a happy medium.
Diaz pitched six scoreless innings with two hits allowed, one walk and eight strikeouts on Tuesday, leading Rookie-level Bluefield to a 5-0 win over Burlington (Royals) in an Appalachian League matinee contest.
"Today the biggest adjustment he made was he was throwing strikes down in the zone,” Bluefield pitching coach Tony Caceres said. "He’s been up a little bit too much and getting around the ball, and then his fastball tends to flatten out a little bit up in the zone and that’s when they take good swings, and then he’d start pulling off and missing on the sides. Today when he threw one up, the next two were down. He made good pitches and made adjustments each pitch.”
Diaz mostly sat 92-95 mph with his fastball, topping out at 96, and carried his velocity into the middle innings. He threw a fastball on 69 of his 79 pitches, largely because he didn’t feel the need to throw much else.
Six of his eight strikeouts came on fastballs.
"I felt good with my fastball today so threw a lot of them,” Diaz said through a translator. "It was locating well. I didn’t feel like I was throwing hard. It was nice and easy and it was good.”
Diaz added eight curveballs that ranged from 76-80 mph and two changeups that were 86-88. While his secondary offerings are still in the working stages, the fact that his fastball was in the zone getting swings and misses as often as it was represented a big step forward for the 6-foot-1, 160 pounder.
"He’s a young kid and sometimes he wants to overthrow, and when he overthrows he gets rotational and he gets on the side of the ball,” Caceres said. "We’ve been trying to get his mechanics top to bottom more so he can finish out front with good spin on the ball. He did that today.”
Diaz, who was part of the Blue Jays’ 2013-14 international signing class, made his stateside debut toward the end of last season and has struggled to find his footing this year in his first year beginning a season with a U.S.-based affiliate.
He had 15 strikeouts and two walks over his first three outings, but was giving up a rate of 10.9 hits per nine innings and had a .288 batting average and .802 OPS against.
In his next three outings he lowered all of those figures, but had eight walks and nine strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings.
"My biggest thing has been consistently finishing pitches out front,” Diaz said. "We’ve been working on getting that down a lot.”
It all came together on Tuesday finally, giving the Blue Jays an intriguing look at what the future can hold.
"I was more confident because everything was going well,” Diaz said. "I was relaxed. I felt really good and threw the ball well and felt like I made the adjustments I needed to.”
NEWS AND NOTES
• Bluefield’s Andrew Deramo
, Chris Hall
and Connor Eller
followed Diaz with a hitless inning of relief each to wrap up a combined two-hitter for the Blue Jays. Hall drew the most praise from scouts in the crowd of the three, using a late-biting cutter in the 87-90 mph range to induce lots weak contact in on the hands of righthanded batters.
• Third baseman Javier Monzon
, a Cuban defector who signed with the Blue Jays in February, hit a hard line drive home run to left field in the eighth for Bluefield. It was the first hit for Monzon since joining the team on Monday. He is the Blue Jays’ first Cuban signing since Adeiny Hechavarria
• Third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
, the Blue Jays' No. 4 midseason prospect and son of the former MVP, got a day off for Bluefield after playing 13 innings the previous night.
• Burlington second baseman Gabriel Cancel
had one of the Royals’ two hits and made two highlight-reel plays in the field. The 2015 seventh-round pick from Puerto Rico laced a 94 mph inside fastball back up the middle for a single in his first at-bat and made a long-ranging play to each side at second base, showing sure glovework and a strong, accurate arm on the run throwing both across his body and against it.
• Royals lefthander Andre’ Davis
struck out the side in both the first and second innings, showing a 91-93 mph fastball and mid-80s changeup. Five of his six strikeouts came swinging. The 6-foot-6, 225-pound southpaw was an eighth-round selection in 2015 out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff.