Yonathan Daza Rises To The Challenge
Yonathan Daza runs well but stole two bases in nine attempts in 2016 at low Class A Asheville. Farm director Zach Wilson said Daza "was challenged” on that area of his game.
He responded in a big way in 2017 at high Class A Lancaster, where he hit well as he has every season and then carried his performance over to the Arizona Fall League. The Rockies added Daza to the 40-man roster in November. Wilson said the righthanded-hitting Daza is a plus runner who has reached first base in 4.1 seconds and has become "super aggressive on the basepaths.”
Daza stole 31 bases in 39 attempts at Lancaster, where he hit .341/.376/.466 with 34 doubles, 11 triples and three homers in 135 games. He won the California League batting title.
"It had nothing to do with playing in (hitter-friendly) Lancaster,” Wilson said. "It’s not like he hit 20 home runs. He’s a line drive, gap-to-gap, barrel-control type of hitter. He would have done that no matter where he played.”
In the AFL, Daza hit .318/.333/.379 with 11 stolen bases in 19 games. He signed out of Venezuela in 2010.
Daza, who will be 24 in 2018, has the strongest outfield arm in the Rockies’ system and outstanding instincts to play center field. He gets quick jumps on balls with a quick first step.
"He probably plays the best center field in our organization for anybody not named (Raimel) Tapia or (David) Dahl,” Wilson said. "He makes it look easy.”
Tapia and Dahl are lefthanded hitters, so the righthanded Daza could be a complement.
It was an easy decision to protect Daza, whom Wilson felt would otherwise have been taken in the Rule 5 draft.
"He’s got the present skill set where he could play in the big leagues,” Wilson said. "He’s not fully ready for that. But a team that might have taken him in the Rule 5, you can put him on your club right now as a fourth or fifth outfielder and he’d be fine.”
• Warren Schaeffer will manage Double-A Hartford after beginning his managerial career with three seasons at Asheville. Jerry Weinstein, 74, who managed Hartford last season, will return for a 12th season with the Rockies in a part-time role doing special assignment work for both Wilson and scouting director Bill Schmidt. The Rockies did not have a development supervisor at Hartford last year with the veteran Weinstein there and will not have one in 2018, an indication of their confidence in Schaeffer. Robinson Cancel, hitting coach at short-season Boise last year, his first in the organization, will replace Shaeffer and manage Asheville.
• Utility man Shawn O’Malley signed a minor league contract with an invitation to big league camp. The 30-year-old played 89 games with the Mariners in 2016 but had an appendectomy and shoulder surgery last year that limited him to 20 games at Triple-A Tacoma.