The next installment of our evaluation of Atlanta Braves’ position players against the rest of the National League East in 2020 will focus on second base.
We’ve seen his defense and offense shine since getting the call to the big leagues for the Braves in 2018 and he’s only going to get better. Let’s see how he stacks up against the rest of the division.
Other installments of 2020 positional preview:
Fangraphs projected WAR at 2B: 1.5 (Diaz)
That is a big void to fill at second base as Starlin Castro was one of the best offensive producers for Miami in 2019. He has since moved on to the Washington Nationals.
Castro finished 2019 with a slash line of .270/.300/.436 with a .736 OPS. This included 31 doubles, 22 home runs, and 86 RBI across 159 games played.
It’s very tough to think about replacing someone like that in your lineup.
Diaz was called up by the Marlins on August 4, 2019 and immediately found himself in the lineup. The Marlins shifted Starlin Castro to third base and gave Diaz the reins at second.
He had just 31 hits in 179 at-bats last season with 5 homers and 23 RBI. So, not the biggest offensive threat but that will come with time as he was one of the best in Minor League Baseball in 2019 slashing .305/.395/.578 with 26 home runs and 21 doubles at Triple-A New Orleans.
His defense wasn’t great as he had -1 DRS and a -4.7 UZR. Again, these will likely improve with time, but for now, he still needs to gain experience before he is considered one of the best in the division.
If for some reason the Marlins feel he isn’t ready to take on a full season yet, he could likely split time at the position with Jonathan Villar.
Villar has been with four teams now in his six-year MLB career. The Astros (2013-2015), Brewers (2016-2018), Orioles (2018-2019), and now the Marlins.
Villar has also had an up and down career offensively. He did find some success in 2015 with Houston (.284 average in 53 games) and 2016 (.285 average in 156 games) with Milwaukee, which was his breakout year.
Last season was good again for Villar as he hit .274 with 24 HR and 71 RBI in 162 games played.
He is much worse defensively even with a small sample size for Diaz. Villar in 2019 had -4 DRS at shortstop and -7 DRS at second base, where he spent the most time.
So, the Marlins have to decide this Spring if they think Diaz can replicate his offensive success from the minors at the MLB level or if they go with a proven veteran with questionable defense.