Prospect Diaz showing signs of being big league ready

Prospect Diaz showing signs of being big league ready

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Pirates catching prospect Elias Diaz got a taste of the Majors at the end of last season. By the sound of it, he'll get a bigger bite in 2016.

That's because the team's No. 3-ranked prospect, according to MLBPipeline, has earned rave reviews for his receiving ability and the way he manages pitchers behind the plate.

"I think a big part of it was being up here last year, catching a number of bullpens," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Now he's in the meetings, catching the bullpens, and we're moving him around and making sure he's catching different guys."

Top Prospects: Diaz, PIT

Hurdle attributed much of the chemistry Diaz has formed so far to communication, and not just the signs given at the dish. Hurdle praised Diaz's ability to learn English so that he could better understand his teammates and coaches.

"He's gone out of his way to develop that part of his game," Hurdle said before complimenting the organization's work with non-native speakers. "And I give our Minor League development group a ton of credit as well with the process they do in analyzing a game after it. ... He's done it well, and he's picked up on it quickly."

Jon Niese, who pitched to Diaz during Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the Phillies at Bright House Field, said it simply: "He gets it."

"He understood what I had today and what I didn't have, and we pitched accordingly," Niese said. "That's really good, especially for a rookie. That's very impressive."

The 25-year-old had a bit of a scare during the game, though. Darin Ruf fouled a ball that hit Diaz in the knee. Diaz dropped to the ground and was visited by a trainer, but he stayed in the game and completed six innings.

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"His knee is fine," Hurdle said. "Those kind[s] of things sting and probably get attention more than anything else, and [he] worked through it rather quickly."

If there's been any sort of perceived downside to Diaz's game, it has been how he'll grow offensively. But those concerns seem to have been set aside thus far this spring.

Though he went hitless in three at-bats on Tuesday, Diaz had reached base in each of his previous four games and is still batting .444 in Grapefruit League action.

"He's showing significant growth," Hurdle said.

Greg Zeck is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.