After getting off to a slow start in his U.S. debut, Yusniel Diaz is starting to look more like the player the Dodgers shelled out $15.5 million for last November.
The Dodgers' No. 10 prospect homered in his third straight game for Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga on Wednesday, though it wasn't enough to keep the Quakes from falling to Lancaster, 6-3. He finished 2-for-4 at the plate with a triple to go along with his home run, both of which were his third of the season.
After being assigned directly to the California League for his inaugural campaign, Diaz went 1-for-17 with no extra-base hits, one RBI and eight strikeouts in his first five games for the Quakes. Since then, however, the 19-year-old outfielder has gone 8-for-24 in his last six contests to raise his batting average to .220, and he has six extra-base hits, 10 RBIs and only three strikeouts in that span.
Diaz emerged as a star in Cuba's Serie Nacional at age 18 during the 2014-15 season, when he hit .348/.447/.440 with 72 hits in 65 games for Industriales de La Habana. He was the favorite to win the circuit's Rookie of the Year award before he defected last April, and the Dodgers signed him seven months later for a total of $31 million after incurring a penalty for exceeding their international spending pool.
Diaz shows the potential for four solid or better tools but stands out most for his hitting ability. He has good bat speed from the right side of the plate that, along with his excellent hand-eye coordination and plate discipline, enables him to consistently barrel the ball. And while his swing currently is geared towards hitting more line drives than home runs, scouts believe he could develop double-digit homer power as he grows into his projectable frame.
Diaz's plus speed gives him impact potential both on the bases and in the outfield, where he exhibits good instincts as well as a solid arm. He profiles best in center field but is capable of playing all three outfield spots. So far this season, he's split his time in the Quakes' outfield between center (six games) and right (five).
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.