The 24-year-old RH backstop hit .285 with 11 doubles, four home runs and 26 RBI in 57 minor league games this season. He also appeared in one game with Toronto as the DH and went hitless in four at bats at Tampa Bay.
Diaz began 2008 with AAA Syracuse and has spent most of the season with the Chiefs, where he was hitting .244 with a HR and 13 RBI in 131 at-bats. He was on the DL with a right ankle sprain from May 3 through July 16.
He hit .386 while playing 15 games on rehab with the GCL Blue Jays from June 27 through July 16. He was then assigned to Class A Dunedin, batting .320 in six games while knocking off the rust before re-joining Syracuse on July 24.
In 640 career minor league games, Diaz has batted .304, with 135 doubles, 17 home runs and 327 RBI. The Jays were supposed to be fairly high on him. He was their 18th ranked prospect last season, and Toronto thought well enough of Diaz to carry him on their 40-man roster for the past couple of years.
Baseball Prospectus said of him before the season:
Diaz is a little bit of an anomaly: A catcher who hits like a middle infielder, with good contact-hitting ability, a very low strikeout rate, and above-average speed. His defense is quite good, and repeating the level can't be held against him because the organization gave priority to Curtis Thigpen. Still, the toll of the catching position is going to make it hard for him to keep legging out base hits, so there may not be much development in his bat.Jordan Bastion of MLB.com wrote about him in the spring:
Diaz, who was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2000, has yet to make it to the Majors, but (GM J.P.) Ricciardi said that fact might be a result of circumstances. As is the case for many players who come from Spanish-speaking countries, there are some hurdles that raw talent can't always overcome.He was added to the Pirate's 40-man roster and assigned to Indy. Sounds like a mini-Jason Kendall in the making to GW. Pittsburgh should get so lucky again.
"He's a tough kid. He's physical," Ricciardi said. "But I think like most of the kids who come out of the Dominican, his catching up with the language and all that stuff has been really the only thing that's held him back. He's been around a long time now."
Over the past four seasons, the 24-year-old Diaz has been named to six Minor League All-Star teams, and he suited up for the World team in the Futures Game during All-Star week in San Francisco last year. In 2007, Diaz hit .320 with four home runs and 40 RBIs in 93 games between Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Syracuse.
Besides catching, Diaz has some limited experience at second and third base. Ricciardi said the catcher is sound defensively, and while Diaz tends to be a free swinger at the plate, he's performed well offensively throughout his Minor League career. In 519 games in the Minors, Diaz has hit .305 with a .341 on-base percentage.
"He can hit," Ricciardi said. "He's not the kind of guy you look at and say, 'This is our ideal offensive posterboy,' but he can hit. He barrels balls. He'll barrel a ball off the top of his shoe, a ball over his head.
"He's a lot like a Nomar [Garciaparra] strike zone, or like [an Alfonso] Soriano strike zone. He's hacking when he goes up there, but he could be the exception to the rule. He's done well everywhere he's played."
The obvious questions - was it a depth move by the Bucs or part of a master plan to move Ryan Doumit to first base by 2010? And how does Ronny Paulino fit in now?