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Yandy Diaz's bat is major-league ready, but his glove is 'a work in progress' for Cleveland Indians

Zack Meisel • Feb 28, 2017 at 3:30 PM

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- No one would have questioned the Indians' decision-making abilities had Yandy Diaz's surname rested above a locker in their clubhouse last September.

He batted .318 with a .408 on-base percentage last season between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus. If anything, his bat seems ready for a big-league audition.

It isn't the lumber the Indians are concerned with, though. Diaz doesn't really have a position at this point. He started in left field for the Indians' Cactus League affair against the Rangers on Monday. Manager Terry Francona said he'll bounce around to right field and third base this spring as well.

Diaz floated between those three spots last year in the minors. He advanced through the Indians' system as a third baseman.

"Defensively, he's still a work in progress," Francona said. "We even told him that last year, when we were thinking about September and possible guys who could help. He was transitioning to the outfield; because he wasn't ready yet defensively, he couldn't be in that conversation. Offensively, he was probably at the top of the list."

Diaz has excelled at the plate at every minor-league stop. He owns a career .307/.403/.410 slash line in three seasons in the Cleveland organization. He has walked more often than he has struck out (198 to 191).

"His at-bats are so quality," Francona said. "He swings at strikes. He's starting to hit the ball for a little more power. When you look at him, he hits a lot of balls to right-center field with authority. I think you could see him growing into power, just because of his approach, which is what guys normally do."

His bulging biceps muscles are befitting of a power hitter. Diaz totaled nine home runs and 22 doubles in 121 games last season.

"He'll grow into it," Francona said.

His prowess at the plate, though, won't be the determining factor in his bid for an Opening Day roster spot. Francona said Diaz, Zimmer and Greg Allen would likely be ticketed for the minors in April barring something unforeseen.

If Michael Brantley isn't ready in a month, however, that could create an opening in left field. Diaz walked twice and struck out in his three trips to the plate on Monday. If he wants to start in left again for the Indians in five weeks, the 25-year-old will have to prove himself defensively.

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