Astros News: Yainer Diaz Could Play First Base in 2023
By Alec Brown
Yainer Diaz could play first base in Houston
The Houston Astros landed Yainer Diaz at the 2021 trade deadline, in what at the time was mostly viewed as a Myles Straw for Phil Maton swap. The move was a surprise to some, but to the Astros' credit, they've always viewed Diaz as more than a throw-in.
More than a throw-in is quite the understatement to this point. He spent his 2022 season both in AA with Corpus Christi and AAA with Sugar Land. He combined to hit .306 with an .898 OPS and 25 bombs at the two stops.
He actually fared better against AAA pitching, hitting 16 big flies in only 47 games, good for a .930 OPS. He can stand to put the ball in the air more as he has a propensity for ground balls, but all things said, catchers that can hit are a rarity in today's game.
His offensive prowess has led to a rise through the organization, where he is now ranked the Astros' #3 prospect. He was rewarded with a September call-up for his efforts, but only saw eight at-bats. With the promise he has shown, and with Maldy's struggles at the dish, it would behoove the Astros to get Diaz as many big league looks as they can as quickly as possible, especially without a second catcher on the big league roster.
Barring another move, either Diaz or Korey Lee likely start the season as the backup catcher. Success with the bat aside, Diaz has another thing working in his favor--he can play multiple spots.
Kenny Van Doren shared a clip from Diaz' Instagram story of the prospect taking reps at first base today.
As Van Doren said, Diaz started 34 times at 1B between AA and AAA. He actually made more starts at 1B in AA than he did behind the dish. He also made eight starts in the corner outfield in AA, but it's unlikely he plays there as a big-leaguer.
It's entirely possible we see Diaz start the year as the backup catcher, make some spot starts at DH, and even spell Jose Abreu periodically at the corner. Either way, he has shown great promise, versatility and deserves a spot on the big league roster.