With the Diamondbacks coming and going through town this week, this was the first chance for former Brewers’ shortstop Jean Segura to revisit the city where he grew up as a young major league player. After a a string of disappointing seasons, Milwaukee shipped Segura to Arizona over the winter, where he has thrived this season. Segura teased Brewers’ fans with his potential during the first half of the 2013 season, and the 26 year old appears to have finally recaptured that form as he’s hitting .317/.365/.452 with eight home runs and 17 steals through 96 games this season (though notably his BABIP is 50+ points higher than it was during 2014-15).
Thanks to the stellar play of Jonathan Villar, however, most Milwaukeeans seem to be at peace with Segura’s success in the desert. Perhaps even more exciting than Villar’s unexpected breakout are the early returns of the prospect received as the centerpiece in the trade with Arizona – Class A Wisconsin infielder Isan Diaz.
Diaz was a second round pick in 2014 by current Brewers’ amateur scouting director Ray Montgomery during his final season in the same role with Arizona. After hitting .360/.436/.640 with 13 home runs and 12 steals en route to the Pioneer League MVP award in 2015, Diaz has kept up his hitting ways since joining the Brewers and making the jump to full season ball with Appleton.
The 20 year old infielder endured a slow start to the season, which isn’t uncommon during the colder conditions during the first months of Midwest League play, and shouldn’t have necessarily been unexpected for a player more than a year and a half younger than league average. But as the weather got warmer, so did the T-Rats left-handed hitting shortstop, who earned himself a spot in the Midwest League All-Star game.
With an 1.130 OPS during July, Diaz is now hitting a cool .268/.350/.477 through 99 games in 2016. He leads the Midwest League with 15 home runs, is tied for fourth with 26 doubles, and his .827 OPS ranks 13th-best in the league. Diaz isn’t a burner but is a smart baserunner who has added 10 steals to his ledger to boot, making him one of only three players in the league with 10+ home runs and steals this season.
Thanks to his outstanding production this season, Diaz is a prospect on the rise within the Brewers’ system and around baseball. BP recently included him in the list of next year’s candidates to be on the Top 101 prospect ranking, with Chris Crawford praising his “outstanding approach” at the dish. In that regard it is worth noting that Diaz is sporting a nifty 10.7 percent walk rate this season and his 46 free passes rank him tied for fourth in his league. Crawford goes on to note Diaz’s above-average power and that he has the potential for an above-average or better hit tool if he can cut down on his strikeout rate (currently 24.7 percent). Crawford does add that his strikeouts are more a function of his advanced approach than they are swing-and-miss tendencies.
Diaz has played mostly shortstop during his time in Wisconsin but most seem to feel that he’ll eventually have to move over to the other side of the infield, where his arm strength and range will play better at second base. He does have the potential to be an average to above-average defender at the keystone, but his bat should play no matter what position he settles in at. Diaz has all the tools to be an everyday-caliber player at the MLB level.
MLB Pipeline’s re-ranking of the Brewers top 30 prospects now has Diaz slotted in at number seven, a jump of four spots over where he began the season. Milwaukee currently has a total of five top-100 prospects according to their rankings, but Isan Diaz isn’t too far from joining that list.