Yusniel Diaz has been one of the hottest hitters at the Class A Advanced level this month, and there are a few reasons why.
"I think the first thing is, he's getting himself in a better position to hit," Rancho Cucamonga manager Drew Saylor said. "He's lowered his hands down and that's helped him to put the bat squarely on the pitch he wants more consistently. He's not trying to overswing. He's taking controlled, aggressive hacks and he's able to direct the bat head better and wait a little longer to tell the bat where to go."
In his fifth multi-hit performance of the week, the Dodgers' No. 5 prospect went 4-for-4 with a walk, three runs scored and an RBI on Sunday to pace the Quakes to an 8-4 win over Lancaster on Sunday at LoanMart Field.
The 20-year-old outfielder signed with the Dodgers in November 2015 and batted .272/.333/.418 with 23 extra-base hits in 82 California League games last year. His first-inning walk against Lancaster left-hander Helmis Rodriguez was his 26th this season after totaling 29 in 2016.
"Him coming at 19 into the California League last year was definitely a wakeup call for him," Saylor said of MLB.com's No. 93 overall prospect. "Just the social aspect of what life is like in Cuba compared to what life is like in the U.S. is a big jump, and he's been able to lean on that experience. He's learned, 'It's going to be a process for me,' and he's learned to be able to put together quality at-bats.
"Really, here in Rancho ... we're trying to take tougher pitches and back pitchers into a corner. One of the things we try to get guys to understand is, you're going to take some balls that get called strikes, and that [stinks] because you'll get backed into a pitcher's count. But sometimes that puts the thought down in the pitcher's mind and the catcher's mind, 'Why did he take that? He should have swung and it should have been a soft contact out. What's he looking for?' That's what we're trying to achieve."
It's worked for Diaz, who Saylor said has been "blistering balls" even while going hitless on Thursday and Saturday. On Sunday, he singled to left field in the third, fifth and sixth and hit an opposite-field liner in the eighth. In each case, his control of the at-bat and his discipline made a difference.
"Literally, he's taking borderline pitches. He's getting himself into counts where he can attack and hitting the ball hard in fair territory. If you're putting yourself in counts to get your 'A' swing off on a good pitch, you're going to have success," Saylor said. "The biggest misnomer out there is that it's all about mechanics. You can have great mechanics, but if you're swinging at everything -- including a hot dog wrapper and the rosin bag -- you're not putting yourself in a position for success."
The manager also said he's "tremendously" pleased with the way Diaz sprays the ball around the field.
"I think if you'd asked me last year, I would say he definitely shows power to right-center field, and when he's on, he's driving the ball to that gap. The last four or five weeks, he's really hitting to all fields and taking what the pitcher gives him," Saylor added.
"Our plan is to understand where the pitcher is throwing balls the most consistently and then finding within that zone where we're going to be able to make solid contact. For guys like him and DJ Peters, it's not a fluke that they're starting to put good swings on the ball consistently. They're putting together professional at-bats."
Peters, the Dodgers' No. 18 prospect, hit his 12th homer of the season and third in seven games. Garrett Kennedy went 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs.
Caleb Ferguson (2-4), struck out eight and allowed three runs -- two earned -- on eight hits and a walk over five innings for the win.
Rockies prospect Wes Rogers was 3-for-5 with a run scored and his California League-leading 35th and 36th stolen bases.