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Yonathan Daza is seizing his opportunity in a crowded outfield

Colorado Rockies news and links for Thursday, May 12th, 2022

There’s no mistaking that the outfield for the Colorado Rockies is a crowded place. The Rockies are carrying at least six outfielders on their active roster with a seventh currently on the injured list. 28-year old center fielder Yonathan Daza has already had to scrape together appearances where able since his debut in 2019, and admittedly I wasn’t sure where he fit on this team this season with such a packed outfield. Daza has proven me wrong so far by making the most of his opportunities in 2022. After a bumpy road to the majors, Daza is proving himself to be a big league contributor.

Yonathan Daza signed with the Rockies out of Maracay, Venezuela in 2010 when he was just 16 years old. He eventually climbed his way into the organization’s top 30 prospect rankings starting in 2018 and stayed their until 2020 by putting together three straight strong seasons in the minor leagues.

Yonathan Daza: minor leagues 2017-2019

2017 A+ Lancaster 125 569 519 93 177 34 11 3 87 31 30 88 .341 .376 .466
2018 AA-Hartford 54 228 219 27 67 18 2 4 29 4 7 24 .306 .330 .461
2019 AAA-Albuquerque 89 418 387 67 141 30 4 11 48 12 25 52 .364 .404 .548
Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference

Daza was ranked the Rockies’ no. 15 prospect by MLB Pipeline for 2019, and here at Purple Row we ranked him no. 15 for our midseason PuRPs listings. He made two very brief big league cameos with the Rockies in spring of that year. In April he started three games while going 0-for-11 with a walk before being optioned down to the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes. He made three more appearances in late May—including two starts—and obtained his first big league hit while going 1-for-7. Daza was again optioned down to the Isotopes to resume his excellent minor league campaign.

The Rockies called Yonathan Daza back up on August 4th and he spent the rest of the season with the big league team. From August 4th to September 29th, Daza appeared in 38 games with 19 starts while slashing .241/.291/.279. Limited to just 105 plate appearances in his rookie season, Daza didn’t have much time to make his case. With the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling the 2020 minor league season—and Daza not being called to the Rockies’ alternate training site—the young outfielder missed an entire year of playing ball.

With no options left entering the 2021 season, the Rockies had to decide if Daza would make the Opening Day roster or be designated for assignment. He showed up to spring training hungry, slashing .364/.383/.500 with three doubles and a home run through 44 spring at-bats to earn himself a spot on the 26-man roster.

Yonathan Daza: 2021 performance during date ranges

April 1 - July 11 80 59 269 244 22 71 11 2 2 28 18 46 .295 .345 .381
August 1 - August 16 12 6 29 28 3 5 0 0 0 1 0 8 .179 .207 .179
September 9 - October 3 15 6 33 29 1 8 1 0 0 1 3 6 .276 .344 .310
Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference

Yonathan Daza had an excellent first half for the 2021 season. He made 80 appearances and 59 starts—mostly in center field—from April 1st through July 11th while slashing .295/.345/.381 and hitting his first major league home run. Then he got derailed. Daza was placed on the COVID list on July 16th and wouldn’t make his way back to the roster until the beginning of August. When he returned, his performance fell off a cliff. In August he made just 12 appearances while going 5-for-28 with a line of .179/.207/.179 with no extra base hits. Daza then made another trip to the IL with a hand laceration that kept him out for almost a month. When he returned he began to re-emerge, but the season was drawing to a close.

The Rockies entered 2022 again worried about where Yonathan Daza would fit in, and Yonathan Daza entered 2022 hungry once more. In spring training he slashed .464/.516/.464 in 28 at-bats and made it to the Opening Day roster.

Daza didn’t make his first appearance of the year until April 10th, but hit the ground sprinting at full speed. In his first game of the year he went 2-for-4. What’s really impressive about Daza right now is how well he’s hitting for contact and taking good at-bats. He didn’t strike out for the first time this season until May 5th, and his four total strikeouts is the fewest of any Rockies batter with 20 or more at-bats.

Daza’s high contact plate approach is playing well for the Rockies. He’s currently slashing .367/.404/.429 in 21 games and 49 at-bats so far. He does have a ground ball rate on the higher side with an even 50%, but he’s also hitting line drives at a solid 28.6% clip. His exit velocity is up from the previous two seasons and so is his hard hit percentage. He’s also spreading the ball evenly with both pulled and opposite field hits sitting at 21.4%.

Another huge difference Daza is making comes away from the hitter friendly confines of Coors Field. Daza is one of the few Rockies batters thriving on the road to start the season. In 25 at-bats on the road he’s hitting .320/.346/.440 with a double, a triple, and three RBIs. At home he’s hitting .417/.462/.417 in 24 at-bats, but ironically hasn’t hit for extra bases yet.

At the beginning of the season I wasn’t sure where Yonathan Daza fit within the organization. I thought he might have hit his ceiling in the first half of 2021 and that it might be best to trade him and reduce the logjam in the Rockies’ outfield. I’m very glad to have been proven wrong to start the season. Daza is proving he has big league mettle and setting himself apart from his compatriots in the outfield.

★ ★ ★

4 good surprises for the Colorado Rockies so far in 2022 | Rox Pile

The Rockies are limping home after a miserable road trip. They were damaged in the desert and battered in the Bay Area. However, at least Rox Pile’s Noah Yingling has some positive surprises for us to think about on our recovery day. Despite a tough outing yesterday, new arrival Chad Kuhl has been the Rockies’ best rotation pitcher so far this season. Daniel Bard has been the team’s best reliever, having reclaimed his closing role from 2020. His defense isn’t great, but José Iglesias has been a consistent quality bat for the Rockies all over the lineup. In fact, despite the road trip woes, the Rockies offense is actually performing quite well. Their OPS+ of 103 has them hanging out above league average in comparison with the rest of the league.

★ ★ ★

On the Farm:

Triple-A: Albuquerque Isotopes 10, Sugar Land Space Cowboys 5

After an ugly 20-1 loss on Tuesday the Isotopes’ bats came roaring to life early in this one with a four run first inning. Spots one through five in the lineup all had at least two hits in this one, but the star of the show was top prospect Elehuris Montero. Montero went 3-for-4 with three RBIs, including a two-run home run in the fourth inning. New arrival Riley Smith made the start for the Isotopes, giving up four runs on five hits and two home runs through four innings. He did strike out five batters. The bullpen gave up just one run via a solo home run in the fifth inning with Jake Bird pitching. It was the only hit Bird allowed as he struck out four through two innings of work. Justin Lawrence and JD Hammer both struck out two in their frames.

Double-A: Portland Sea Dogs 4, Hartford Yard Goats 0

The Yard Goats were held to five hits in this shutout loss while going 0-for-7 with RISP and leaving nine total runners stranded. Starting pitcher Noah Davis had another tough outing on the mound, making it through just three innings of work while giving up five hits and walking five batters over three innings. The bullpen kept this game from getting out of control, with Trent Fennell working three innings and allowing one run on three hits and striking out four. Dugan Darnell, Riley Pint, and Stephen Jones all worked scoreless frames, but the offense couldn’t do any damage against the Sea Dogs.

High-A: Spokane Indians 10, Hillsboro Hops 0

The Indians put together an incredibly impressive night on both sides of the ball, holding the Hops to just one hit while the offense roughed up their pitching staff. Big man Tony Locey had an excellent start. He’s still struggling with some control issues—he walked six batters in this game—but held the Hops hitless through six shutout frames and struck out ten batters. Tanner Propst gave up the only hit of the night but worked a shutout seventh inning with a strikeout. Shelby Lackey and Luke Taggart continue their impressive seasons, each throwing a shutout inning with two and one strikeout(s) respectively. At the plate the Indians scored ten runs on 8 hits. Drew Romo had three RBIs while Zac Veen and Julio Carreras both walloped home runs. Veen went 2-for-3 with three RBIs and is currently hitting a respectable .293 in his second professional season.

Low-A: Fresno Grizzlies 6, Visalia Rawhide 3 (12 innings)

Starting pitcher Case Williams had a lot of traffic in his 6 13 inning start against the Rawhide by giving up eight hits, but he also struck out eight batters and held his opponent to just two runs. Juan Mejia worked 2 23 innings of hitless baseball, walking two batters and striking out four. Tyler Ahearn worked 2 13 innings while giving up three hits and one unearned run. The unearned run came in the bottom of the 12th inning when the extra-innings runner scored. Ahearn walked three and struck out two. Sergio Sanchez earned his first save of the season, striking out two batters in 23 of an inning. The Grizzlies scored six runs on 11 hits with a few innings of bonus baseball. Juan Brito and Braiden Ward both went 2-for-4, with Ward hitting a solo home run. Catcher Hunter Goodman went 3-for-6. Warming Bernabel was the hero of the day by capping off a 2-for-4 outing with the game-winning three-run home run in the top of the 12th.

★ ★ ★

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