Lancaster, California —— Outfield prospect Yonathan Daza is having the best season of his professional career in 2017, slashing .358/.390/.483/.872 over his first 84 games this summer with the Colorado Rockies‘ High-A affiliate Lancaster JetHawks. Yes, Lancaster forever remains a wonderful place to hit, but even with that, Daza is putting up a special year: 25 doubles, six triples, two home runs, 11 stolen bases, and 166 total bases over his first 344 at-bats — not to mention the pole position for the California League‘s batting title with a 33-point lead entering play on Wednesday.
What’s behind all this, anyways? Daza has been with the Colorado Rockies for some time now, and the 23-year-old has put up decent numbers across his career (he slashed .303/.338/.402/.740 last year, for one), but he’s never quite done this before. What gives? Is it just because of Lancaster? Is Yonathan Daza a sleeper prospect who has a shot to impact the big leagues soon? Let’s explore…
Yonathan Daza, OF, Colorado Rockies — Scouting Report
Now 23 years old, Daza’s body has changed in the last two years. At spring training 2016 he was thicker in the legs and softer in his upper body with some baby fat. Now 15 months later he’s far more chiseled, having tightened up his lower half with significantly more explosiveness in his core, which you can especially see at the plate. That’s translated to improved bat speed as well as better plate coverage. It’s also helped him man the vast right field expanse in Lancaster, and has likely helped his best tool: a very strong throwing arm. There’s not too much more projection left in Yonathan Daza’s body, but he should continue to add modest upper body strength in the next year or two as he moves up the minor league ladder.
At the plate, Daza is a tall, relaxed hitter who is very active and aggressive in the box. He’s a natural low-ball hitter, and struggles with pitches—especially good velocity—in the top half of the zone. His plate coverage is good, especially considering his aggressiveness, and he can spray line drives line to line even though he’s naturally a right-center field power alley type of hitter. The aggressiveness may soon come back to bite him, and even though his contact skills are good enough so that he’s not a strikeout machine, he’s allergic to drawing walks and must have a more discerning eye at the plate.
Lancaster pumps up power numbers for most hitters, and yet it hasn’t for Daza, who has just two home runs (but 25 doubles). That’s a sign that the Colorado Rockies outfielder isn’t likely to hit for much over-the-fence power down the road, either, and should find himself a gap-to-gap doubles hitter in the future, too. Whether that’ll be enough to man a corner outfield spot at Coors Field remains to be seen, however. He can run a little bit, and could play center field at times, but he’s likely not an everyday center fielder (especially at a place like the Rockies’ home ballpark in Denver).
Undoubtedly, Daza’s best, most projectable tool is his throwing arm. His accuracy is inconsistent, but he’s got a legitimate cannon in the outfield and gets great carry on his throws. That alone, plus an ability to hit for average moving forward, should give Daza his fair share of opportunities; if those two tools develop, he could become a productive big leaguer.
Yonathan Daza, OF, Colorado Rockies — In-Game Video
We’ve been able to see Colorado Rockies outfielder Yonathan Daza quite a bit in 2016 and 2017; below are several dozen at-bats and several rounds of batting practice from the outfielder, broken up by date and game. If you like what you see with these videos, please click here and subscribe to our YouTube channel for hundreds more prospect videos.
Making sense of Yonathan Daza — Breakout Season And Future Role
There’s no question Yonathan Daza is enjoying the Lancaster bump playing half his games at The Hangar, and so his numbers will undoubtedly come back to earth in Double-A and beyond. He’s age-appropriate for the level, but lacks a truly mature approach at the plate despite his experience (more ‘see ball, hit ball’ than anything), and I’m skeptical that he will continue to produce as he reaches the upper minors. His contact skills are good, though, and his swing is relatively compact even with some holes in his strike zone, so he may be able to make an adjustment.
Again, projection-wise, his throwing arm is his best tool. While that alone isn’t enough to carry him to the big leagues, his foot speed is above-average and his hit-for-average tool—while unlikely to fully translate to the big leagues—has forever been on display across his minor league career. As such, there’s enough here to push Yonathan Daza forward onto the Colorado Rockies radar. I’m very skeptical he’s a true impact prospect, and I have no doubt he’ll come back to earth in Double-A later this year or next year, but all he’s ever done is hit across his seven-year pro career (.310/.353/.413/.766 in 499 total games), and so that’s what makes his Lancaster breakout slightly less eyebrow-raising.
Daza should be up for free agency this winter after seven years with the Colorado Rockies, so whatever the big league team does this offseason will tell you all you need to know about how they feel about the outfielder: protect him on the 40-man roster and send him to Double-A in 2018 as a bona fide prospect who could make an impact, or let him potentially walk in the offseason, get nothing back, and see if another organization likes him enough to bring him on board as a shrewd under-the-radar move. Too much will happen between now and then to predict whether the Rockies will protect Yonathan Daza on their 40-man roster, but at the very least I think he’s a perfect Arizona Fall League candidate for the organization to showcase and figure out whether he’s for real with a big league future, or an impostor massively benefitting from Lancaster’s friendly confines. Ultimately, he could well become a platoon/utility outfielder in the big leagues with a decent bat off the bench and the perfect arm to be a defensive replacement late in games.