Daza Looking To Dazzle For 2021 Colorado Rockies

Colorado Rockies 2021

As the 2021 season approaches, the Colorado Rockies find themselves counting more challenges than absolutes. The team is coming off two disappointing seasons in a row. Two of their three All-Star caliber players might be or are on the verge of departing. And with a payroll crunch on, most of their hopes for success are reliant on internal solutions. One of those just might be outfielder Yonathan Daza.

The Need

For the past several seasons the Rockies have had most of their productive at-bats in the outfield by left-handed hitters. Charlie Blackmon has been a stalwart in right field. Center field has been patrolled most recently by David Dahl and Raimel Tapia. Young Sam Hilliard has come up from the minors with his brand of left-handed power. Ian Desmond has been a right-handed hitting option in the Rockies outfield but has been less than spectacular. But the brief tenure of veteran Kevin Pillar who produced a .308 batting average and .801 OPS in 91 at-bats in 2020 proved the team’s acute need of a right-handed hitter in the Rockies outfield.

Right Place, Right Time.

At the team’s moment of need stands 26-year old Yonathan Daza. The Venezuela-native signed with the Rockies as a minor league free agent at the age of sixteen. After thee seasons in the Dominican Summer League, Daza moved into the higher affiliates in the system in 2014.

Since then it’s been a slow but steady progression through the organization. The hallmark of Daza’s career so far has been batting average. He’s batted .303 or higher at every stop of his minor league career. That includes .370 at rookie level Grand Junction, and .305, .323 and .341 at three Single-A stops. Daza excelled in the high minors with a .306 batting average at Double-A and a whopping .364 at Triple-A Albuquerque in 2019. 

How It Can Work

Relief from outside the organization is unlikely with the team in a payroll crunch, so free agents are probably out of the question for the 2021 Colorado Rockies. Blackmon is unquestioned in right field. Tapia has made his bones as a big leaguer and is slated for center field. Meanwhile left field looks like a time share between Hilliard and Desmond. Daza is the only variable on hand. He’s played center field almost exclusively through the minors and has above average instincts and skills in the outfield. His arm, however, is better suited to left field. Daza’s first task will be to outplay Desmond for a share of the left field job.

How He Can Do It

The Rockies desperately need productivity from right-handed hitters not named Nolan Arenado or Trevor Story. Daza hasn’t been much of a power hitter through the minors but that has shown signs of improving. In 2017, Daza played in the homer-happy California league and hit just three of his own in 519 at-bats.

He did, however, drive in 87 runs with 34 doubles, eleven triples and an .842 OPS. At Triple-A in 2019 Daza’s power stroke started to develop with 11 homers, 48 RBI and a .952 OPS in 387 at-bats, mostly from the leadoff spot. So he has the potential to win a share of the left field job. Anything more will depend on his continued development.

Looking Forward

There’s nothing more Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black would like for his left field situation than to have someone win it outright. Right now it doesn’t seem as though there’s anyone that will do that any time soon. Hilliard can do the three true outcome damage, but only against right-handed pitching. Desmond is in the last year of the five-year, $70 million contract he signed before the 2017 season. The 35-year old opted out of the 2020 season and there are no assurances of his success in the coming campaign.

Yonathan Daza has the talent ceiling to be a good everyday outfielder. His talent floor is that of a platoon player. The Rockies are hoping he arrives in that range sooner than later.

Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images