Rays’ Yandy Diaz wins Silver Slugger award, the fourth in team history

ST. PETERSBURG — Yandy Diaz on Thursday added another significant accomplishment to his impressive 2023 season, winning the fourth Silver Slugger award in Rays history.

Diaz, who led the American League with a .330 batting average while posting a career-high 22 home runs, 78 RBIs and .932 OPS, was chosen at first base. He finished ahead of Boston’s Tristan Casas; Texas’ Nathaniel Lowe, an ex-Ray and 2022 winner; and Detroit’s Spencer Torkelson.

“I’m very happy,” Diaz told Tampa Bay media by phone from his Miami home via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “I’m very happy that the effort I put in, very happy for the effort I put in over the years, and the hard work looks like it’s showing off.”

Diaz, 32, was Tampa Bay’s only winner. Randy Arozarena was a runner-up for the third straight year among outfielders. Isaac Paredes came up short at both third base and the utility position. And the Rays missed out on the new team award, which went to the Rangers.

Diaz said being voted the winner by league managers and coaches made it even more special.

“It means a lot,” he said. “It shows the way they see me from the outside looking in. I’m very happy they were able to see the results, and I’m very appreciative of them voting for me.”

Diaz had an eventful season on and off the field, topped he said by the birth of his first child. He picked up several highlights and career-best accomplishments along the way, now including the Silver Slugger award.

“Very cool,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Could there be a better reflection of his season?

“We talked about his bat all season long, the impact that it had on our lineup. The times that he was not in the lineup, I think we all felt it. He was the tone-setter. He’s been a tone-setter, but I think now the power came out and added to his dynamic of just being a really special offensive player.”

Prior to spring training, Diaz signed the first multi-year contract of his career, guaranteed $24 million from 2023-25, with a $12 million option for 2026.

In July, he was not only chosen to his first All-Star team but elected the starter at first base. He flew home overnight from the game in Seattle to Tampa, where his wife delivered their first child, a son named Yandy.

Diaz finished strong, hitting .441 from Sept. 9 on, and clinched the first batting title in franchise history on the final day of the season.

He also finished among American League leaders in on-base percentage (.410, second), multi-hit games (53, tied for second), OPS (.932, third), average exit velocity (93.4 mph, third), slugging percentage (.522, fourth) and hits (173, fifth). He led the AL with 19 games of three-plus hits, and the majors with a .369 average from the seventh inning on.

Diaz said he was most proud of his home runs, having never hit more than 14 in a season before.

“I know that I’ve always had the strength and I’ve had the exit velocity to hit the ball hard,” he said. “I’m very happy that this year it finally came out and I was able to get some results in that category.”

His ability to come up with a key hit stood out, as did the consistency of having quality at-bats.

“When he struck out, you were almost shocked by it,” Cash said. “When he expands (his strike zone) on a pitch below the zone or chases (a pitch out of the zone), you’re shocked by it, because he’s really good. He controls the zone as well as maybe any hitter in baseball.”

Diaz is just the fourth Ray in their 26 seasons to win a Silver Slugger award and first since outfielder Carl Crawford in 2010. The others were third baseman Evan Longoria in 2009 and first baseman Carlos Pena in 2007.

Diaz, who was voted the team’s most valuable player, has a chance to carve out another piece of team history next week when voting for the AL MVP award is announced. The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani is the strong favorite. No Ray has finished in the top five, with Longoria finishing sixth in 2010 and 2013.

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