Prospect Diaz soaks up first exposure to bigs

Prospect Diaz soaks up first exposure to bigs

PHOENIX -- The assignments were only temporary, but that did not stop Brewers infield prospect Isan Diaz from enjoying his dream week.

Diaz, a 20-year-old who ranks fifth on MLBPipeline.com's list of top Brewers prospects, went on loan to Puerto Rico's entry to the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday and Thursday for exhibition games in nearby Scottsdale, then returned to Brewers camp Friday and made his first appearance in the Cactus League. Diaz started at second base in a split-squad home game against the White Sox.

"I tend to not treat it as something big," Diaz said, "because the more you think about it, it's like, 'Wow, this is amazing,' and you tend to get nervous. I just treat it as another normal day.

"It's a game, it's baseball and we're just here to learn and get better."

The learning experiences are coming earlier than expected for Diaz and some of the Brewers' other top prospects, who have been getting extensive playing time in Major League spring games while Brewers infielders Jonathan Villar and Hernan Perez are away at the World Baseball Classic, and Scooter Gennett adds left field to his repertoire. Gennett was expected to play some second base while Villar is away, but he has been sidelined by a sore right wrist.

For Diaz, the Brewers' reigning Minor League Player of the Year after hitting 20 homers for Class A Wisconsin last year, the time in Major League camp was "a bonus."

Ditto for the Brewers, who got to see him play in a big league environment.

"I mean, it's not a tryout or anything," manager Craig Counsell said. "It's to give him an opportunity. He had an illness for about a week that set him back a little bit, so it's just good that he's healthy and ready to start going." Diaz's bout of strep throat explains why his introduction to the Brewers' big league rotation came later than fellow prospects Mauricio Dubon and Lucas Erceg. Diaz recovered in time to participate in two exhibition games for Puerto Rico as that team prepared for the Classic.

His teammates included Yadier Molina, Carlos Beltran and fellow middle infielders Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa and Javier Baez.

"I got to meet some guys that I didn't think I was going to meet so soon," Diaz said. "But it was cool. A great experience. ... They were nice and very informative. They gave a lot of information and helped me out a lot. Especially just in two days -- you can learn a lot in two days in this game."

When did he learn about the opportunity?

  "A couple days prior to the first game, it was very fast," Diaz said. "Obviously, once I heard, I was all for it. It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance. You never know what could happen. I'm very fortunate to have been in that situation."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.