From playing baseball with a stick in the streets of Maracy, Venezuela, to hitting at spacious Coors Field, Yonathan Daza hiked a steep road to the majors, one familiar to many Latin American prospects.
Daza’s challenges were both common (new language/culture) and tragically uncommon (a rocky childhood that included the loss of his older brother to gun violence).
But the Rockies’ outfielder insists that those difficult times made him into the player he is today.
“(My upbringing in Venezuela) made me a lot stronger, for sure. It matured me as a person,” he said. “The things I experienced at home gave me no fears to get through the minors. I think it helped me.”
Daza was originally noticed by Rolando Fernandez, the club’s vice president of international scouting, when Daza was playing in the U-16 World Championships. Colorado signed him soon after, but Daza needed three years of seasoning in the Dominican Summer League before he was ready to come stateside in 2014.
Once Daza arrived in the U.S. with rookie-league Grand Junction, he encountered a whole new world.
“First of all, there (was) the different language and then different food and culture,” Daza said. “It was hard the first couple of years but then after that the teammates I had made it easier. Then it gets better when you realize that you are staying in the United States (because you’re playing well). It’s a big relief.”
The reason he stuck around: All Daza did was hit, with an average north of .300 at each stop before he debuted for the Rockies in 2019.
Daza was a minor-league all-star three times for the Rockies (2014 for Grand Junction, 2017 for high-A Lancaster and 2019 for Triple-A Albuquerque) and his speed and flashy glove helped propel him up the ladder. He hit .301 in 113 games last year and has a .282 career average.
Daza will again be a major contributor in the Colorado outfield this season, his big-league dreams secured.
Daza’s Journey to the Bigs
Year signed: 2010 (International free agent from Venezuela)
Lowest moment: Normally, Latin American players spend two seasons in the Dominican Summer League system; Daza needed three to grow and get fully ready for his stateside debut. He came over as an unknown.
Turning point: Daza dominated in his American pro debut for rookie-level Grand Junction in 2014, slashing .370/.415/.490 with a .905 OPS as one of the stars of the Pioneer League. The performance showed he was capable of becoming a high-average hitter in the majors.
2023 outlook: Daza is expected to be a regular contributor in the 2023 lineup.
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