The St. Louis Cardinals found an unexpected star in shortstop Aledmys Diaz for 2016. However, with his limited success, should he be trusted to be the full-time guy?
The St. Louis Cardinals are expecting Aledmys Diaz to be the full-time shortstop in the 2017 season. After his 2016 debut, he quickly established himself as one of the best hitters in the lineup and was even a National League Rookie of the Year Candidate. Part of his season was shortened due to injury but for the most part, he was extremely successful.
The problem with trusting Diaz to continue his 2016 dominance is the fact that he hasn’t had consistent success throughout his career. He was even removed from the 40-man roster at one point in time and went through waivers unclaimed.
Diaz was notorious for being a sporadic hitter in the minor leagues and prior to being designated for assignment, he batted .235/.292/.344 over 268 plate appearances on the year at Double-A. Those numbers were down from a partial showing in the minors from the prior season, when he put up a .765 OPS in 125 at bats at the High-A and Double-A levels.
Finally, Diaz saw success again at the end of 2015 in Triple-A. He began 2015 in Double-A and played 102 games before being promoted to Triple-A for 14 games. In those 14 games Diaz slashed .380/.448/.620 and it ultimately landed him a major league roster spot in 2016 after the injuries to Jhonny Peralta and Ruben Tejada made some room.
Prior to that success in Triple-A, Diaz was a very streaky hitter with below average defense and the Cardinals somewhat expected that to happen in 2016. The streaky hitting obviously didn’t but the defensive struggles followed him to the majors.
Diaz played in 111 major league games in 2016 and batted .300/.369/.510 with 17 home runs and 65 RBI. He became the #2 hitter in the lineup and was paired with Matt Carpenter to be one of the toughest duos to get out in all of baseball.
Now, after his 2016 debut, Cardinals Nation is expecting a similar offensive performance in 2017 with better defense. However, if we take Diaz’s career as a whole into perspective, it may not work out like that and there isn’t really a strong backup plan on the roster.
Peralta could move over from third base back to his natural shortstop position if Diaz can’t find his swing. This would likely force Jedd Gyorko into the everyday lineup or Matt Carpenter to become the everyday third baseman again while Matt Adams gets another chance at first. Another option is utility infielder Greg Garcia who proved to be a valuable asset off the bench in 2016. But do any of these options really keep the Cardinals in contention going forward?
Regardless, the Cardinals are putting a lot of trust and a lot of reliance in Aledmys Diaz for the 2017 season. And fans are too. Diaz did show some incredible talent and all the right tools of a successful major league player but the question is, will it last? Personally, I believe it will but this question should be raised and a discussion by Mike Matheny and John Mozeliak should be had.
Diaz has all the tools to remain a top shortstop in the league but he’s also had a history of inconsistency. Maybe he figured something out at the plate late in 2015 that carried over into 2016 or maybe he just had an unstoppable hot streak. Whatever you may believe, the question of can we trust Aledmys Diaz in 2017 should be asked.