St. Louis Cardinals: Aledmys Diaz and Stephen Piscotty litmus test

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 30: Stephen Piscotty #55 of the St. Louis Cardinals is caught in a run-down by Zack Cozart #2 of the Cincinnati Reds in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on April 30, 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 30: Stephen Piscotty #55 of the St. Louis Cardinals is caught in a run-down by Zack Cozart #2 of the Cincinnati Reds in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on April 30, 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

The St. Louis Cardinals front office hasn’t shown a great command of player transactions in 2017. Much can be learned however by how they will handle two of their young players in the coming days.

The St. Louis Cardinals have the real opportunity to make waves with how they handle Aledmys Diaz and Stephen Piscotty. Both of these players currently sit at diametrically opposite ends of the spectrum.

Aledmys Diaz

In Diaz, the St. Louis Cardinals have a young player who exploded onto the scene in 2016 and stole the starting short stop role from any other potential suitor (including the aging Jhonny Peralta). His 2017 numbers, however, were not living up to the benchmark that he had set in the previous season.

After seeing him struggle for probably far too many games, the decision was made on June 28 to send Aledmys to Memphis to work on his game. In 2016, Diaz earned a season wRC+ of 132. For those not familiar with this advanced stat, a score of 100 is noted as average. Diaz’s 2016 was 32 points above average.

2017 saw Diaz’s wRC+ drop to 78, some 12 points below average. This lead the Cardinals to send him to Memphis. Since moving down to Memphis, Diaz has raised his wRC+ to 89. He isn’t quite back to average or above average, but he is playing better baseball.

On June 28, Diaz owned an MLB slash of .260/.293/.396. Through the 4th of August with Memphis, Diaz has a slash line of .278/.310/.443. While these numbers are breaking records, they do beg for the organization to do something with this player. In recent games, Aledmys has put together impressive shows including multi-hit games and a few home runs.

Litmus test #1

Should the front office send Diaz back up? If they did, they would have to make a decision on either Greg Garcia (.234/.348/.318) or Jose Martinez (who might likely be the odd man out anyway when Dexter Fowler returns). Here’s what I think is coming…

Fowler will return from the disabled list spelling an option for Martinez (Jose). This leaves the Diaz-or-Garcia conundrum. I like Garcia, but my gut tells me that Diaz is the better player to have in the utility role over Garcia. And, as many have said before me, it seems that Garcia’s time with the club has run its course.

In that regard, then, Garcia would be designated (hell, he will probably clear waivers and the club can either release him or create a new minor league contract for him) and Diaz can return. Should these things happen, then we will learn a good deal about whether or not the front office is invested in this team or not.

Stephen Piscotty

Piscotty has a lot on his mind right now. His mother is ill and his swing is off. After leaving the team for a few days earlier this season to deal with the news of his ailing mother, Piscotty returned but didn’t last too long before an injury sent him to the DL. Then, not too long after returning again, Stephen pitched a tent on the DL once more.

Unlike other players who spend several games in a rehab stint, Stephen saw only one game of rehab before rejoining the St. Louis Cardinals during his last DL stay. I believe that he was rushed back and I really don’t know why.

Prior to his most-recent DL stint, Piscotty was batting only .236 and slugging only .371 yet Mike Matheny refused to move him from the 4-spot in the lineup. This was a direct deviation from his numbers in 2016 when he hit for .273 and slugged .457. In 2016, Stephen commanded a 115 wRC+ (his best year- 2015- saw a wRC+ of 133).

2017 doesn’t seem to be going Piscotty’s way as his wRC+ has dropped to 89. If you are keeping score at home, that means that his wRC+ dropped a massive 26 points! And yet, the organization had him start one game of rehab in AA and he is back with the St. Louis Cardinals.

His arrival back on August 1 saw him go 1-for-4 on the night with one strikeout. To me, his bat looked sluggish despite his last DL trip being groin-related. Since his return, his show at the plate has not shown up (yet). He has gone 1-for-12 (that’s a miserable .083 batting average; small sample size admitted). He has also collected three strikeouts in these at-bats.

Litmus test #2

Why, why do the St. Louis Cardinals have Stephen Piscotty still at the major league level? If Diaz can be sent down to get things right, if Randal Grichuk (who shouldn’t be on this team any longer- sorry, Josh) can be sent down to get things right, then why can’t Piscotty? What is he bringing to the club right now? I’m having a hard time coming up with an answer for that question.

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So the litmus test for whether the front office cares about this club or not might likewise rest on the shoulders of Stephen Piscotty just as they did on the shoulders of Aledmys Diaz. To me, the front office must sent Piscotty down to let him fix whatever is ailing him. If it is his family, then put him on family leave; trust me, none of us will begrudge him nor the organization for a move like this.

If he has something mechanical that is off in his batting (looks this way to me), then working with Mark Budaska in Memphis makes better sense than having him flounder around with the inept John Mabry.

So, I come to these conclusions as my ultimate litmus test: when Fowler returns, option Piscotty then DFA Garcia and promote Diaz. In other words, Piscotty will go down and Diaz will come up. This makes sense to me and this option keeps Garcia on the squad.

If you believe- as I sort of do- that Garcia’s time with the club has ended then a DFA of him won’t hurt anything either. This option would open a spot on the 40-man should the front office decide to do something through the waiver wire (doubtful, but you never know).

Next: Will the Cards make October noise?

One more tease: stay tuned to Redbird Rants as I’m planning to discuss a little rumor I’ve heard about Piscotty lately. This should come out on Saturday or Sunday. Go Cards!