After the downfall of Aledmys Diaz in 2017, the St. Louis Cardinals have to make sure the same does not happen to Paul DeJong.
St. Louis Cardinals rookie Paul DeJong came from out of nowhere like an RKO and filled the black hole that was the shortstop position. DeJong’s predecessor, Aledmys Diaz, made a similar impact in his rookie season. Currently, Diaz is in the minor leagues after a subpar sophomore year and DeJong must avoid falling into the same trap.
Both DeJong and Diaz have some similarities. For starters, both do not enjoy walking at a high rate (DeJong: 3.6% in ’17, Diaz: 8.9% in ’16). A 3.6% walk rate is a bit worrisome, but when you have 20 home runs and are hitting .291 that concern gets put on the back burner.
In the case of Diaz from his rookie to sophomore year, his walk rate was cut just about in half (8.9% to 4.5%) and in AAA it has not gotten that much better (4.8%). We have seen it with Diaz and more recently Aaron Judge that pitchers can and will adjust, overwhelming hitters who refuse to make proper adjustments.
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DeJong’s current spot in the lineup is another reason that he must keep the good times rolling. This season DeJong has batted third in 34 out of his 80 games played. Along with DeJong being the team leader in home runs with 20 and no elite power hitter on the club, he will surely bat third next season barring a signing or trade in the offseason.
Twenty-third overall pick in 2016 Delvin Perez was drafted with the thought that he would be the future at shortstop. However, Perez has struggled this season after having a solid 43 games in rookie ball last season.
There is plenty of time for a turnaround (Perez turns 19 in November), but it is too late for Perez to force his way into the team’s future plans. At least the immediate ones.
In the absence of Perez from the future plans, for the time-being, DeJong fits and will continue to fit unless he suffers a Diaz-like slump.
While DeJong is far better than Pete Kozma right now, if the strikeouts start to outweigh the hits, that is a big hole in the Cardinals batting order. Losing Diaz and his bat was bad enough, and the St. Louis Cardinals do not need another one and done shortstop.