The St. Louis Cardinals seem to be going into the 2018 season “all in” on Paul DeJong at Shortstop. Should Cardinal fans be concerned about a “sophomore slump”?
The St. Louis Cardinals by all accounts are going into the 2018 season with Paul DeJong as their opening day shortstop. Derrick Goold in a recent article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, says the Cardinals are betting that DeJong will have an encore to his 2017 season.
Which should reminds Cardinal fans of Aledmys Diaz, the possibility of a sophomore slump, and begs the question, what is the Cardinal back up plan at shortstop?
Paul DeJong had a standout rookie season with the Cardinals in 2017 after being called up on May 28th. DeJong’s 25 HR, 65 RBI, and a .285 BA in 108 games earned him a second place finish in the National Leagues Rookie of Year vote.
Aledmys Diaz also had a stand out rookie season in 2016 and had comparable numbers with DeJong’s. In 111 games, Diaz hit 17 HR, with 65 RBI, and a .300 BA. He also made the National League All Star team and finished fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year vote.
Also, looking in more detail, Aledmys Diaz and Paul DeJong had other similar numbers. Diaz had a .369 OPB, a .510 SLG, and a .879 OPS during his rookie year. DeJong’s rookie year showed a .325 OPB, .532 SLG and .857 OPS. However, Diaz had a more impressive WAR during his rookie year than DeJong, 3.5 vs 2.7, and fewer strikeouts, 124 vs 60.
Nevertheless, both had outstanding rookie years that raised expectations. As we know, Aledmys Diaz’s 2017 sophomore season was a disappointment that resulted in him being sent down to AAA Memphis in June. Diaz started the season hitting .217 and never regained his footing.
In 79 games during 2017, Diaz hit 7 HR and had 20 RBI with a .259 BA. His OBP, SLG, OPS all dropped significantly to .290, .392, .682., and his WAR dropped to -0.7. In December, Aledmys Diaz was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Which brings us back to the question: What is the Cardinals back up plan if Paul DeJong falters like Aledmys Diaz did during his sophomore season?
According to Baseball America, the St. Louis Cardinals primary weakness in their minor league system is shortstop and there is no one ready to take over the position if DeJong falters or is forced move to another position. Baseball America also reminds us that DeJong was primarily a second or third baseman in the minor leagues.
The highest rank shortstop in the Cardinal minor league system is Delvin Perez who was at Rookie ball in 2017. Perez currently ranks 11th in the Cardinals system and has struggled at the plate. Although, Perez is only 19 and could improve, he is still several years away from the major leagues.
Yairo Munoz may be the shortstop in waiting at AAA Memphis. Munoz was acquired from Oakland in the Stephen Piscotty trade and is considered to be the 16th ranked prospect in the Cardinal system. Although primarily a shortstop, he has played in the outfield and third base. He is considered a steady glove and may be ultimately groomed to be a super utility player.
Darren Seferina is the AA shortstop in Springfield and is considered to be 34th rank prospect in the Cardinal minor league system. However, injuries has slowed his progress and doesn’t have much speed or power.
Alex Mejia is another option who will be a non roster invitee to spring training. Mejia is the 29th ranked prospect in the Cardinal minor league system. He has spent the last three years bouncing back and forth between AA and AAA. Mejia was finally called up to the big league last season and played in 29 games. He doesn’t have speed or power, but serves primarily as defensive depth for the organization.
The Cardinals other shortstop prospects are either still in rookie ball or A ball, and several years away from being ready for the major league.
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That leaves us with Greg Garcia. The utility infielder has played SS, 3rd base, and 2nd base in 87 games in 2017, only which 12 were at shortstop. During his four seasons with the Cardinals, he has played 55 out of 205 games at the shortstop position. Shortstop is considered to be Garcia’s weakest position with a .958 fielding percentage.
As stated, the St. Louis Cardinals lack of depth at shortstop is one of the organization’s weaknesses. Almedys Diaz would have given the Cardinals an All Star back up to Paul DeJong, a role DeJong once played for Diaz. However, as Derrick Goold said in a recent article, the Cardinals don’t have a “DeJong for DeJong.”
The St. Louis Cardinals are strong in organizational depth with pitching and in the outfield. The lack of shortstop depth could be addressed through a trade, or even through the still clogged up free agent market.
Nevertheless, it appears the St. Louis Cardinals are going “all in” for Paul DeJong for the 2018 season and willing to gamble that he won’t suffer a “sophomore slump.” A trade or free agent signing doesn’t seem to be a Cardinal priority during this off season.
Should Cardinals fans be concerned about the shortstop position going into the 2018 season? Will the lack of organizational depth at shortstop eventually haunt the Redbirds in 2018? Let us know what you think.