Despite being signed by the Cardinals nearly two weeks ago, it was not until yesterday afternoon against the Washington Nationals that Aledmys Diaz actually played in a big league Spring Training game. For the young Cuban shortstop, it was probably well worth the wait. His participation in big league Spring Training games was delayed because he needed to acquire a U.S. work visa from Mexico, his country of residence since defecting from Cuba. With Diaz being limited to just minor league games on the back fields, fans were left with mere box scores to keep track of the young shortstop since his arrival in Jupiter, Florida.
Well, that all changed yesterday. Fox Sports Midwest viewers and MLB.TV subscribers were able to finally watch the mystical being named Diaz. Grainy YouTube videos of his batting practice were nice compared to the videos I am about to show you in this post, but watching him in high-definition was even better.
In short, Diaz delivered in probably the best way possible, especially considering he had only two at bats and will likely be sent down to minor league camp relatively soon. Both of his at bats took place against two-time All-Star Gio Gonzalez, and both resulted in singles on a 1-2 count. In his first at bat, Diaz was able to muscle a liner on an inside fastball to left field. In his second at bat, he took an outside pitch up the middle. Those two at bats were nice, but if you are anything like me, they just left you wanting more.
Well, let's satisfy that craving and get to those videos I alluded to earlier in the post.
Diaz's first ever home run, as an eight year old:
Fast forward to ~1:20 if you are in a time crunch.
Worried about the validity of this video? Is that little leaguer really Diaz fifteen years ago? Initially, I had my doubts as well. However, keep a close eye on the toe tap right before contact and the movement of his hands throughout the swing. If you have seen Derrick Goold's YouTube video of Diaz's batting practice session, both actions are almost identical to those in the above clip. Thus, I am going to make the assumption that this is indeed Diaz at the age of eight. Maybe the Cardinals could hook me up with an interview and I can ask him about it directly? I will likely have to brush up on my Spanish for that one, though. One last thing to note: Did you notice his bat flip? It was quite Puig-ian of him. At least his hit made it out of the ballpark, Yasiel...
He can hit hanging breaking balls, which is good news:
The bad news? He was unable to keep this one inside the left-field foul pole. Either way, it is a good sign to see a shortstop with the type of pop seen in this video. Yes, it was a hanging breaking ball from a not very skilled pitcher, but he still smashed it!
Oh, so you are a fan of line drive home runs?
Diaz has you covered.
Move over, Matt Holliday. There is a new sheriff in town. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but that one still got out of the park in a hurry! In my opinion, a line drive home run is one of the prettiest things to watch in baseball.
What about his glove?
Both his glove and reaction time looked exceptional on this play. Yet, the batter ran a total of 50 or so feet out of the box, so Diaz was able to lob it on over to first. One of the few things we learned about Diaz from Joe Kehoskie was that he had a good enough arm to stick at short. What about some video evidence to support this claim?
Boom! Once again, Diaz has you covered...
The diving stop was pretty nice, but the throw was most definitely the main attraction of this clip. I don't know about you, but an arm like that from a shortstop brings back glimpses of a vintage Rafael Furcal.
Does he have any range?
He made a pretty tough play look quite effortless right there. Sure, the runner was "borderline Molina" in terms of speed, but the ball was out of his glove in less than a second and the throw hit the first baseman right in the chest. What's not to like there?
Well, there you have it. I embedded six highlight videos of the Cardinals new shortstop prospect. Each one of them showed a different aspect of Diaz's game to get excited about. Now, the question is whether or not he can replicate what we just watched on a regular basis. If he can develop some of the skills shown in these videos, the Cardinals will have scored an $8 million steal. Keep a close eye on him in the coming days because with the Cardinals gearing up for the regular season, Diaz won't be with the big league club much longer.
Finally, what did Mike Matheny think of Diaz's debut?