Aledmys Diaz has been in the St. Louis Cardinals organization for roughly 16 months and it would be kind to say the road has been rough. The transition from Cuba to the United States has been challenging, both on and off the field for the 25-year old Santa Clara, Cuba native. Injuries, visa issues, more injuries, poor performance have all plagued the shortstop. Now that it appears those things are behind him, is he ready to take the next step?
Diaz has been a favorite writing topic for fellow VEB editor Joe Schwarz. Joe had first hand analysis on Diaz even before the Cardinals signed him. You can read it HERE, but it's not very favorable. Less than a year later, Joe checked back in on Diaz and had some favorable quotes from teammates. You can read that one HERE.
2014 saw Diaz play in just 47 games thanks to acclimation and injuries. There were some who worried that Diaz put too much effort into his MLB try-outs and was not fully in physical "game" shape for those showcases. Last year, his longest stretch of games without a stint on the DL was only 20, which is not nearly enough to get into a rhythm. The Cardinals did not have much to evaluate on last season.
2015 was supposed to be Diaz's coming out party. He was healthy all spring and even saw some time in major league camp. While many (including myself) thought Diaz would hit Triple-A to start the season, the Cardinals decided to send him back to Double-A Springfield after his shaky start last season.
Things did not get much better at the start of this season. These were Diaz's splits from April through June:
As you can see, the first two months were pretty consistently bad, with May a little worse than April. If you combine these three months, Diaz had a 73 wRC+ with a 6.4% BB rate and a 14.5% K rate. Not ideal numbers for a player who is making $2 million in 2015, $2.5 million in 2016 and 2017.
Things got so bad, the Cardinals designated Diaz for assignment on July 8th to make room for Dan Johnson. Some called this move a gamble, but combine his poor start with his contract and it was unlikely that a team would claim him off waivers. Diaz cleared waivers and was out righted back to Springfield.
Small sample sizes and arbitrary end points be dammed, but something changed with Diaz around the time of his DFA. Here is a look at pre-DFA and post-DFA numbers from Diaz
As I mentioned above, a 128 at bat sample is probably too small to make many strong judgments, but these numbers are so different it should be known. If you combine last season with the pre-DFA numbers, you get about 400 at bats, which would be close to a full season. If you consider 2014 a wash, then you could make the case that Diaz finally got into that rhythm that we talked about earlier.
Here is video of Diaz blasting his 10th home run a couple of days ago
As Kurt Heyer said in one of Joe's pieces, Diaz has a pretty quick bat. I went and looked at video from last year and compared it to this swing and there really isn't a noticeable change.
Where does Diaz go now?
Of course, the Cardinals want to see more sustained success out of the Cuban slugger, but he is trending in the right direction. We should be careful when we make statements that refer to Diaz as Jhonny Peralta's successor. Again, it has been just over 100 AB and fellow Springfield Cardinal Patrick Wisdom could be an example of a small sample size getting people excited. Many, including myself, have written about Wisdom's improvements this season, but since July 22nd, Wisdom is slashing .157/.241/.284.
Defensively, there have been positive reports this season. Even though Joe noted that his defense was shaky ( I saw it too) Diaz may not have the best range, but appears to be pretty solid from the shortstop position.
I would like for the Cardinals to give Diaz a look at Triple-A Memphis, and that might happen around the beginning of September when the St. Louis Cardinals raid the Memphis roster. This look will not be nearly enough to make any calls for next season.
Inevitably, whenever I bring up Diaz on Twitter, I get the token 'Why is Pete Kozma on the roster?" question. I think at this point it's safe to assume that Kozma isn't going anywhere for the rest of 2015 and you are just wasting your breath, however it will be interesting to see what affect Diaz's strong finish (if he keeps it up) will have on Kozma going forward.
In the end, the jury is still out on the 25-year old aging prospect, but the arrow is pointing in the right direction.