The Cardinals Already Have an In-House Shortstop

The biggest story of the day is probably that Jhonny Peralta is hurt. It’s his thumb — seemingly a ligament tear — and it’s an injury that threatens to keep Peralta out of action for a few months. You don’t need to do a lot of overstating to make it clear this is significant, because Peralta is an everyday shortstop, and the Cardinals are trying to go to the playoffs. Playoff teams don’t want to lose regular up-the-middle players before the season even gets started. And then, who’s to say how well Peralta performs even when he comes back?

This is a problem, to be sure. Now, however, it should be noted this ought not destroy the year. For one thing, even though Peralta is the shortstop, we give him credit for a -0.4 second-half WAR last season, and in that same second half the Cardinals went 44-29. So while the Cardinals will have to win with Peralta absent, they’ve kind of already done that. Everything is survivable.

And then there’s the matter of replacing Peralta. It’s always tempting to look around for potential external options. Trades are fun, no matter when they happen, and at first glance it’s not like the Cardinals are particularly deep. For my taste, though, I don’t think they need to hurry out to get a new player. An awful interesting player is already in camp.

The Cardinals might still search. If nothing else, they could need replacement depth to cover for the replacement depth. Here’s John Mozeliak on the situation:

“The outcome of the second opinion will dictate whether we have to look outside (the organization),” said Mozeliak. “Right now it would be all hands on deck unless there was an outside solution we would consider.”

Read today’s articles and the Cardinals as an organization are obviously disappointed. This puts them in a difficult place because they’re going to have to get by for a stretch without a player who was in line to start 150-odd games. It’s a blow, and Jedd Gyorko isn’t a shortstop. Don’t get me wrong — I like Gyorko’s offensive potential and I’m a fan of his pseudo-versatility. If Jed Lowrie can play short, Jedd Gyorko can play short, and it probably wouldn’t be a catastrophe. It’s just, Gyorko is better as more of a utility guy. The Cardinals want him as that depth behind Kolten Wong.

This is when it’s important to remember Aledmys Diaz. Greg Garcia is also around as an option, and maybe he could be a replacement-level stopgap. But it’s Diaz, I think, who should have this opportunity. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not a professional scout, and I’ve never watched Diaz play in person. This is a player who was designated for assignment by these same Cardinals last July. The Cardinals, though, put Diaz back on the 40-man roster. They had a good reason.

Back in March of 2014, the Cardinals signed Diaz to a four-year contract, after he got away from Cuba. Diaz hadn’t played for something like a year and a half, and the Cardinals blamed that time off for some shoulder weakness that developed. Cuban players already have to struggle through countless off-field adjustments, but Diaz also had to struggle through injury, and so in 2014 he played in just 47 games. Last spring he was optioned back to the minors.

In the minors again, Diaz started poorly. He was playing in Double-A but he wasn’t really hitting, and so he was designated for assignment in July, when the Cardinals wanted to make roster room for Dan Johnson. Diaz cleared waivers, presumably on account of the financial commitment, so he stuck around. And then he hit. He got back on the radar, he got called up to Triple-A, and he later tore through the AFL.

The splits are dramatic. I suppose they can speak for themselves.

Aledmys Diaz, Pre- and Post-DFA
Split PA BA OBP SLG ISO BB% K%
Through July 8 268 0.235 0.292 0.344 0.109 6% 15%
After July 8 199 0.337 0.402 0.584 0.247 9% 14%
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

Diaz has always had a quick bat, so he profiled to make some contact, but down the stretch last season he converted more of that contact into strong pull power. It’s too easy to just say the DFA was like a shock to the system, because human beings don’t come with such simple explanations, but what really matters is that for a few months, that all counted, Diaz was one of the more productive bats in the upper minors. I do know there’s a theory that says talent is depleted in the minors as the year goes on because the best players are called up. So maybe Diaz was just feasting on bad competition, but then he also went on to have the third-highest OPS in the Fall League. I’d never recommend over-analyzing AFL statistics, but Diaz hit for the last three months of his season. He showed more power and strike-zone control than he had in earlier opportunities.

Diaz is now back on the Cardinals’ 40-man. He’s been mostly passed over when it’s come to prospect lists, because he doesn’t have that much of a professional record, and he’s not considered a defensive plus at short. It’s hard to ignore a guy having been pretty recently DFA’d, and you can understand why people would be skeptical. With that being said, looking at Diaz and looking at other possible options, I don’t see why the Cardinals should go outside the organization at this time. Anyone realistically available would be a low-upside player, and Diaz has his own selling points. This is almost a perfect opportunity to see what he can do over the short-term, and it’s not like it’s even easy to bring in a more pricey external piece since Peralta remains on the books. I don’t think this is a situation that calls for, say, a Jurickson Profar blockbuster. I think it calls for staying in-house, playing Diaz and mixing in some Gyorko, and then re-evaluating if you have to in June or July. Something tells me there’s going to be an Alexei Ramirez on the market.

Again, if the Cardinals disagree, well, they’re the experts. They understand Diaz better than I do, and maybe there’s something there — or something not there — I’m just missing. And this definitely isn’t a positive turn of events, given how productive Peralta has been in the recent past. But, Aledmys Diaz is back on the radar, and he’s already succeeded in the high minors. If this isn’t an opening, then I don’t know what is.



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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


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jimdetry
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jimdetry
2 months 23 days ago

Does Diaz have platoon splits?

mdthomp
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mdthomp
2 months 23 days ago

Yes, pretty significant ones. Hits lefties well, righties not so much. Improved down the stretch though.

croggs
Member
croggs
2 months 23 days ago

My initial reaction to mdthomp’s comment was “small sample size, I wouldn’t read much into it.” And while I’m pretty confident he’ll regress towards the average splits, the numbers are more discouraging than I’d anticipated, especially in the K% area. But a Garcia and Diaz platoon is pretty encouraging at least.

matt
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matt
2 months 23 days ago

Why not trade for Carlos Correa? He has good power and would be an upgrade.

derekbernhard
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derekbernhard
2 months 23 days ago

Dang it, why didn’t I think of this?!? I’d probably use Gyorko than Correa though, experience advantage Jedd.

BenRevereDoesSteroids
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BenRevereDoesSteroids
2 months 23 days ago

Agreed! And they should go ahead and snag Lindor and Manny Machado too, just to be safe!

matt
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matt
2 months 22 days ago

I don’t see why the Indians would trade Lindor though with Machado getting close to FA he maybe available, probably a year away tho.

tdouglas
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tdouglas
2 months 23 days ago

The Gyorko/Garcia/Diaz trio can probably hold down the fort, but you’re going to lose value no matter how you position them. The Cubs already have a big advantage in the NLC, so the Cardinals have to ask themselves if just holding down the fort is good enough. The Wild Card race is going to be hard-fought; a 1 WAR drop at SS could be catastrophic. I don’t have a solution to this, but I’d think long and hard about finding an upgrade. It’s probably too late to upgrade at short, though.

All that said, if the Cards see Diaz like you do, Jeff, they are probably content. His post-release stats are encouraging. Here’s a case of Spring Training being of the utmost importance for a player.

matt
Member
matt
2 months 22 days ago

While they are likely to lose value, players have hot months/2 months above there ability, Gyorko is a platoon bat and while padres made narrative he was ok at short he was really a disaster with no range, he got to nothing up the middle.

Spudchukar
Member
Spudchukar
2 months 22 days ago

The Cards are positioned to be better in 2016 than in 2015. Their starting staff is better than 2015. Wainwright>Lackey, Leake>an injured Lynn. The bull pen is better with the addition of Oh, and a healthy Walden. The offense will improve with a year of Holliday, Adams, Moss, Pena, and Gyroko. Piscotty, Grichuk, and Wong are breakout stars. The starting staff is bolstered by Cooney, Lyons, and soon Reyes waiting on the wings. The loss of Peralta until early May or June, isn’t going to damper them much. The toughest call the Red Birds had coming out of Spring Training was whether to include Diaz on the 25 man squad. Now he will get a look. Perhaps they will look for a defensive specialist to fill in, in the late innings after the Spring Training rosters are decided, as they are far from desperate. The Peralta loss isn’t a big deal for a team that is positioned to outdo their 100 win 2015 season.

Wu-Bacca
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Wu-Bacca
2 months 22 days ago

There are few, if any, teams in the history of baseball that can be expected to win more than 100 games heading into the season. It’s just an extremely high bar, the byproduct of amazing luck (which is usually not replicable) rather than roster design. I’m a Cards fan, so I hope you’re right, but there are so many blithely optimistic assumptions in your post that I’m fairly certain you’re not.

Spudchukar
Member
Spudchukar
2 months 22 days ago

It is common sense. If you are better than you were the season before, then you are apt to win more the following season, particularly when so many impact players were injured in the prior year. Optimistic perhaps, but really more realistic.

tz
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tz
2 months 23 days ago

I wonder how much Ian Desmond wishes he waited just a little bit longer to sign.

The Real McNulty
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The Real McNulty
2 months 23 days ago

none. Cardinals wouldn’t give up the first round pick so Desmond could fill in for two months

croggs
Member
croggs
2 months 23 days ago

^ This. Although if Peralta wasn’t under contract, I’d be pretty intrigued by a short term signing…even though the ever increasing K%/defensive woes would be concerning. I’d like that move a lot more if we had made another FA signing with draft compensation, of course.

tz
Member
tz
2 months 22 days ago

Lol forgot about the draft pick attached to Desmond. The fact that the Cards scooped up Leake while they could is a pretty good indication that they wouldn’t forfeit a first-round pick for a one-year rental.

dixie_flyer
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dixie_flyer
2 months 23 days ago

I saw Diaz in the AFL last fall, and I think that it is safe to say that he won’t be a “SS-1” in strat-o-matic.

burts_beads
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Member
burts_beads
2 months 23 days ago

Care to elaborate?

Shawnuel
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Shawnuel
2 months 22 days ago

The number after the position is a defensive rating in strato. 1 being the best 5 the worst.

burts_beads
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Member
burts_beads
2 months 22 days ago

Gotcha. I just figured it was a depth chart number meaning he couldn’t be a starter. But that makes more sense, I don’t think anybody expects him to be great defensively. Hopefully passable.

Spudchukar
Member
Spudchukar
2 months 22 days ago

I gotcha immediately. I don’t play anymore, I waste enough time, but in my youth I squandered 100s of hours playing.

Johnston
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Member
Johnston
2 months 23 days ago

How is he defensively?

Shawnuel
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Member
Shawnuel
2 months 22 days ago

Dixie_flyer seems to imply that Diaz may have some work to do in that area.

Johnston
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Member
Johnston
2 months 22 days ago

Anybody got any hard data?

Art Vandelay
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Member
Art Vandelay
2 months 22 days ago

According to Kiley last year, he has an average arm and good hands that could let him stick at short. I have no idea how he actually performed last year though.

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/evaluating-the-prospects-st-louis-cardinals/

Spudchukar
Member
Spudchukar
2 months 22 days ago

Part of the reason his arm strength was questionable, was due to the fact that he didn’t play for a year and a half. He has improved dramatically in that area, and the Cards now regard him as having a plus arm.

Johnston
Member
Member
Johnston
2 months 22 days ago

He should definitely get a chance then.

Neils-Henning Orsted Joc Pederson
Member
Neils-Henning Orsted Joc Pederson
2 months 22 days ago

Clay Davenport’s website has MiLB defensive metrics that have proven reliable in their predictiveness. (If that’s a word.)

Davenport’s numbers for Aledmys Diaz show an MLB average defender at short in his prime, but maybe 3-5 runs below average currently. Boringly playable at the position, in other words. And Davenport is working with a Diaz track record that goes back to 2009, so I’d give it maybe 80-90% reliability.

Question I’d like to throw open to the floor: I liked Jeff’s writing, and don’t disagree at all with his conclusion, but did anyone else find it at all odd that he said nothing about Diaz’ Cuban performance record? Diaz was very good at 18/19 in the Serie Nacional, and borderline dominant three years later (hitting like Cespedes while apparently playing solid shortstop).

If he’s a 3-4 WAR per 600 PA’s major leaguer in his mid-late 20’s, it should surprise none of us.

kalarson
Member
kalarson
2 months 23 days ago

Pete Kozma time.

calikid_13
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calikid_13
2 months 23 days ago

Diaz will step up. The Cardinals always have someone step up. He will surprise many folks, not me.

Johnston
Member
Member
Johnston
2 months 22 days ago

Truly this is often the case.

Spudchukar
Member
Spudchukar
2 months 22 days ago

He is 4 for 4 today, 2 doubles, 2 RBIs. Small sample size yes, but he might just be the answer.

Dr. Hackenbush
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Dr. Hackenbush
2 months 22 days ago
Spudchukar
Member
Spudchukar
2 months 22 days ago

His arm has gotten much strong since he returned to Baseball. The Cards now view his arm as a plus. He didn’t play for 1 1/2 years, then was injured, and played only 40 games. Now that he has a full year under his belt, his arm strength is returning.

free-range turducken
Member
free-range turducken
2 months 22 days ago

The Rockies have an out-house shortstop (unless they just dump him and eat his salary)

Spudchukar
Member
Spudchukar
2 months 22 days ago

Diaz is making you look good today, Jeff. 4 for 4, 2 doubles, 2 RBIs.

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