For the fifth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season. Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series. All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis. Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.
This year’s Exit Interview series is “being brought to you by” some of the various Cardinal podcasts that are out there for your listening pleasure. Our focus this time is Cubs Cards Cast. No doubt it’s been tough for Dan, a Cards fan in Chicago, to talk with John, a Cubs fan in St. Louis, this season but they always are able to discuss both teams with only good-natured ribbing. Find them on iTunes or check out their site!
Player: Aledmys Diaz
Season stats: 111 games, 460 PA, 71 R, 28 2B, 3 3B, 17 HR, 65 RBI, 41 BB, 60 K, .300/.369/.510, 133 OPS+, 3.5 bWAR
Hero/Goat: Hero 12, Goat 8
Overall grade: A
Positives: Stepped in immediately in Jhonny Peralta‘s absence and shone, hitting .423 with a 1.186 OPS in April….only had six pinch-hit opportunities but hit .750/.833/1.500 in them with a homer….hit .315 with a .987 OPS on the first pitch….was especially dangerous with one out (.358/.419/.562)….hit .337 with runners in scoring position and .316 when the game was tied….hit .331 against starters….hit .324/.435/.514 against the Cubs and had a 1.303 OPS in Wrigley Field….had a 2.054 OPS in three games against the Braves….hit .320 in day games, but most of his homers (12) came at night….made his last error in the first game of the July 26th doubleheader….actually hit better when the team was behind (.936 OPS) than when they were ahead (.795 OPS).
Negatives: Struggled after returning from the disabled list, hitting .216/.322/.451….hit less well against lefties, with just a .725 OPS and three homers….hit just .209 with two outs and RISP and just .230 in late and close situations….some of the latter probably was due to the fact he hit .248/.324/.412 against relievers….he had more trouble with power pitchers than finesse ones, though he still hit .278/.330/.400 against the hard throwers….had just a .677 OPS in innings 7-9.
Overview: When you are grading against expectations, like I do with the letter grades above, it’s pretty easy to get an A when you perform this well when there were no expectations. As everyone knows by now, Diaz was designated for assignment last year and taken off the 40-man roster. While he performed well after the roster machinations, it was hard to know how to weight those six years versus his basically two fairly disappointing years in the minors. With Peralta in St. Louis, it seemed unlikely we’d find out soon.
Then Peralta went down and, even though Diaz was hitting well in the spring, the club hedged its bets and signed Ruben Tejada, who then got hurt as well. Diaz grabbed the chance and took off, as noted above, and by time people started getting back, Diaz was established as the shortstop of the Cards, something that even an injury couldn’t deny. Diaz struggled defensively to start the season, but seemed to grow on the job. All the defensive numbers are still in the red, of course, but it did seem like the flubbed plays became fewer and farther between.
However, should we expect Diaz to be the shortstop of the future? John Mozeliak has always been in his corner and he’ll probably be a good one going forward, but there are some things that stand out. A good portion–not all, because he had a pretty nice run in June and July until he got hurt–of his numbers were generated in that insane start of the year and a lot came while he was hitting eighth (1.098 OPS in that spot) while everyone clamored for him to be moved up. The splits seem to indicate that he struggled with power pitching, which is why he had trouble in the late innings when everyone, it seems, comes out of the bullpen throwing close to 100. How he adapts and how the league adapts to him could make next season, the last year he’s actually under contract (though he’ll be under team control longer) a key one.
Outlook: No matter if you think there are concerns or not, even a .275/.340/.450 shortstop would have significant value to the Cardinals, especially while their prospects like Delvin Perez and others continue to develop. If Matt Carpenter moves down the lineup, Diaz might come out of the second spot that we saw him in a lot, but it’s possible he’s going to be a better asset closer to the bottom of the lineup anyway. That’s a lot of assumptions to draw from a very limited data set, but that’s all we’ve got and that’s what bloggers are for!