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
Member
jimdetry

Does Diaz have platoon splits?

mdthomp
Member
mdthomp

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

croggs
Member
croggs

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.