Sunday, March 9, 2014

Cardinals sign Aledmys Diaz. But where will he play?

According to Jennifer Langosch (and other) the Cardinals have signed infielder Aledmys Diaz to a major league deal.  The team did not release details, but it is believed to be for 4 years. 

This represents the biggest investment ever by the Cards in a Cuban player and while that is all fine and good, the first question I asked myself is where will he play?

According to scouts, Diaz is capable of playing second, third and short.  However, the Cardinals currently have Kolten Wong, Matt Carpenter and Jhonny Peralta manning those positions.  Carpenter just received an extension from the Cards, which has him under team control through 2019.  Peralta was signed as a free agent through the 2017 and Wong is under team control through 2019.  So, there is no obvious spot for the young Cuban.

But there are some scenarios under which he could make an impact this season:

1.  Kolten Wong struggles

This is Wong's first full season in the majors.  He was a September callup last year and hit an uninspiring .153 in 59 at bats (small sample size rules apply).  However, he is a career .301/.365/.446 hitter in the minors.

He could hit the ground running or he could struggle in his first extended taste of the bigs.  If its the latter, look for Diaz to get the call.

2.  Someone gets injured

Obviously, the addition of Diaz gives the Cardinals some much needed infield depth.  Behind the starting 3, there is only Daniel Descalso, Pete Kozma and Mark Ellis.  Ellis has only really played second base in his career and while Descalso and Kozma can play short, neither is a very good hitter.

Diaz would give the Cards a decent hitting backup to Wong, Carpenter or Peralta, should they get injured and would not be as big of a downgrade as Kozma or Descalso would be.

3. Trade

The Cardinals could decide to jettison one of their infielders for an upgrade elsewhere.  This doesn't seem likely though, as it appears that the Cards are committed to Carpenter, Peralta and Wong on the infield.

4.  Utility Infielder

This seems to be the most likely scenario.  With his ability to play 3 different positions, Diaz could become a better hitting version of Descalso.  Despite hitting a meager .238 with a .656 OPS last season, Descalso still managed to play in 123 games last season "earning" 328 at bats.  He played 39 games at second, 55 at short and 38 at third.

Diaz does not have a lot of pop, but he showed the ability to hit for average, batting .315/.404/.500 with 12 homers and 11 stolen bases in his last season in Cuba.  In fact, Diaz' presence could spell the end of Descalso's career with the Cards.

My guess is that the Cardinals will start Diaz in the minors to get him accustomed to American baseball.  Ones he proves himself, he will get called up to play a utility role. He could get significant playing time if there is an injury or Wong struggles, so I could see him getting around 300 at bats.

1 comment:

  1. In regards to 'Diaz does not have a lot of pop' statement, I've seen multiple writers state that he had 12 homers in only 270 at bats in 2012 which does show some power potential. I don't anything about his prior years but it seems he does have some 'pop, especially compared to others competing for the infield backup role.