Blue Jays: What to Expect from Aledmys Diaz in 2018

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 25: Aledmys Diaz
ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 25: Aledmys Diaz /

In an unexpected move last night, the Blue Jays acquired shortstop Aledmys Diaz from the St. Louis Cardinals. Here’s what you can expect from the newest Blue Jay in 2018.

Potential To Be An Above-Average Offensive Player

Aledmys Diaz can hit. Just two years ago, Diaz was firmly challenging Dodgers’ shortstop Corey Seager for the NL Rookie of the Year award. In 111 games that year, Diaz hit 17 home runs to go along with a .300/.369/.510 batting line – an impressive rookie year for a relatively unknown prospect. However, in 2017, Diaz struggled to replicate that success, as he could only muster 7 home runs and a .682 OPS.

While the drastic swing in numbers is concerning, there is still much room for optimism. Firstly, Diaz maintained his strong contact skills in 2017 as his strikeout percentage minimally increased to a still very strong, 14.0 K%. Although he walked less, Diaz can improve that aspect of his game with more consistent playing time and experience – the league adjusted to Diaz, and he needs a chance to adjust back.

Furthermore, Diaz experienced a drop of 30 points on his batting average with balls in play. While his 2016 BABIP of .312 was a little too high, a BABIP of .282 is also a little too low for a strong contact hitter like Diaz. With a little more luck, Diaz is still capable of hitting for a high average.

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And finally, the last factor to consider has nothing to do with numbers, but rather just a decrease in the level of a player’s confidence. Aledmys Diaz was an All-Star in 2016. He was fully expected to be handed the starting shortstop job in 2017 but was quickly ousted in favor of Paul DeJong when he showed signs of struggle. While it’s hard to blame the Cardinals for sending a player to work out his struggles in the minor leagues, it can also be extremely demoralizing when your team gives up on you after the outstanding season you just had in the previous year.

If given regular at-bats by the Blue Jays, the change in scenery could spark Aledmys Diaz to return to his old All-Star form. More realistically, I expect him to produce numbers slightly below his 2016 stats, but also well above his 2017 stats. Something like a batting line of .260/.320/.440 to go along with 15-20 home runs can be well within reach for a player with the calibre of Diaz.

A Weak Defender

While Diaz’s offensive potential is encouraging, his defensive shortcomings are a slight cause for concern. Diaz’s primary position is shortstop although he has a little experience at second and third. Even during his impressive rookie season, Diaz profiled as a below-average defender and showed no signs of improvement in 2017.

The likeliest path for Diaz in 2018 is to become the utility infielder for the Blue Jays, filling in at the three infield positions for days when Tulowitzki, Travis, or Donaldson need a break. There is also the possibility that Diaz starts at shortstop or second for a prolonged period of time if the oft-injured Tulowitzki or Travis go down with yet another injury.

A Great Buy-Low Trade for the Blue Jays

All factors considered, this was a smart trade for the Blue Jays. They essentially replaced Ryan Goins (non-tender), a good defender with terrible hitting, with Aledmys Diaz, a highly-talented player with distinct flaws. The prospect cost of J.B. Woodman also lowers the risk of downside with this trade, as Woodman is not considered to be a top prospect in the Jays farm system.

Next: Blue Jays non-tender Ryan Goins and Tom Koehler

The Aledmys Diaz acquisition is the first significant move in what appears to be an exciting offseason. Buckle up, and enjoy the ride. It’s just getting started.