Blue Jays: Aledmys Diaz – Projections and Pipe Dreams
New Blue Jays shortstop Aledmys Diaz will have a lot of work to do if he wants to regain his rookie form. Although the projections aren’t exactly on his side, there’s reason to believe the 27 year-old from Santa Clara, Cuba can make a significant impact with his new squad.
On December 1st, the Blue Jays made a relatively minor trade that would become a catalyst for their sneakily low key offseason, acquiring 26 year-old Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz from St. Louis in exchange for minor league outfield prospect J.B. Woodman.
So far, Diaz’s young career has been a tale of two seasons. His rookie year, he treated Cardinals fans to a stellar campaign in which he slashed .300/.396/.510 with 17 home runs while posting a respectable 13.0% strikeout percentage in 111 games.
His sophomore season had him slumping to a .259/.290/.395 slash line which would eventually lead to him losing his starting gig to up-and-coming rookie phenom Paul DeJong. He also struggled defensively and was plagued with nagging injuries that would all but ruin his year. Past performance aside, Diaz’s 2018 season will likely dictate both the future trajectory of his career, and his popularity among fans of his new team.
Unfortunately though, projections for 2018 haven’t particularly been kind to Diaz as he tries to reinvent himself north of the border.
Steamer projections predict Diaz to appear in a meager 48 games, with a modest .265 batting average and a painfully average wRC+ of 97. Several other projection systems also have Diaz playing in limited games with batting averages floating in the mid-.260s, with only the ZiPS system forecasting him competing in 128 contests. Their slash projections, however, remain in line with the others, showing a fundamental lack of confidence in the young shortstop.
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The first possible inaccuracy with these projections is the amount of games played. With Devon Travis and Troy Tulowitzki combining to play only 116 games last year, it’s possible that Diaz, along with utilityman Yangervis Solarte, will need to step up and contribute over the course of the season.
The slash lines, while obviously conservative, do not account for Diaz’s many strengths as a hitter. Since making his debut in the bigs, he’s put up healthy Line Drive Percentages and above average Isolated Power (ISO) stats.
These projections also seem to undermine the effect of a new ballpark on Diaz’s offensive performance. Rogers’ Centre has long been considered a hitters’ park, with stellar extra base hit values and above average home run coefficients. These numbers oppose those of Busch Stadium, Diaz’s former home. Busch Stadium has consistently produced abysmal results for power hitters, especially from the right side, it’s also very rough down the lines for righties. Busch has also sported negative factors for SLG, wOBA and triples.
While Diaz’s exit velocity has declined since his unbelievable rookie year, there’s ample reason to believe he’ll be able to pump out a solid season, especially given the intangibles that seem to be in his favour as he enters the 2018 campaign.
Overall, it’s perhaps more accurate to predict that Diaz will appear in 70-80 games slashing somewhere in the range of .275/.310/.370, with low double digit home runs. These numbers would fall in the middle of his two previous season’s stats and would line up with a WAR of approximately 1.0 (WAR estimation courtesy of Believeland Ball).
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Aledmys Diaz is primed to make at least some contribution to the 2018 Toronto Blue Jays. With a strong and diverse infield group that includes Travis, Tulowitzki and Solarte, the boys in blue look to be in great shape to start the season.