It’s no secret that Troy Tulowitzki seems destined for the disabled list to start the 2018 season for the Toronto Blue Jays. If that does play out, the Blue Jays are going to have a lot of innings to fill in at shortstop. The Blue Jays new depth up the middle with Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte will be put to the test right out of the gate, but who plays more at short?
Aledmys Diaz is 27 years old and had one full season in the big leagues in 2016. 2017 was inconsistent and injury filled for the man who was an All-Star in his rookie campaign. Yangervis Solarte is 30 years old and has had a solid little career as a utility man for the San Diego Padres and New York Yankees.
As hitters, you should be expecting to receive much better offensive contributions than what you got from Darwin Barney and Ryan Goins. Diaz and Solarte have both shown they can hit for a decent average, get on base somewhat well, and contribute with power. Diaz has more pop in his bat, but Solarte has developed an ability to leave the yard the past few seasons in pitcher friendly Petco Park.
Neither strikes out a ton either, putting the ball in play at a solid rate. To be a more consistent hitter through the course of a season, Solarte is definitely the more established big league hitter and you know what you’re going to get. With Diaz, he has the potential to contribute more offensively than Solarte, but is still considered a wildcard. Regardless, they both are above league average in the wRC+ department for their careers. They can bring good at-bats replacing Troy Tulowitzki while he’s injured.
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The question now is who gets the majority of playing time at shortstop? Diaz is a natural shortstop, but has also seen minimal time at 2nd, 3rd, and left field. Solarte is a natural third baseman, but saw tons of time at 2nd base in 2017, and some reps at 1st base, 3rd, shortstop, and left field sprinkled in.
Diaz isn’t the strongest fielder at short as evidenced by his -9.4 UZR. His arm strength is slightly above average at 52 for his career, and his accuracy is below average at 32 for his career. That is based on a scale measured from 0-100 for both metrics. Solarte has played minimal time at shortstop, but in 2017 he saw 199.0 of his career 222.2 innings at short. The small sample size looked good with a 1.3 UZR.
With Aledmys Diaz’s weakenesses as a defensive shortstop, but more career innings there compared to Solarte’s minimal time but good results, it’s going to be an interesting call to see who will get the majority of playing time at short with Tulowitzki on the shelf.
Even though his glove isn’t flashy, I think Aledmys Diaz will start at shortstop on Opening Day. Yangervis Solarte seems to be much more valuable to the 2018 Toronto Blue Jays without a set position to open the year. Solarte is much more versatile and has more experience at 2nd base and 3rd base compared to Diaz. If need be, he can also play at 1st, and has had slightly more experience in the outfield.
With the Toronto Blue Jays planning on giving Devon Travis lots of time off through the season, it makes a lot more sense to have Diaz step for Tulowitzki at short, and Solarte at 2nd for Travis. On days when Travis plays and Josh Donaldson needs a day off his feet, Solarte slides into 3rd base. The versatility of Solarte is much more valuable to the Blue Jays for 2018, which is why I don’t think he will be the primary shortstop with Tulowitzki out. I also believe the Blue Jays are extra intrigued by the potential of Diaz to be an impact bat at short.
Should the Blue Jays not be impressed with Diaz’s glove as the season starts, they likely plan to bring one of Gift Ngoepe or Richard Urena north to serve as the backup at short. Late in a ball game, Ngoepe or Urena can come in to replace Diaz defensively as well. If Solarte is on the bench that day, Solarte could come in at short as well.
If it’s up to me, Aledmys Diaz starts at shortstop. Yangervis Solarte is on the bench or playing in place of Devon Travis and/or Josh Donaldson when need be. Solarte will see lots of time at 2nd base given how much time off Travis will receive. The versatility of Yangervis Solarte is going to be a big bonus to the 2018 Blue Jays and it helps he can hit too. Aledmys Diaz has the potential to be an impact bat at shortstop, and he’ll need his bat to come through if his glove isn’t up to snuff. Regardless, I believe Diaz will be the main guy at shortstop with Troy Tulowitzki on the shelf.