During a frustrating season for the Blue Jays, they’ve had some solid performances fly under the radar. Aledmys Diaz would qualify and he’s quietly having a very nice year.
On Friday the Blue Jays missed an opportunity to sweep the Seattle Mariners in a four game set on the road, but they would still have to consider the series a success for many reasons. Not only did they take three of four, but they also had incredible fan support on the west coast, making it feel like a significant home game for a struggling team.
The Jays also had some solid individual performances, including Marco Estrada taking a no-hitter late into the game on Saturday, Ryan Borucki‘s first win, and some overall life on the offensive side of the ball. There were several hitters that performed well, but Aledmys Diaz definitely carried the charge.
The 28 year old went 7-13 in the series including three home runs against the Mariners. Now that the trip to Seattle has come to a close, Diaz is hitting .261/.293/.471 with 14 home runs, 32 RBI, and 15 doubles in 272 at bats. He’s battled some injuries this year and a bit of inconsistency, but he’s quietly putting together a pretty solid season. His playing time has equated to roughly half a season, so those numbers look pretty good if you simply double them for a full year in an ideal scenario.
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He’s also been worth 0.7 bWAR, and even on the defensive side he hasn’t been bad at all, coming in at at even 0.0 rating according to baseballreference.com. Fangraphs likes his defence a little bit more even, and gives him an overall WAR value of 1.1.
All things considered the Blue Jays should be very pleased with what they’ve received from the former St. Louis Cardinal. He was brought in as an insurance policy for Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis‘ health, as was Yangervis Solarte, and as we’ve seen, both “back-up plans” have been full-time players for the most part, which is why the improvement in depth was needed.
His numbers were pretty solid before as well, but with the recent power surge now Diaz suddenly looks like a real plus at shortstop, and yet another asset for the Blue Jays at the keystone positions. Including Solarte, Travis, Tulowitzki (if he’s ever healthy), and others like Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Brandon Drury, the depth chart isn’t lacking for big league calibre players. That’s not even including the minor league pipeline talent that’s coming soon, highlighted by Bo Bichette, and plenty of other talented pieces.
Diaz’s performance will definitely land him in the lineup in the short term future, even if he likely would have been playing until Gurriel Jr. can return at least anyway. However, if he continues to hit the ball with authority the way he has recently, the Blue Jays may have to re-evaluate his position in the equation in the near, and long term. As things stand he’s not eligible for free agency until after the 2022 season, and he’s being paid just two million this season according to Spotrac.com. He’s not a superstar by any means, but that’s still a pretty good bargain for a shortstop who could end up with a WAR rating of close to 2.0 by the time the year’s over.
Whether his performance this year places him in the Blue Jays’ long term plans or not, you’d have to think that Diaz has re-established some of the value he lost in 2017. After storming on to the scene as a rookie in 2016 by slashing .300/.369/.510 with 17 home runs in 404 at bats, he struggled badly enough last season that he was demoted to Triple-A, and ultimately lost his job to Paul DeJong in St. Louis. That lead to him becoming available and being traded to Toronto, which has certainly worked out for Ross Atkins and the Blue Jays’ front office thus far.
In 2017 the question started becoming about whether or not Diaz could stick at the big league level, especially as a shortstop. I don’t think that’s even a question anymore for the Cuban infielder, at least it shouldn’t be. Sure, it would be nice to see his on-base percentage up a bit, but overall he’s been a legitimate asset at an important up-the-middle position, and those don’t just grow on trees.
I’m also aware that proclaiming anything other than a job well done is a bit premature, but Diaz is quietly having a nice little season, and if he keeps this up it won’t be so quiet anymore.