TCN 2015 Cardinals Prospect #12: Aledmys Diaz

A Cuban shortstop none of us had heard of 12 months ago received a Major League contract but spent much of his first season unable to throw in game action.

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile

Hometown: Santa Clara, Villa Clara, Cuba

2014 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NA SS 08,01,90 6-1 195 R R 2014 FA

Selected 2014 stats

Spr 0.291 0.341 117 15 34 8 3 18 2 24 6 0.344 0.311 0.453 0.764
PB 0.227 0.242 44 5 10 2 2 6 7 10 1 0.355 0.352 0.409 0.761
Tot 0.273   161 20 44 10 5 24 9 34 7   0.324 0.441 0.765

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (12): Aledmys Diaz’s shoulder was a very contentious subject among the community voters.

CardsInChitown believes Diaz is the only position player anywhere close to the majors among the prospects. Desmetlax12 voted for Diaz based on his triple-slash line at Double-A Springfield of .291/.311/.453 as a shortstop. Nbr1hawkeye was high on Diaz before he was shut down for the year, but wants to see him for a full year before picking him sooner than #20.

Much of the derision over Diaz seemed to be due to his shoulder being his own fault for not playing for a while. During the vote, I noted that several articles mentioned that Diaz is an extremely hard worker, once considered a career in medicine, left his wife and daughter to defect from Cuba, and worked out as much as possible during the signing process with a minor-league team and in Mexico. - Jeremy Byrd

Derek Shore: Diaz defected from Cuba in the winter of 2012, but was initially ruled ineligible to sign because of a falsely-presented age. The Cardinals signed Diaz in the spring of 2014 for a reported $8 million over four years.

Having not played baseball regularly over an 18 month period of time meant that it took Diaz longer than many expected to get back into physical shape to withstand an everyday grind. That eventually took a toll on a nagging shoulder that would keep him out for the majority of his first pro season in the U.S.

The Cuban did play in 47 games between Springfield and Palm Beach, hitting .273/.324/.441 with five home runs and 24 RBI. The Cardinals originally hoped he would play his way up to Memphis and on to St. Louis before the end of the season but those expectations went away as they backed off his playing time and only used him as a designated hitter at Palm Beach to protect his shoulder.

With only a little over 100 at-bats under his belt, it is hard to tell what the Cardinals have at this point in Diaz. The only time I got to see him play during the month of April, I saw an aggressive approach and he got a lot of good pitches to hit during what became the only full-month he played.

His bat is his strongest asset, as scouts have always been mixed on his defense. Many think he has the arm to play shortstop, but the range and footwork are the main concern. He could end up at the hot corner, which would make it important for his bat to play up. But with little action in the field and at the plate, he will be given time.

Diaz will turn 25 next August and will likely repeat Double-A again. Hopefully his shoulder heals and he can advance up to Triple-A Memphis sooner rather than later.

Brian Walton (12): Anyone who believes they know what that Cardinals have in Diaz are probably blowing smoke. Follow his story and see how comfortable you feel.

We join the unusual journey two years ago following his defection when Diaz was penalized for adding time to his age. The motivation was to reach the point at which he could negotiate a contract with teams and not be restricted by the international signing bonus pool rules.

By the time he sat out, then performed for a number of organizations in a series of showcases last off-season, my suspicion is that he overstressed his throwing arm. Whether that was behind him signing for less money than many expected, I don’t know. Diaz did receive a Major League contract, meaning he was placed onto the 40-man roster.

Shortly after signing and taking a side trip to Mexico City to secure a work visa, Diaz was showcased by the Cardinals in a pair of 1:00 P.M. big-league games in Jupiter before being sent to minor league camp. It would be the last time Diaz and the Major League club were mentioned in the same sentence in 2014.

It was clear in Florida and at the beginning of the season with Springfield that Diaz was not right. He did not appear in the field until his sixth game for the Double-A Cards. Before April was out, he was placed on the disabled list with a shoulder strain. Perhaps expecting an outage of shorter duration, the Cards did not send Diaz back to Jupiter until mid-May, where he could rehab and play in some extended spring training action.

In mid-June, Diaz was back with the Double-A club, but was still not playing in the field. As the month ended, Diaz received the call to St. Louis, but it was not for the reason anyone hoped. After being pulled from an S-Cards game with – you guessed it – shoulder soreness, he was sent to St. Louis to be examined by team physicians. Returned to the DL, he had appeared at short in just 17 of his 34 games with Springfield.

Following another full month on the shelf, rehabbing back in Florida, Diaz was re-activated, but it was down a level at nearby A-Advanced Palm Beach. After playing in just 13 August games exclusively as a designated hitter and batting just .227, he injured a hamstring and returned to the DL for a third time, ending his season.

While I saw Diaz at fall instructional league, he was only cleared to hit. His defensive work seemed to consist of light activity in drills. All along, every time I asked, I was assured that Diaz’ injuries were minor and non-structural.

Even so, when recapping that journey in its entirety, it is very difficult to me to be optimistic about Diaz. Maybe all he needs is a winter’s rest and will come back strong in the spring, but maybe not. Even before the extended injury period, his arm was not considered his strength and scouts had been divided about it being MLB shortstop quality.

Either way, Diaz’ first professional season in the US was pretty much a washout. One year of his minor league options has already been burned, though he may become eligible for four, and one year is down with three to go on his contract.

Through all of this, I pretty much kept Diaz at his same spot in our rankings each month during the regular season. In reality, if healthy, he is likely a top-10 player in the system, or if instead, the Cards have a shortstop unable to throw or have to move him to second base, his value would be much less. We should know which in 2015.

Our 2015 top 40 series continues: To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 40 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of the latter are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.

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