TCN 2016 Cardinals Prospect #7: Aledmys Diaz

A late-season surge put the Cuban shortstop back on track and back onto the 40-man roster.

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile

Hometown: Santa Clara, Cuba

2015 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
12 SS 08,01,90 6-1 195 R R 2014 FA

Selected 2015 stats

Mem 0.448 0.372 50 12 19 3 3 6 6 5 0 0.459 0.380 0.620 1.068
Spr 0.324 0.294 375 47 99 25 10 46 29 62 6 0.339 0.264 0.421 0.745
total 0.339   425 59 118 28 13 52 35 67 6   0.278 0.445 0.784
AFL 0.315 0.328 73 17 23 8 4 14 7 12 2 0.428 0.370 0.616 0.987

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (7): Aledmys Diaz moved up this year in the community vote mostly due to his really strong finish in 2015. UConnCard noted that Diaz plays a premium position, while being stationed in the high minors, although she is a bit hesitant about whether the bat is for real. Desmetlax12 posted that Diaz is a potential plus bat at a premium position. Given that, his floor, according to desmetlax12, is that of a utility infielder, which is a nice package.

Nbr1hawkeye wrote that he is a little surprised by the amount of love being shown for Diaz this soon. He worries most about Diaz’s arm. SoonerinNC wrote that he needs to see more steady production to be convinced that Diaz has arrived offensively. He does believe Diaz plays solid defense with adequate range and arm. - Jeremy Byrd

Derek Shore (8): On July 8th, the Cardinals removed Diaz from the 40-man roster, less than two years after he signed a major league contract following his defection from Cuba. The shortstop cleared waivers and then turned a corner in his return to Texas League action before eventually finishing his resurgent season on a high note with Triple-A Memphis.

From July 10th and on, The Cardinal Nation's top-rated Cardinals infield prospect batted .337 with ten home runs and 31 runs batted in. Diaz also received an invitation to the Arizona Fall League and showed well with a .315 average, four home runs and 14 RBI in 20 fall league games. As of result, the Cardinals added him back onto the 40 man roster.

“Diaz played with energy; was consistent at shortstop," said a pro scout, who covers the Texas League. "He hit to the league and above it in stretches. For him, his performance caught the league and went by it. He hit right away in Memphis and had a very strong finish. The change for most kids is the adjustment to how they play the game every day (in Cuba)."

Surprise Saguaros hitting coach Bobby Rose echoed that sentiment on Diaz from his AFL showing. Rose also added that Diaz could stand to refine his skills more at shortstop, but in time, he could play the position in the majors.

"Diaz is tremendous, he is mechanically sound, shows discipline, and has some power. He has a great work ethic," Rose said.

Diaz has a short, compact swing, but an aggressive approach and looks to attack first pitch fastballs which affects his bat sometimes. He also has a tendency to collapse on off-speed pitches but projects to hit for average power that is geared more towards the gaps.

Defensively, he improved his ability to make charging and off-balance plays and looks to be an unspectacular but steady defender with an arm that varied a lot this past year - from plus to scouts wondering if it is too light to make the throws from deep in the hole. The former was a view from the Arizona Fall League and all considered, it sounds like Diaz is past the shoulder issue that kept him out most of 2014 and was attributed to showcases before he signed.

Ultimately, his ceiling is that of a solid regular, but will most likely be a utility man for the Cardinals as his versatility increases with the addition of third base in the fall. Although Diaz might be major-league ready - the Cardinals will probably give him an extended look in spring training before sending him out to Memphis for seasoning and a full trial in the Pacific Coast League.

Brian Walton (12): Signed to a four-year Major League contract in March 2014, the Cuban shortstop struggled with a shoulder problem and ineffectiveness until a major surge late in his second season. The question is which Diaz is the real thing?

I am pretty sure the way and the speed at which his rebirth played out is unprecedented.

Prior to his removal from the 40-man roster in July, the 25-year-old could have been claimed by any one of the 29 other MLB organizations - and every one passed.

Clearly Diaz’ disappointing performance to that point was the primary factor. His contract, which the claiming team would have been required to assume, also had to be a consideration. Yet the money remaining would not be excessive – about $4.5 million over 2 1/3 seasons – if Diaz was considered close to being MLB-ready. However, he wasn’t.

Diaz’ surge as a hitter began about the time he lost his 40-man roster spot. Maybe it was motivation or maybe it was just coincidence, but whatever was behind it, it was as impressive as it was surprising.

The right-handed hitter registered a strong month at Springfield. He followed with a solid, yet brief 14-game introduction at Memphis - though his BABIP there of .372 seems unsustainable. Diaz finished his year with a very good AFL campaign.

More than his 2015 late-season progress with the bat, what caused me to revise my thinking about Diaz’ future with the Cardinals was something that at first blush may appear minor, a defensive shift. To me, the fact that he made his professional debuts at both second base and third base in Arizona tells me that the organization is finally looking at Diaz as an infield utilityman, a step that would be almost required for him to have a realistic shot at St. Louis.

The organization believes the corner has been turned. Cardinals director of player development Gary LaRocque weighs in.

“Aledmys had a real good second half,” LaRocque said. “Sometimes, in all honesty, it is just patience and time. Everybody works on a different clock. You don’t really gain the confidence until you have some level of success. Everybody goes on a different timetable with that.

“In his case, by the time he got to mid-season, he had been there last year, but injured at times. So he didn’t really have a clean year where he could play day to day. Once you get into that day-to-day pattern, that day to day grind, you start to really realize what you are capable of. You start to feel comfortable, relaxed. You know what you can do, you get more used to the pitching at that level.

“He caught up to the level and went by it. So we are pleased with that. He too now sees the next level and what he is shooting for.”

Diaz demonstrated enough to be restored to the 40-man, but is he ready to pass up Jacob Wilson, let alone Greg Garcia, and reach that next and final level? Don’t forget Dean Anna, whose very retention on the 40-man roster while Diaz was dropped and re-added indicates he continues to have strong support in the organization.

As Diaz moves into his third of four contract seasons and his third minor league option year, his time is beginning to run short.

The absolute worst case would a regression to his earlier struggles, but a second outright could lead straight to free agency. While I do not think that will happen, my number 12 ranking indicates my lingering concern over which Diaz we will see going forward.

Our 2016 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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