Jays From the Couch brings you the player Highlights & Lowlights of the 2018 season. This time: Aledmys Diaz
Heading into the 2017 offseason it was very clear the Toronto Blue Jays needed to upgrade their bench. With star shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki injury history and declining production, Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney were exposed when given everyday at-bats. So the Blue Jays sent minor league outfielder J.B. Woodman to the St. Louis Cardinals to acquire Diaz. Not bad price for the 2016 All-Star coming off a down season in 2017.
J.B. Woodman was assigned to the Cards Advanced-A affiliate. He played 68 games, batted .246 with 9 doubles, a triple, 6 HR, and 29 RBI. Unfortunately, Woodman continued to strike out at an alarming rate with 106 K and just 23 walks. The Blue Jays former 2016 2nd round selection was released on August 2nd and is currently a free agent….or retired.
Diaz was a perfect fit in Toronto. He didn’t repeat his 2016 All-Star rookie season (3.5 WAR) but he also didn’t have a repeat of his mid-season demotion season in 2017 (-0.7 WAR). The 28 yr-old from Santa Clara, Cuba produced a 1.4 WAR season in his first season in Toronto.
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Diaz set career-high in games played (130). He came within 2 HR of hitting 20 HR. Diaz’ 2018 season was an improvement over every 2017 category. His plate discipline improved from 4.3 BB% and 14.0K% in 2017 to 5.1 BB% and 13.7 K%. Not far off his 2016 8.9 BB% and 13.0K%. His .190 ISO was much better than his 2017 .133 ISO and came close to matching his .210 ISO from 2016.
Diaz managed to put up league average numbers with a .321 wOBA and 102 wRC+. The 18 HR he hit was the 9th most by a shortstop while his 55 RBI were Top 20. His .190 ISO was 9th best among SS and his .321 wOBA was 12th best. Fangraphs OFF (offensive runs above average) has Diaz’ -2.0 OFF as the 15th best among his peers, ahead of Marcus Semien, Jose Iglesias, Brandon Crawford, and Addison Russell to name a few.
The right-handed batter batted .276 versus RHP with 13 of his 18 HR. He hit much better at home (.285 BA with a .781 OPS) compared to .242 BA with a .732 OPS on the road. Although he did hit more HR on the road (11) than he did at home (7). Diaz had a much better 2nd half (.290, 10HR, and .857 OPS in 60GP) than 1st half (.240 BA, 8HR, and .670 OPS in 70 GP).
His highest OPS and RBI total came in September when he posted a .869 OPS and drove in 14 runs. September also saw Diaz walk more (8) and post a season-high .311 BA in 26 games….mostly at 3rd base. The 5 home runs he hit in August were a season high.
Swinging at the first pitch drives me crazy but it seems to work for Diaz as he batted .307 with 31 of 111 hits and 6 of his 18 HR. Compared a .185 batting average when faced with a full count. He made more hard contact (31.9%) in 2018 than even 2016 (31.5%) while using the whole field (22.3 Oppo% and 47 Pull%). His line drive percentage increased from 15.6% in 2016 and 16.6% in 2017 up to 18.1% in 2018.
Aledmys’ longest hit streak came between August 2nd and August 9th when he collected hits in 7 straight games. His longest on-base streak was 12 games and he had 9 go-ahead hits. Diaz had two games with 4 hits, one game with 3 doubles, and 5 games with 3-RBI.
Diaz went 22 games without a home run between May 4th and June 24th, with a stint on disabled list sandwiched in there. He was 0-for-15 with the bases loaded. Diaz’ defense was not great. He posted a -9 DRS and -2.2 UZR (average to below average). While his UZR represented a marked improvement over his -9.0 he posted in his rookie season it left many Blue Jay fans wanting more. At 3rd base Diaz was slightly better with a -1 DRS and 0.5 UZR; unfortunately, this was a small sample size and we don’t expect that he will be seeing much time at 3rd base in 2019 with whats his face coming up in May.
Aledmys Diaz swings at a lot of pitches outside the zone (38.1 o-swing%) and only makes contact about 58.1% of the time. His .269 BABIP represents a career low, as does his 2.5 Spd (Fangraphs). This might explain why he failed to register a triple for the first time as a major leaguer.
There has already been some trade chatter around the Blue Jays infielder. While the Blue Jays cluttered infield makes it attractive to trade Diaz his four years of team control and injury history of Tulo make it difficult. Yes, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. looked really good in his first MLB season but so did Diaz. I highly doubt Toronto’s front office will receive an offer which would blow their doors off so I expect to see Diaz in a Blue Jays uniform in 2019.
Diaz will battle Tulo, Gurriel Jr., and Richard Urena for the starting SS role. Diaz can expect to see more time at 3rd base, spelling Brandon Drury until Vladimir Guerrero Jr. taking over full-time in June. At which time Drury and/or Diaz will likely be shopped around the league.
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Lover of all things Toronto Blue Jays. Blue Jays MiLB fanatic. I strive for average while stumbling onto above average. Rogers isn’t cheap. Baseball is a business. Your right, but I’m more right.