By Joe Messineo
Aledmys Diaz is entrenched as the St. Louis Cardinals shortstop for the next decade. His performance on the field has the Cardinals brass excited for the future. Before Spring Training, it was unclear whether Diaz would be on the team due to high finances surrounding the infield, but due to some luck and right timing, Diaz has fans thinking about Ozzie Smith.
Diaz became the starting shortstop this year due to an injury to Jhonny Peralta, who came back recovered in mid June. Diaz’s play triggered a chain reaction that forced Cardinal manager Mike Matheny to shuffle players to different positions primarily due to Diaz’s high impact production. When Peralta came back, he was moved to third base and Matt Carpenter moved to second base. That led to Kolten Wong, who was the starting second baseman for two years, being shipped back to Memphis (AAA).
The 2016 campaign forced Matheny to make these moves and the numbers do tell much of the story. As of Tuesday’s games, Diaz has hit 13 HR’s and 53 RBI’s and appeared in his first All Star game in San Diego. His average batting numbers are very good with .318/.382/.581/.904, displaying consistency with above average power.
His fielding was a concern earlier in the year with 13 errors in the first 60 games, but in the last 30 games he has only committed two errors for a total of 15. The numbers are clearly trending upward, giving Matheny the confidence to leave him at shortstop. Diaz has worked diligently at improving his fielding and it has started to show.
Many writers are seriously looking at Diaz as a bona fide candidate for Rookie of the Year in the National League. If you compare his numbers to other rookies, he is on par with his competition. Third baseman Corey Seager is near the top of rookies in the NL this season playing for the Dodgers, but his numbers are dipping in comparison to Diaz. Seager does have more home runs (17), but has less RBI’s at 45 and only has .306/.363/.532/.908 batting numbers.
Trevor Story is another player mentioned prominently as a top rookie for 2016. He started on fire for the Colorado Rockies and his numbers also leveled off but has resurfaced as Diaz’s top competitor. Story has 27 HR’s with 69 RBI’s with batting numbers of .272/.345/.584/.929. So the numbers are comparable but Diaz clearly has a better batting average. Story’s fielding is better than Diaz’s will only 10 errors in 91 games.
There are other candidates that have shown some flashes of brilliance during the course of the year. Dodger outfielder Trayce Thompson played very well for the first two months of the year but has since faded.
There are two months plus left in the season and things can change, but it looks as if Aledmys Diaz has the inside track at becoming Rookie of the Year in 2016 and would be the first Cardinal to receive the award since Albert Pujols in 2001.
Joe Messineo is a former Division I pitcher with experience writing for a number of different sports blogs including No Coast Bias, Last Word on Sports, Sports Distillery, and Sports Central.