With Matt Holliday out day-to-day and Matt Carpenter hitting 3rd to fill the void, Manager Mike Matheny needs a new leadoff hitter. It’s time to consider Aledmys Diaz for that role.
Aledmys Diaz has been the best all-around hitter on this Cardinals team in this young season. No question about it. He is hitting .481 (26-54) with 8 doubles, 3 homeruns, and a .833 slugging percentage. Though he is currently a couple at-bats short of officially qualifying for the league batting title, he has the best batting average amongst players who regularly play in the MLB.
Sure, Diaz likely won’t keep this up for an entire season, but why wouldn’t Matheny ride out the hot bat?
.@EliasSports says Aledmys Diaz is the first MLB player to debut in the modern era to have a batting average of .500 through 50+ career ABs.
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) April 26, 2016
Currently, Diaz is batting 8th for the team. 8th! That is unacceptable for a player who is leading the team and the league in batting average. Eventually, in big hit situations, teams will start walking Diaz because the batter behind him is the pitcher. Since Diaz is clearly due for an upgrade from his 8th spot, who not the leadoff spot?
Yesterday, for the first time all year, Matheny used a lead-off hitter other than Matt Carpenter. Instead of choosing Diaz, Matheny relied on Jeremy Hazelbaker. Sure, Hazelbaker is swinging a hot bat in his own right (.321 BA), but he is not the right option.
Hazelbaker, throughout his career, has been known as a high strikeout batter. There was a reason why he didn’t make the MLB roster until 28 years old. Currently, Hazelbaker has struck out 17 times in 56 at-bats (30% of the time).
For the leadoff role, a team needs a player who can consistently find his way to get on base and has the speed to create havoc. Diaz has both. In 58 at-bats, he has found his way on base in almost half of his at-bats and has only struck out 3 times (5% of the time). Also, Diaz definitely has the speed to bat that high up in the order. He even surprised Matheny with his speed at one point in the season.
If Aledmys Diaz can keep up his torrid bat, he needs to be the leadoff hitter for this team. It would be detrimental to the team’s success otherwise. At this point, even with a fully healthy team, I am willing to argue that Diaz should be the leadoff hitter. It can not be emphasized enough the fact that Diaz has found a way to get on base every other at bat. That is absolutely ridiculous, and should be rewarded.
Heading into the season, we didn’t have high expectations for Diaz. Right now, he could either be going through the stretch of his life or he could be starting a promising career. For now, it is too early to tell. There is one thing for sure: Matheny needs to take advantage of this streak– however long it lasts. Put him at leadoff, please.
Photo Captured by Billy Hurst- USA Today Sports