With Ruben Tejada heading for a rehab assignment in Double A, what will be his role on this Cardinals team when he’s ready to go?
On quite literally the last day of Spring Training, Ruben Tejada strained his left quad and was subsequently placed on the 15-Day disabled list to open the season. Tejada had been a last minute off-season signing when Jhonny Peralta went down with a thumb injury that will likely sideline him until All-Star Weekend. On Opening Day, things were looking bleak for the Cardinals at the shortstop position, as the two-highest paid guys were unable to play for the foreseeable future.
However, with those injuries, Aledmys Diaz was given the opportunity to play and, so far, he has fully taken advantage of his time at the big league level. Diaz has been one of the bright spots of this Cardinals team and, though the sample size is small, his numbers are off-the-chart offensively. In 18 at-bats, Diaz has 8 hits (.444 average), 3 doubles, 5 RBIs, and a homerun. No Cardinal fan could dream of better numbers when the team decided to start a player who had no previous MLB experience.
Though, eventually Diaz’s numbers will come back to earth, Cardinals fans should enjoy what they are seeing from the young shortstop because what he is doing is truly spectacular.
Currently, the biggest flaw for Diaz is his defense. In 4 starts, he already has 3 errors. His fielding percentage right now is a putrid .833.That number is absolutely unacceptable for a big league shortstop. His errors come from his inability to consistently turn routine double plays and forcing highlight reel throws to get an out. Recently, in the loss on Wednesday to the Brewers, Diaz had to rush to beat the runner to first and his throw sailed wide, allowing the base runners to advance. These errors will eventually cost the Cardinals a game, so something needs to be done about all these defensive mistakes.
— Jenifer Langosch (@LangoschMLB) April 14, 2016
However, for now, quite frankly, there is no better option than to continue starting Diaz at shortstop. Don’t get me started about Jedd Gyorko‘s defensive game at shortstop… (2 errors in 12 chances) But, the real question is what happens when Tejada is healthy?
Unfortunately, we, as Cardinals fans, can’t get overly excited about Tejada returning. Tejada doesn’t have the potential to “save” this team by his stellar play. There was a reason why he was waived by the Mets and the Cardinals had a chance to pick him up for no cost other than his contract. Last year, in 116 games, Tejada was only a .261 hitter and only produced 3 home runs in 360 at-bats. Defensively, he only had a .962 fielding percentage. He isn’t going to win a Gold Glove anytime soon. Tejada, at best, is a very average shortstop. Though Tejada has more experience than Diaz, it doesn’t seem as if starting Tejada would be the best option for the team in the foreseeable future, with the way Diaz is swinging his bat.
When Diaz’s numbers drop to everyday numbers, the shortstop position battle will definitely be more intriguing when Tejada is added to the mix. If Diaz’s batting average hovers around the .300 mark and he limits his errors, I say that he should remain the everyday shortstop, even with Tejada fully healthy. Diaz has a very smooth swing and he has way more home run potential than Tejada. Also, Diaz deceptively is a very fast base runner. Even Manager Mike Matheny was surprised by how fast Diaz is when he legged out a triple the other night.
The short stop position will continue to be one of the biggest question marks until Peralta comes back around July. However, for now, Diaz has earned his spot in the lineup and, at only 25 years old, his future looks very bright. His start to his MLB career has been absolutely incredible.
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