You could be forgiven if you had just come back from 2016 and missed all of the 2017 MLB season, but the Cardinals future shortstop is not Aledmys Diaz, who had a breakout campaign in 2016, but Paul Dejong instead. Aledmys Diaz seemed to be the future when he broke out with a .300 average in 2016, but a rough 2017 forced the Cardinals to make another change at shortstop. However, before we get into that, let’s look back at the Cardinals shortstop woes since 2011.
It was all defense for St. Louis back in the championship of 2011, Ryan Theriot managed most games, playing 91 games at shortstop that year. 2011 was also the year Pete Kozma made an appearance and impressed enough with his defense to win an everyday role after an impressive 25 games at shortstop in 2012. His offense left much to be desired, but will always be remembered for the go-ahead single he hit in game 5 of the NLDS against the Nationals in 2012. His 2013 is one to forget, however, as he batted .217, though that came with excellent defense.
Enter 2014 and you have the signing of Jhonny Peralta, who seemed to finally be the shortstop the Cardinals were looking for to nail down the position, and he did for a couple productive years. In 2014 he hit 21 bombs, giving power to the position that the Cardinals hadn’t seen since Edgar Renteria back in the early 2000s. He followed it up with a 17 homer campaign in 2015 before finally fading into obscurity and ultimately let go in 2017.
The biggest reason Peralta got dfa’d? The emergence of Aledmys Diaz, (and later Paul Dejong). in 111 games Diaz came out of nowhere to hit .300 with 17 bombs in only 111 games. He was young, 26 at the time, and seemed primed to take over the shortstop mantle. Then 2017 hit and Diaz suddenly fell hard. After being handed the shortstop position after Spring Training, Diaz’s play ended him up in Memphis for most of the season
And finally, we get to Paul Dejong. Dejong took over Diaz’s job and ran with it. In 108 games, Dejong hit 25 homers. He barely walked at all, maintaining a 4.8% walk rate and struck out a ton, at a 28% clip. Despite these negative numbers, Dejong’s power and contact were solid and allowed him to have a very decent season, and if it wasn’t for Bellinger, possibly a rookie of the year campaign. The question is of course, is Dejong the player the Cardinals have finally been searching for to fill the middle of the infield? Or will Dejong, like Diaz and others before him fade into obscurity?
The power that Dejong has cannot be denied, but he will have to get much more patience at the plate to continue his 2017 success. His .349 Babip is likely to fall in 2018, though he hits the ball hard enough to maintain an above .300 Babip. His hard contact rate was at a solid 36.5%. You could continue to look at the numbers all day, such as his slash line of .285/.339/.571, but the only way to answer the question is he the one is to watch the 2018 season and see if the Cardinals still have a little magic in their player development.
Photo Credit: Baseballamerica.com