Throughout history, there have been many of great things that have risen. I have to put bread at the top of the list. Christ was head and shoulders above the pack, but I had to deduct points due to the lack of video evidence. Men with or without erectile dysfunction would agree with me that the penis has to be in the top 3. On the other side of the spectrum, not everything that rises is good. Hollywood would disagree with me here, but Jason rising from the dead for another Friday the 13th was sub-optimal for those trying to have a good time. Ever seen the creatures that live at the bottom of the ocean? Don’t want those rising up to the surface. How could I forget cost of living? For fantasy baseball, the same dynamic plays out. A rising number in home runs, RBI, and stolen bases are a good thing for a batter. For a pitcher, not so good. Every once in a while, a player will rise from the depths of the abyss and become relevant. Aledmys Diaz is one such player. The question is will he stay up or return back to the black unknown?
Aledmys Diaz is a 28-year-old shortstop for the Toronto Blue Jays. He spent most of his youth playing for the Cuban national team and defected in 2012. Because he lied about his age, MLB declared him ineligible to sign with any teams until 2014, so he spent a year and half playing in Mexico. The St. Louis Cardinals signed him in 2014 and he played two major league seasons, before being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2017. His best season was in 2016, when he hit 17 home runs, scored 71 runs, drove in 65, stole 4 bases, and had a .300/.369/.510 slash with a .210 ISO.
Fast forward to 2018. Diaz so far has hit 14 home runs, scored 43 runs, driven in 34, stolen 2 bases, and has a .261/.293/.471 slash with a .210 ISO. While there are plenty of similarities between the two seasons, there are some glaring differences as well.
Diaz accumulated the 2016 stats from 460 plate appearances in 111 games. In 2018, he’s had 287 plate appearances in 82 games. The walk rate was 8.9% in 2016. That number has cratered to 3.8% this year. The BABIP was .312 in 2016 and is only .254 this season. That could portend for more fantasy goodies in the future. Let’s dig a little deeper.
He’s hitting fewer ground balls, more line drives, and the HR/FB are all higher than his 2016 numbers. He’s pulling the ball more and the hard hit rate is higher. Then I pulled up the plate discipline numbers. Whoa…..
The swinging strike rate is 5% higher, the chase rate is 12% higher, and the swing rate in the strike zone is 15% higher!
It must be an organizational thing as the Blue Jays are more aggressive and understand that chicks dig the long ball.
It all makes sense and ties in together. The walk rate is down and the aggression at the plate is up. While I usually hate to see increases in swinging strike and chase rate, if the risk is balanced out by the home run reward, then I’m good with it. Remember, Diaz has 14 home runs in 287 plate appearances. The 14 home runs would place him tied for 7th among shortstops, yet both Trea Turner and Tim Anderson have had 496 and 429 plate appearances respectively. Which brings me to the most important part: playing time. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. sprained his knee and ankle a week ago, and the team announced that he could miss 2-6 weeks. He went down July 29th. Since that time, Diaz has played every game and is sporting a .333/.360/.917 slash with 4 home runs.
One last thing for you narrative folks. Diaz signed a 1-year/$2 million contract. The Blue Jays have team control for next season and three arbitration years after that. This will probably be his last chance to earn a fat paycheck. Teams don’t pay for walks….unless you’re the Reds, so Diaz will be swinging for the fences as long as he’s out there. That is muy bueno for fantasy. Did I forget to mention that he’s only 8.1% owned in ESPN leagues, and that is with the 6.9% increase over the past month?