The Cardinals demoted their All-Star shortstop to the minor leagues on Wednesday.
It’s safe to say the 2017 season is not going the way the St. Louis Cardinals hoped it would. Roughly a month after sending their Opening Day left fielder, Randal Grichuk, to the minor leagues for a tune-up for the second straight season, the Cardinals optioned shortstop Aledmys Díaz to Triple-A Memphis on Wednesday.
Díaz was an NL All-Star as a rookie in 2016, posting a .300/.369/.510 slash line with 17 homers in 460 plate appearances. But Díaz, who was a shaky defensive shortstop as a rookie, has failed to progress in that regard during his second big-league campaign, and he’s arguably regressed. He’s also taken a step back at the plate, hitting .260/.293/.396 with seven homers through 288 PAs. Díaz has been exceptionally streaky, wedging a .294/.342/.402 month of May in between mediocre April and June performances.
To take Díaz’s place on the roster, the Cardinals purchased the contract of infielder Alex Mejia and transferred pitcher Alex Reyes to the 60-day disabled list.
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Mejia is expected to serve as the primary backup to rookie Paul DeJong, who will get the majority of the starts at short for the immediate future, and Greg Garcia, who figures to see the majority of the action at second base. With rookie first baseman Luke Voit now with the big-league club, it’s certainly also possible that Matt Carpenter could either shift to second base or play third base, with Jedd Gyorko moving over to second, which probably would allow the Cardinals to field their most offensively-capable lineup.
While Mejia was selected in the fourth round of the 2012 draft, the Cardinals have been treating him as an organizational player more than a prospect for a long while now. He’s split the past three seasons between Memphis and Double-A Springfield, usually going to whichever team had a need in the middle infield.
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The obvious red flag here is that the 26-year-old Mejia has hit for his entire career in the minors like Díaz has hit in the major leagues this season–and that might even be a generous compliment to Mejia. Through his six-year minor-league career, Mejia is a .255/.301/.338 hitter with 15 homers in 1,979 plate appearances. This season, he’s posted a .263/.333/.289 slash line in 42 plate appearances at Memphis, along with a .251/.305/.366 line with three homers in 251 PAs at Springfield.
He’s considered an above-average defensive shortstop and has also seen extensive time at third and second base. With Mejia’s promotion, an incredible three players on the Cardinals’ 25-man roster–Mejia, plus Voit and reliever John Brebbia–did not attend major-league spring training.