|St. Louis Cardinals – No. 36|
August 1, 1990 |
Santa Clara, Villa Clara, Cuba
|April 5, 2016, for the St. Louis Cardinals|
(through 2016 season)
|Runs batted in||65|
|Career highlights and awards|
Aledmys Díaz Serrano (born August 1, 1990) is a Cuban professional baseball shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals of Major League Baseball (MLB), who signed him as a free agent in 2014. Díaz made his major league debut for the Cardinals in 2016 and was named an All-Star that year. He previously played for the Naranjas de Villa Clara in the Cuban National Series from 2007 through 2012 before defecting to play in the United States.
While growing up in Santa Clara, Cuba, Aledmys Díaz lived on the same street as, and was friends with, future Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher José Fernández. They played for the same youth baseball team, and Díaz' father and uncle encouraged Fernández' mother to bring him to the ballpark. Fernández commented that had Diaz' uncle not been an influence early in his life, he would not have pursued a professional baseball career.
Naranjas de Villa Clara (2007–12)
Díaz played in the Serie Nacional de Béisbol (Cuban National Series), the primary amateur baseball competition in Cuba, for the Naranjas de Villa Clara, based in Santa Clara. He debuted in the 2007–08 season by going nine for 32 in a utility role. At age 19 in 2008–09, Díaz batted .301 with a .403 on-base percentage (OBP) and .482 slugging percentage (SLG) but fielded only .930 as a regular infielder. He was third in the Serie Nacional with 24 errors.
The next season, Díaz batted .282 with a .348 OBP, .363 SLG and fielded .950 as Villa Clara's starting shortstop. He tied for fifth in the Serie Nacional with 18 errors, having improved his defense. During his 2011–12 season, Díaz' offensive production continued to climb, as he batted .315 with a .404 OBP and .500 SLG. He hit 12 home runs in 270 at bats. From 2008 to 2012, Díaz, batted .308 with a .401 OBP and .444 SLG.
Díaz defected from Cuba in 2012 while playing with the Cuban national baseball team in a tournament in the Netherlands. He was declared ineligible to sign with any MLB teams until February 19, 2014, due to lying about his age. He spent the interim 18 months from defecting from Cuba playing in Mexico City.
St. Louis Cardinals organization (2014–present)
Minor leagues (2014−15)
To audition for a contract with MLB clubs, Díaz held a showcase with fellow Cuban defector Odrisamer Despaigne on February 13, 2014. Although Díaz was initially projected to command a major league contract with a similar level of pay to other Cuban defectors such as Alex Guerrero and Erisbel Arruebarrena, his performance in the showcase did not leave the impression that he merited such a level of salary, and, further, many clubs passed on him altogether. He had left Mexico City effectively out of shape to play professional baseball. He signed a four-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals worth $8 million on March 9.
The Cardinals first assigned Díaz to the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Class A-Advanced Florida State League in 2014, and he was promoted to the Springfield Cardinals of the Class AA Texas League that season. While playing for Springfield, he battled injuries before he was designated for assignment on July 8, 2015. While he had benefited from talent alone while playing in Cuba, his lack of preparation had caused his performance to suffer after playing the minor leagues. However, he diligently began to prepare more and proactively ask more questions.
In the last 45 games of the 2015 season after his removal from the 40-man roster, Díaz batted .333, .404 OBP, and .574 SLG. The Cardinals reinstated him to the 40-man roster after the season. Over the full 2015 campaign, Díaz batted .278, .339 OBP and .445 SLG. He batted .239 against right-handed pitchers, .371 against left-handers, .329 in road games and .222 in home games. He played in the Arizona Fall League following the regular season, registering a .616 SLG and .987 OPS.
Major league debut (2016)
Originally planning for Díaz to spend the 2016 season in Memphis, the Cardinals eventually moved three veteran players to accommodate him becoming the starting shortstop. On April 5, 2016, the Cardinals recalled him to the major league roster to take the place of outfielder Tommy Pham, who had departed on Opening Day two days earlier with an injury. Díaz debuted on the same day as his call-up. In his first major league at bat in the third inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he singled off Jon Niese for his first hit in a 6–5 loss. Initially, Díaz' presence on the roster gave the Cardinals a capable hitter with upside who could play shortstop and fill a void until the return of Rubén Tejada, who had injured himself late in spring training. Tejada himself was a replacement signed as a free agent during spring training to replace the already-established starting shortstop Jhonny Peralta, who also had injured himself and was projected to be unable to play significantly longer than Tejada.
On April 8, Díaz' first major league home run contributed to the Cardinals becoming the first team in major league history to hit three pinch hit home runs in the same game. Jeremy Hazelbaker and Greg Garcia were the other pinch hitters as the Cardinals defeated the Atlanta Braves, 7–4. The previous record of two pinch hit home runs by the same team in one game was previously accomplished on 57 occasions, most recently in 2011. Tejada was reinstated from the disabled list on April 18, However, Díaz' hitting had led the Cardinals to instead retain him as the starting shortstop, thus assigning Tejada to be a utility infielder.
In an 11–2 win over the San Diego Padres on April 23, Díaz garnered his first five-hit game. After collecting two hits in his first two at bats in a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 25 to give him 26 hits in 52 at bats, he became the first rookie in MLB since 1900 to carry at least a .500 batting average at any point after accumulating 50 at bats, per the Elias Sports Bureau. Meanwhile, past defensive liabilities reemerged: in Díaz' first 31 games of the season, he committed nine errors. However, he garnered early attention for the National League (NL) Rookie of the Year Award; as of June 6, he was third in the NL in batting at .328 and had hit eight home runs and 30 RBI. When Peralta returned from the disabled list on June 7, Díaz' sustained level of play convinced the Cardinals to displace Peralta to third base and third baseman Matt Carpenter to second base.
As the season progressed, Díaz' defense notably improved; in the remaining 51 games leading up to the All-Star break, he committed six errors. On July 7, he was selected to his first MLB All-Star Game to replace Carpenter, who had been injured two days earlier. Díaz appeared as a pinch hitter with the bases loaded against Will Harris in the eighth inning, and struck out looking as the American League defeated the National League, 4−2. On July 21 against Padres in a 5−5 game, Díaz batted against Carlos Villanueva with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning and, this time, singled home the game-winning run for his first career walk-off hit.
Díaz hit his first major league grand slam on September 27, 2016, his first game back after the death of his childhood friend, Jose Fernandez. Diaz was called back out for a curtain call, where he rose his helmet high towards the sky. Diaz stated afterwards, "Every time I put on a uniform, I will think of him."
Díaz finished 5th in the 2016 National League Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year Award voting.
- List of baseball players who defected from Cuba
- List of Major League Baseball players from Cuba
- St. Louis Cardinals all-time roster
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- "Diaz to be placed on DL with hairline fracture in thumb". Fox Spors Midwest. August 1, 2016. Retrieved August 27, 2016.