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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Aledmys Diaz, meet Pete Kozma

Ok, I took some liberties with the title. We have no idea if the Cuban free agent shortstop ever met eyes, let alone shook hands with the St. Louis Cardinals’ 2013 shortstop when the former arrived at Jupiter, Florida’s Roger Dean Stadium for a Wednesday workout.

Even if not, the two, Aledmys Diaz and Pete Kozma, have similarities – a good reputation with the glove and questions about the bat. In fact, look at these slash lines (BA/OBP/SLG/OPS).

Kozma 2013 MLB: .217/.275/.273/.548
Diaz career MLE: .212/.274/.306/.580

Other than a little more pop from Diaz, at a high level, the two look like the essentially the same player at the plate.

In all fairness to the Cuban, that Major League Equivalency was calculated over his entire four-plus years in his homeland’s Serie Nacional de Beisbol. If you take his final year only, 2012, his equivalent line would improve somewhat to .237/.299/.381/.680. In addition, though Diaz’ reported age has fluctuated, he appears to be two years younger than Kozma – 23 versus 25 – the same age as Kolten Wong.

Feel better now?

(These equivalencies come directly from former Baseball Prospectus’ head Clay Davenport’s invaluable translations engine, which converts results from specific minor leagues into their Major League equivalents.)

Looking at Diaz’ offensive numbers from this perspective would seem to cast into question remarks made by his agent, Jaime Torres, to Post-Dispatch columnist Joe Strauss on Wednesday. Torres, who has much to benefit from being optimistic, says he believes Diaz could be ready to break camp with a major league club following a normal spring training regimen.

Strauss seemed to agree, calling Diaz “a major league-ready international player.”

The P-D report energized many. One excited Cardinals blogger wondered aloud if Diaz could be a better prospect than Oscar Taveras. Yes, that Oscar Taveras, the one who is among the consensus top three prospects in the game.

On the other hand, national writers seem to have struck a more realistic perspective. For example, Ben Badler of Baseball America said Diaz would not register among his top 100 prospects. (h/t to PadsFS from TCN’s message board for the prior two references.)

From the defensive perspective, the idea of Diaz being MLB-ready may well be true. Though it is worth noting that irrespective of where Diaz decides to sign, the Cardinals 2013 shortstop seems destined to open 2014 in the minor leagues due to his sub-par performance with the bat.

After looking at Diaz’ Cuban hitting results in an MLB context, one has to wonder. Perhaps starting every day in the minor leagues would be the best thing for him as well in his initial adjustment period to playing in the USA.

Ironically, it could be alongside Kozma in Memphis. If so, I wonder how they would be placed in the Redbirds’ batting order.

Earlier related article: “How much fire is behind the Cardinals’ Aledmys Diaz smoke?”

Update 3/10: Davenport updated his MLE for Diaz based on his Cuban results to .229/.307/.360/.667.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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13 Responses to “Aledmys Diaz, meet Pete Kozma”

  1. JumboShrimp says:

    The Diaz story is unusual. Lets think about it…..

    The Tiigers replaced our new $52MM Peralta with Iglesias, who signed for $8MM with the Red Sox. Iglesias needed 3 years in the minors before becoming ML ready during 2013. Despite claims by the agent, its a little hard to think Diaz is ML ready. He may need 2 or 3 years in the minors.

    This would not be surprising. When we signed free agent So Taguchi out of Kobe Japan, he needed a few years of US AAA ball, before being ready for the majors.

    The Dodgers are spending a ton of moola on Cubans. Puig and lately two infielders, around $100MM for just three guys. The Dodgers either know what they are doing with Cubans or they have so much money they do not care what they do with it.

    The Cards and As are both money smart teams. They must see value in Diaz. The Cards must think they can land Diaz, if somebody is getting Joe Strauss so lathered up.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      We landed the first Cuban escapee in RHP Rene Archoa circa 1991. He turned out ok, not a big star. We are usually not going to outbid rich teams for Cuban ballplayer escapees.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        Two of the most successful Cuban imports in recent years have been LHP Chapman for whom the Reds shelled out $30MM and OF Cepedes signed by the Athletics. These two players are outstanding. The Dodgers took bonuses up a notch by shelling out about $42MM for RF Puig, who is quite promising. Teams learn from one another and a few successes like this trio then lead to herd like competition and other teams will get burned. The Phillies offered a Cuban pitcher more than $40MM, later slashed to $12MM after a medical exam found problems.
        Not all Cubans are impact players of course. Luhnow signed a slow muscular switch hitting corner OF who may not have played ball within Cuba. We gave up on him at the advanced A level. And there was Amaury Cazana Marti strong but post peak, likely in his 30s when signed. He peaked at AAA.
        The market for Cuban baseball talent is closer to Japan than Venezuela/DR. The Japanese league is most advanced and the MLB performance of experienced Japanese players is most reliably predictable. This allows the Rangers, Red Sox, and Yanks to shell out immense dollars for Japanese stars. The MLB projectability of athletes based on performances in Cuba must be more uncertain. Puig, Cepedes, and Chapman were so toolsy, they were pretty safe investments.

        • JumboShrimp says:

          The Dodgers signed Puig to a $42MM deal covering 7 years. Within the industry, there would have been annoyance about this high price. The Dodgers blew other teams away. There were also doubts. Puig had not played in a year within Cuba, having been suspended for disciplinary reasons. He was signed mostly based on workouts. Fortunately for Puig, he is a tool chest so landed a big contract. In 2013, Puig delivered, helping drive the Dodgers to a playoff rendezvous with the Cards. He should improve in the years ahead and be an impact player.
          Puig is still a good financial value, in relation to MLB veteran free agents. This would be what interests the Cards and Athletics. Let us say Diaz commands $24MM over 6 years, an average of $4MM/yr. This is still well beneath the $13MM/yr we are shelling out for Peralta. The discount is justified since there is some uncertainty how well Diaz would play in US ball.
          If the Cards do compete for Diaz, they are looking ahead and seeking a successor for Peralta. If they do not land Diaz, they are at least cultivating his agent, who could bring more players to market in future.
          The abrupt entry of impact ballplayers from Japan and Cuba is helping make MLB ever more competitive.

          • JumboShrimp says:

            So I think we have a decent shot at Diaz. The Dodgers have already stuffed themselves with $50MM of Cuban infielders, why add another right now?
            If the Dodgers are not there to drive the price up through the roof, the cost for Diaz could be $15MM or less, interesting for teams like the Cards or As.
            Do Kozma/Diaz comparisons bother the Cards? Unlikely.
            We probably would invest in Cuban infielders and catchers, if the price and talent were right.

            • Brian Walton says:

              In this case, I am not sure either the talent or price will be right.

              • JumboShrimp says:

                The Cards have telegraphed interest. I know no reason to think this is insincere.

                The price is likely to be steep for the talent, because the Cuban marketplace is not for the financially weak. Its a genuinely liiberated labor market, no MLB monopolistic tricks. But with the Dodgers likely out of the picture, teams like the Cards and As can carefully consider talents in their price ranges. Bon appetit, Mo.

  2. JumboShrimp says:

    One market metric is Brendan Ryan’s two year deal for 2014-15, of $5MM. Brendan is a 30 something good field, little hit SS, a known quantity. Both Brendan and Diaz are unencumbered free agents. Some Cuban SSes have been costing 7MM per year and commanding 4 year deals, a lot more than Brendan Ryan commanded this winter. The Cubans command this much money because not 16 year old kids from the Dominican or Venezuela, but 7 years more developed, defined, and closer to the majors. The financial stakes are higher. Our international program has not been producing SSes. If it were doing so, we would not need to shell out relatively big bucks for older Cubans.

  3. JumboShrimp says:

    Its being rumored Nelson Cruz has taken a $8MM deal for one year, less than the $14.1MM he was offered by the Rangers. This is also well beneath the $53MM 4 year deal received by our very own SS Peralta. While I guessed Peralta would land the larger deal since SS is a much more important defensive position, I certainly never suspected this big a difference. The baseball marketplace has feeding frenzies during November and December, followed by famines during January and February, when prices tumble.

  4. JumboShrimp says:

    Nice to see Bonds is back, after repaying his debt to society by staying at home for a month on account of having provided evasive answers to a PED inquisition. Wonderful farce.

  5. […] the bat, despite the club calling Diaz “an offensively-gifted middle infielder.” Earlier, I wrote about Diaz’ minor league equivalencies. His numbers looked remarkably similar to the ones Pete […]

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