Cardinals Make a Change at Shortstop

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced prior to this evening’s game in Phoenix that they have purchased the contract of rookie infielder Alex Mejia from Memphis (AAA) and optioned shortstop Aledmys Diaz to the triple-A club.  The team also transferred right-handed pitcher Alex Reyes (right elbow surgery) from the 10-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list to make room for Mejia on the team’s 40-man Major League roster.

http://www.scout.com/player/169837-alex-mejia?s=321

Mejia, 26, has spent portions of the 2017 season with Springfield (AA) and most recently Memphis, batting a combined .253 with 3 home runs and 27 RBI in 74 games.  The right-handed hitting native of Sylmar, Calif., was named earlier this month to the Texas League All-Star team.

Mejia was the Cardinals 4th round selection (150th player overall) in the 2012 draft out of the University of Arizona where he earned Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors. 

The 6-1, 200-pound Mejia was among Texas League leaders in doubles (17) at the time of his June 15 promotion to Memphis.  He appeared in 63 games for Springfield and 11 for Memphis, combining to play 70 games at shortstop, two at second base and one at third base.  Mejia still sits atop the Texas League leader board in putouts (101) and double plays (52) turned by the loop’s shortstops.

http://www.scout.com/player/187201-aledmys-diaz?s=321

Diaz, 26, earned National League All-Star honors as a rookie last season.  He is batting .260 with 7 HR’s, 20 RBI and a team-high 71 hits and 16 doubles in his 71 games played this season.

Mejia, who will be making his Major League debut, has been assigned uniform no. 54.

 

Brian Walton’s take

I am far less surprised about Diaz than Mejia, a non-40-man roster player who has bounced back and forth between Springfield and Memphis a number of times over the last three seasons, including this one.

Like Luke Voit, also added to the 40-man and promoted to St. Louis earlier this week, Mejia has never been invited to a major league spring training camp. Despite him being a fourth-rounder in the 2012 draft, we have never ranked Mejia among our top 40 or 50 prospects here at The Cardinal Nation.

At age 26 in his fourth year at Springfield, Mejia was performing well, as noted above, earning his first-ever all-star berth at any level – in his sixth professional season. The cousin of Toronto pitcher Marco Estrada receives high marks for his baseball IQ and leadership.

TCN members can read more about Mejia in Derek Shore’s article, Shortstop Alex Mejia is Springfield’s Peyton Manning.

The choice of Mejia over Memphis teammate Breyvic Valera, also a middle infielder, suggests several things. First, the Cardinals seem to be making steady shortstop defense a priority by taking Mejia, over a natural second baseman in Valera who can play more positions. Second, with the Cardinals now out of “easy” 40-man roster moves with Reyes’ shift to the 60-day DL, Valera’s own 40-man spot may be tenuous.

And finally, though not related to Valera, the addition of Mejia raises a bit of a question about the roles of the other shortstops already on the 25-man roster, Greg Garcia and Paul DeJong. It will be interesting to see how playing time at the position is distributed while Diaz is in Memphis.

It could be that Mejia will only be with St. Louis until Kolten Wong starts and completes his rehab.

http://www.scout.com/player/200624-paul-dejong?s=321

DeJong, whose arrival at short in Memphis in April pushed Mejia back to Springfield again, would seem the most likely choice to start. However in his brief time with St. Louis, DeJong at times has looked like what he is, a player just a few months into a transition to a new, challenging position. Last fall in the Arizona Fall League was DeJong’s first extended action at shortstop as a professional. Ideally, he would receive more seasoning time in Memphis, but circumstances changed that.

As many may already know, Cardinals minor league hitting strategist George Greer has been serving as Memphis’ acting hitting coach since Mark Budaska was moved up to St. Louis in the May coaching changes. Likely, Greer will be charged to do what the St. Louis hitting coaches could not in the big-league setting, which is to help get the struggling Diaz back on track at the plate.

The decision to ship out Diaz, who as noted above was a National League all-star just 12 months ago, may seem curious to some. In fact, at the time of his demotion, the Cuban native was leading the Cardinals in hits (71) and doubles (16) while batting .260 – but he was also dead last among all Cardinals regulars in on-base percentage (.293), slugging (.396) and OPS (.688). In other words, he is almost three months into a major sophomore slump offensively, with his defense the secondary reason why he was in the lineup each day.

 

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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