After sustaining a fractured left hand on June 8 against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Houston Astros were without Aledmys Diaz until his return to the active roster on July 26. The utility man was on the 10-day injured list at the worst time, as Alex Bregman was also placed on the IL less than two weeks later.
In his return, Diaz has seen all of his playing time at the hot corner in Bregman’s absence and with Abraham Toro being traded. Over this period, the right-hander has slugged three home runs in four games, which shadows his three home runs from April 3 to June 5 before his injury. This comes in part to Diaz getting more at bats and also playing in a windy ballpark, but the Astros’ needed depth has returned with a surge of power.
Aledmys Diaz has hit the cover off the ball in his return, but how much less playing time will he see with Alex Bregman returning?
Bregman could be seeing his rehab assignment coming to an end following the end of the Skeeters’ current home series. The Astros return from their road trip after Wednesday’s game, giving him optimal time to catch the team for the home stand.
The All-Star third baseman might not start his first game back but will slowly take the reins from Diaz. This leaves a hot bat out of the lineup. While also anticipating that Diaz won’t hit three home runs in every four games down the stretch, the right-hander could see more playing time in the outfield.
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With Myles Straw now in Cleveland, the thought of Diaz playing center field hasn’t been a part of the Astros’ game plan in the past, as he doesn’t have the range and mobility. Kyle Tucker has been tested in center, and although not the most athletic with balls over his head, Diaz could play left if Tucker plays more center.
This scenario would most likely not come into play a lot for the Astros this season, unless it is away against a National League team. In that case, the ball club would benefit more from Diaz’s bat over McCormick’s.
Nothing truly sticks out in the utility man’s advanced metrics, as he doesn’t have the 2021 resume to be in every percentile’s rankings. But as Diaz has been crushing the ball as of late, his average exit velocity is now over 89 MPH for the first time since his rookie and All-Star season in 2016. In his return, over 70% of Diaz’s balls put in play have been north of 90 MPH off the bat.
Diaz can play across the infield, granting more rest days to the everyday starters when needed. And with Robel Garcia still on the active roster, Diaz will be first of the bench for infield opportunities due to his recent resurgence off the injured list. In the long run, Diaz is looking at his final year of arbitration eligibility for 2022, before becoming a free agent in 2023.
The Astros dropped game two with the Giants, 6-8, as both sides were accustomed to the long ball. They close out the series on Sunday at 3:05 p.m. with Luis Garcia countering right-hander Logan Webb.