2018 Pinstripe Preview: Didi Gregorius
Since he was acquired in December of 2014, we have watched Didi Gregorius transform from a tentative young prospect tasked with replacing Yankee icon Derek Jeter into one of the energetic faces of this Yankee team and one of the favorites of the fanbase. Didi had a rough start to his Yankee career, but he steadied himself and has improved overall in each of the last three seasons. That tentative prospect is gone now and has been replaced with a comfortable and confident player who has become one of the centerpieces of this Yankee squad. On a team that featured Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, it was often Didi penciled into the cleanup role and coming up with clutch plays in key moments. After turning in his best season yet in 2017 it leaves us asking, how much better can Sir Didi get?
|Credit: David Dermer/Associated Press|
Didi’s offensive game has improved noticeably in every season since his acquisition and that continued improvement has put him among the best offensive shortstops in the league. Gregorius was looking like he would get off to a hot start before injuring his shoulder during the World Baseball Classic. The injury would cost him the first month of the season but he returned on April 28th and didnt miss a beat, collecting two hits and an RBI in his return. Overall, Didi batted .287 with 25 home runs and 87 RBI in 136 games. Joe Girardi had no problems batting him in the middle of the order and Didi rewarded that faith by getting big hits and driving in runs in key situations. His most memorable hits of the 2017 season include his game tying home run in the American League Wild Card game and his two home runs off reigning Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber in Game 5 of the ALDS. These are just a few of his most exciting moments, but he provided plenty in 2017 and we’re all looking forward to what 2018 may bring at the plate for Didi.
Although we should all be excited about what he provides at the plate, we should not overlook what Didi brings in the field. As a new Yankee in 2015, some of Didi’s rockiest moments came in the field but since that time he has become one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball. After committing 13 and 15 errors in 2015 and 2016 respectively, Didi committed just nine errors in 135 games in 2017 which equates to one error every 15 games. Even though he missed a month of the season, he was still on pace to lower his previous totals over a full 162 games.
The two things that really set Didi Gregorius apart as a fielder are his range and his throwing arm. While his predecessor did not have good range, he used smart positioning to make up for his physical shortcomings. Didi has been gifted with good speed, agility and athleticism that allow him to get to balls a lot of other shortstops can’t and a throwing arm strong enough to complete those plays from all over the field. While there are a lot of advanced statistics that could be used to bear out his value defensively, it is much easier to go with the eye test for now and he passes that with flying colors.
Since Didi is my personal favorite from this group of Yankees, I can’t wait to see what he’ll be able to do on the field in 2018. Defensively the Yankees can’t ask for much more than what he gives them already. I think we’d all be satisfied if he keeps his error total around 10 and continues to use his stellar range and arm to make plays and save runs. I think it is on the offensive side where we are still all a little curious as to how high he can push his numbers.
While he doesn’t walk much, he also doesn’t strikeout a lot and has improved his batting average, home run total and RBIs in each of the past four seasons. The totals he posted last season put him near the top of the league for production from shortstops and have left people wondering where in the lineup he will slot in. There are three obvious thresholds that we will all be keeping an eye on based on last seasons numbers and those are .300 average, 30 home runs and 100 RBI. Just one shortstop in all of baseball hit over 30 homers in 2017 and only two batted over .300, while none of them totaled 100 RBI. Didi was close enough to all three of these totals that he could reach any of them this season. While he doesn’t have to reach those marks to be remain one of the best all around shortstops in the league, doing so would be another impressive accomplishment for someone who could still be on the way up. How high will he go? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Article by Matt GrazianoFollow @mattgraz930