Didi Gregorius was shipped to the Bronx back in December of 2014 in a three-team deal from the Arizona Diamondbacks. At the time, the young 24-year old with a slick glove and a below average stick was headed to the Evil Empire to begin the rebuild after his predecessor’s legendary twenty year reign that included five championships. Just a few months removed from Derek Jeter’s epic Yankee Stadium farewell, I guess you could say there were some large shoes to fill.
Year two of Gregorius’ Yankee career was the first year without constant questions about replacing a legend. It looked like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders after his offensive struggles in 2015. There were questions as to how long his Yankee career would be after an underwhelming first season. He set career highs in most major offensive categories in 2016. With extended playing time the young shortstop has seen a boost in most offensive statistics consistently. These stats can be seen in the link below from ESPN.com.
On Opening Day 2016 you could find “Didi Gregorius” penciled in at the ninth spot of the order. There weren’t high offensive expectations heading into 2016 for the young shortstop. His breakout season was welcomed by a team with an aging core that struggled mightily throughout the year.
He found himself in the three hole in the order and even the clean up spot at some points in the season. He hovered around a .300 batting average all year until a late season slump saw his average go down to a respectable .276. His power numbers were the real eye-opener. He mashed 20 homers with 70 RBI and 32 doubles in 155 games, which saw his OPS rise to .751.
A major key to his success was his dominance against left handed pitching. He led the league in batting average against lefties amongst all hitters in the league, after struggling mightily against them in the past. Didi also developed a clutch gene with multiple game tying and go ahead RBI last year, none more exciting than his walk-off home run against Texas in late July. Gregorius looks to build upon his 2016 breakout campaign with a strong performance in 2017.
Gregorius’ most valuable asset to his game is undeniably his defensive prowess. He is truly an acrobat at short. On a daily basis he wows the pinstripe faithful with highlight caliber plays. He flashes the leather as good as any other shortstop in the league. His arm truly sets him apart from the pack at the position. He houses a rifle in the six hole that guns down the fastest of opponents the league has to offer. He has transformed to human highlight reel, no ball is out of reach for number 18.
Didi isn’t the perfect defender though he sported a career high in errors in 2016 with 15. These errors occur on more routine plays that can most definitely be improved upon with an increase in focus and he undoubtedly has the potential to be a perennial Gold Glove candidate.
Sir Didi Gregorius is much more than a baseball player, he can also call himself an ambassador for the sport. He hails from the Netherlands, where he finds himself currently representing his country in the World Baseball Classic. Back in 2011 he previously represented Dutch baseball in the IBAF Cup, where he brought home a title and was rewarded by being knighted in Curacao. He has represented his country well thus far in the 2017 tournament, specifically Wednesday when he hit three doubles with three RBI in the Netherlands come from behind victory.
CLUTCH GENE! pic.twitter.com/CLGoMxiPkm
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) March 8, 2017
Didi took a trip to New Zealand this offseason to spread awareness of the game and give back to a little known baseball community. A budding bilingual star who plays for the most recognizable team in sports is a great promoter for the game. This sometimes gets lost in the shuffle when we mention Gregorius, but his global impact on the sport is a rare and admirable trait.
This rise has been fun to watch and going into the 2017 season, Didi is now expected to build on his success. There are high expectations and if he is able to repeat or even improve on his performance in 2016, we are in store for an enjoyable career. Didi was on the cusp of being an American League All-Star last season and it seems as though an All-Star berth is in his future.