June 3, 2020

Sir Didi The Great?

Unless your name is Mike Trout or Bryce Harper, you’d be hard-pressed to argue there is a better baseball player right now than Yankees shortstop Didi GregoriusYes, Gregorius.

Through the first 22 games of the season, Gregorius is hitting .347/.442/.787 with seven doubles, a triple, eight homers, and 27 RBI.  As it stands now, he is the the Major League leader in RBI, SLG, OPS, and OPS+, wRC+.  He leads all Major League infielders in fWAR and he leads all shortstops in bWAR.

With this start, the Yankees have moved über prospect Gleyber Torres to second base.  On WFAN, Joe and Evan have said if Manny Machado, objectively one of the 10 best players in the game, wants to come to the Yankees, he cannot supplant Gregorius at shortstop.  When challenged on his preseason rank of the Top 10 shortstops in baseball, a somewhat tongue-in-cheek Brian Kenny of MLB responded if Gregorius keeps up this pace over the long run, he’s now going to be in Cal Ripken, Jr. territory.

Of course, Gregorius is nowhere Ripken or even Derek Jeter territory yet.  Nowhere close.

If we’re being objective, Gregorius STILL isn’t a Top 10 shortstop in the majors, and quite possibly, in the long haul, the Yankees would be best served by handing the shortstop reigns to Torres and moving Gregorius to second.

Since becoming a Yankee three years ago, Gregorius is a .276/.313/.432 hitter who averages 28 doubles, a triple, 18 homers, and 71 RBI.  Using OPS+ (97) and wRC+ (98) as a gauge, Gregorius has actually been a below average league hitter.  Over the last two seasons, he’s been much better defensively with a 1 DRS, which is far from Gold Glove caliber.

In total, Gregorius has been a real nice player for the Yankees.  You build solid foundations for a team with players like Gregorius who have both played well and are now entering their prime just as the team is taking off.  What Gregorius isn’t is a great player . . . at least not yet.

To show he’s now that, Gregorius is going to have to show he’s able to keep up his newfound patience (15.5 BB%) at the plate.  He’s going to have to keep up an astronomical high (19.0%) HR/FB ratio or 9.4 HR/AB pace.  Basically, Gregorius is going to have to show he’s a remarkably different and better player than, say, Didi Gregorius.

And maybe he is.  Maybe this is the result of having both Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in the same lineup.  Maybe this is the result of Gregorius feeling heat from upcoming players like Torres and Miguel Andujar.  Maybe this is a 28 year old player in his prime breaking out.  More likely, this is a great start for a good player, who for his career, has a higher OPS in April than any other month.

Right now, Gregorius is having a great start, and he is helping keeping the Yankees afloat while Stanton, the rotation, bullpen, and Aaron Boone tries to figure things out.  It doesn’t make him a Top 10 shortstop in the majors . . . at least not yet.