The buzz over Gleyber Torres and Jorge Mateo is appropriate, yet Didi Gregorius has proven he deserves the starting spot for the future.As the 2014 season drew to a close, the New York Yankees were uncertain. For only the second time in 20 seasons, the Yankees were without a reliable shortstop.
Enter Didi Gregorius.
In a three-way trade between the Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks and Detroit Tigers, the Yankees acquired a young Gregorius for virtually nothing, giving up only pitcher Shane Greene in the process. A trade that was, at the time, heavily questioned, has turned out to be a blessing for a team looking to replace one of the greatest shortstops of this generation.
With two seasons down PDJ (post-Derek Jeter), fans are turning towards the youth movement and closely following the path of minor leaguers Gleyber Torres and Jorge Mateo. Baseball America’s No. 2 and No. 5 prospects, respectively, have caused a stir in the minors and showed off exactly why they deserve a shot at the major leagues.
While it’s easy to get swept away by young talent, the Yankees have to realize they have young talent manning shortstop right now. Gregorius, at 26 years old, has shown that life after Jeter is possible. While Gregorius arrived in the Bronx as a project, he quickly proved to the Yankees that he was a player they couldn’t live without.
In two seasons in the Bronx, Gregorius slashed .270/.311/.409, including 29 home runs. Just this past season, he belted a career-high 20 home runs, shattering his previous high by 11. However, the most impressive offensive stat is his dominant .320 average against left-handed pitchers.
Gregorius’ defensive abilities have also set him apart from the previous captain. Making stellar plays on a daily basis, Gregorius used his range and strong arm to record out after out when the Yankees needed it most. Both Jeter and Gregorius boast the same .976 fielding percentage for their careers, but Gregorius has far more range than Jeter ever had at the position.
Torres has been a fixture in the Arizona Fall League this season. In nine games, he is batting 10-32 with three home runs and seven RBI. At just 19 years old, Torres was a pick-up from the Chicago Cubs farm system and looks to be the real deals at shortstop.
Mateo is showing promise as well and has the potential to be an extremely versatile player for the Yankees when he makes his way to the Bronx. In four seasons in the minor leagues, Mateo posted a .270 BA and eight home runs in his last season in A+ ball. Soaring through the system, Mateo and Torres are certainly names to watch.
It was hard to believe that anyone could replace Jeter, but here we are, raving about the high-quality of play from Gregorius. Now it’s hard to believe that anyone could replace Gregorius, who quickly became a fan-favorite in the Bronx this season.
A time will come when the Yankees have to look into a replacement at shortstop. But that time is not any time soon, especially if Gregorius keeps up his timely hitting and stellar defense. Torres and Mateo still have a ways to go to get up to the major leagues, but the Yankees have their shortstop for the future. And he has proven he can handle it.
Gregorius has proven this season that he can be a leader on the field. He’s young and still learning all that he can do. But if the last two seasons in the Bronx are any indication, he is the perfect replacement for Jeter and that shortstop position is his to win or lose, all on his own. If Gregorius keeps up his consistent play, the Yankees will have no choice but to keep him in over two unproven prospects.
No matter what Torres and Mateo do, Gregorius has already stolen the hearts of the Yankees faithful and will, and should, lead the Yankees to a bright future.