After their first year as partners, New York Yankees’ infielders Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro established themselves as one of the best offensive double-play combos.It has been a while since we’ve taken a look at the New York Yankees‘ middle infield and declare it as on of its strong suit.
Ever since the departure of Robinson Cano, Brian Cashman attempted to supplement shortstop Derek Jeter with second baseman in Brian Roberts and Stephen Drew.
That is until he bought low on Didi Gregorius to replace the captain, and Starlin Castro to provide potency to what was a position of vulnerability.
In 2014 and ’15, the two years separating the departure of Cano and acquisition of Castro, Yankees’ second baseman slashed .223/.277/.372 with the second-worst WAR in baseball.
While that’s primarily thanks to the fact that Stephen Drew struck out nine more times that he had hits, Castro managed to change the narrative in just his first year in the Bronx.
With a career-high 21 home runs in his first year sporting Yankee pinstripes, the Dominican-born righty became one of just four Yankees’ second baseman to hit 20 home runs in a single season, joining Cano, Joe Gordon and Alfonso Soriano.
Castro also slashed .290/.310/.486, solidifying his first year in the American League after six years with the Cubs as a successful one.
Then, there was his next-door-neighbor on the diamond, Didi Gregorius.
Coming off a year in which he struggled to adjust to life as a Yankee but showed promising signs, the shortstop ended his second year in the Bronx by becoming just the third shortstop Yankees’ history to hit at least 20 HR and bat over .275.
The only other two other two were Tom Tresh in 1962 and Derek Jeter in 1999, 2001 and 2004.
Gregorius also climbed to career-highs in hits, home runs, RBI’s, doubles while even leading the team with 54 extra-base hits. All in all, the 26-year-old displayed a unique blend of pop, consistency and stellar defense (not to mention his dominance against southpaws) that the position doesn’t regularly see.
Above individual performance, however, the duo combined for production that is very rare in today’s game — and even in team history.
With both players smashing a combined 41 home runs, they became just the third pair of middle infield teammates in the history of the sport 26 or younger to hit 40 or more combined homers in a single season.
Furthermore, they became the first set of Yankee middle infielders to both hit 20 or more home runs in the same season in the history of the organization.
Allow those two facts settle in for a second.
Sure, there are other combos throughout baseball that can be argued to be a “better” combination (see Dustin Pedroia/Xander Bogaerts, Francisco Lindor/Jason Kipnis, Ian Kinsler/Jose Iglesias, Dee Gordon/Adeiny Hechavarria) but the offensive duo of Castro and Didi have the potential to be potent for years to come.
Remember, both will be just 27 by the time Opening Day, 2017 arrives and Gregorius is under team control through 2019 while his partner is signed through the same year with a club option for 2020.
At such a young age, there’s no reason to accept that the athletic alliance — one that helped Yankees finish in the Top-10 in OPS among AL shortstops and second baseman — won’t be strong enough to continue to build on what were career years for the both of them.
With both of them not leaving anywhere any time soon, the organization will likely ride their production out as long as they can unto the day Gleyber Torres or Jorge Mateo are deemed “ready.”
Until then, the Yankees certainly have one of the better double play unions, in terms of offense, that the game has to offer and I’m sure not many people could tell that they saw this coming.