Following a solid offensive season for New York Yankees’ shortstop Didi Gregorius, will he be able to build on it?
The 26-year old from Amsterdam had to fill the shoes of Derek Jeter, who was the starting shortstop, the captain and a legend for the Bombers from 1996 to 2014.
Gregorius, after struggling in the first half and hearing chants of “Derek Jeter!” during his Yankee Stadium debut, adapted to the tough New York way of life by not only finishing with the highest efficiency of any shortstop (according to FanGraphs), but establishing himself as a household name.
In the second half of ’15, Didi slashed .294/.345/.417 while improving his OPS by a staggering 143 points compared to before the midsummer classic.
Then, in his second season, he answered any remaining skepticism by having production the Yankees haven’t seen since Jeter was in his prime.
Gregorius’ 2016 home run total (20) was the most since the captain smashed 23 back in 2004 while he only grounded into nine double plays — Jeter has never grounded into fewer than 10 during his 20-year career.
Furthermore, Didi became 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 Jeter himself in 1999, 2001 and 2004.
Gregorius also climbed to career-highs in hits (155), RBIs (70) and doubles (32) while leading the team with 54 extra-base hits.
His on-base percentage is an area in need of improvement but, all in all, the 26-year-old displayed a unique blend of pop, consistency and stellar defense that the position doesn’t regularly see.
We didn’t even mention his unusual talent, hitting left-handed pitching.
According to Baseball Reference’s Play Index, Didi’s .320 batting average against southpaws in 2016 ranks as the 15th-best on the Yankees’ franchise list of lefty hitting hitters vs left-handed pitchers.
That same average led the American League last season while he ranked third in OPS (.834), fourth in slugging percentage (.473) and on-base percentage (.361). His 7.5 strikeout percentage against southpaws was also the lowest in baseball.
Certainly a far cry from his 2015 year, when Didi saw his overall average against lefties finish at .177 (30-for-169).
So, 2016 was a year to remember for the knighted shortstop — despite the fact that his team missed the postseason for the third time in four years — and he’s looking to make his third year in New York even stronger.
“I’m just trying to hit line drives all over the place, like I’m doing always,” Gregorius told Bryan Hoch of MLB.com. “If it turns into home runs, it turns into home runs. I’m not going up there trying to hit home runs. I’ll work in the offseason on trying to make my swing a little bit shorter and try to stay consistent with it. That’s all I’m trying to do.”