As Jeter week passes by, one cannot forget the impeccable job New York Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius did in the wake of his retirement.
Following Derek Jeter week, it’s only fitting that we take a look at the career progression of Didi Gregorius; going from being an undrafted amateur free-agent signee to taking over for a New York Yankees legend and now fighting off the future.
Mariekson Julius “Didi” Gregorius was born on February 18th, 1990 in Amsterdam and was born to do one thing: play baseball. Having a grandfather who was a pitcher, so too were his father and brother, and even with a mother who was a member of the Dutch National Softball Team, Gregorius was destined to play the game that was so emaciated in his bloodlines.
Growing up on the island of Curacao, little Didi wanted nothing more than to follow in the footsteps of his boyhood idols Derek Jeter and fellow countrymen Andruw Jones by playing baseball at the highest level.
In 2007, the then 17-year old Gregorius was the first member of his family to ever be signed as an amateur free agent by the Cincinnati Reds for his exceptional defensive skill set, strong arm and line-to-line hitting potential.
Continuing to make his family proud, Gregorius was a part of the Netherlands National Team(along with current big leaguers Andrelton Simmons, Xander Bogarts and Jurickson Profar) that won the 2011 IBAF World Cup. Instead of receiving a monetary reward for their accomplishments, each of the players on the team was bestowed with an honor rarely seem anymore: they were knighted.
On September 5 of 2012, Sir Didi got the call he had been waiting for his entire life; joining only a handful of players from the Netherlands to make it to The Show when the 6-foot-3 shortstop was called up by the Reds.
Even though Gregorius only had a handful of bats (6-for-20, 2 RBIs), he did enough to force himself to make sure his suitcase packing game was on point as he was a part of two pretty significant trades in the off-season that followed. First, Gregorius was put in a package with outfielder Drew Stubbs and sent to Cleveland for outfielders Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Donald. Before he had time to unpack; Gregorius, reliever Tony Sipp and infielder Lars Anderson were all traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for pitchers Trevor Bauer, Brian Shaw and Matt Albers.
With the exception of Anderson and Donald, Sir Didi certainly commanded true major league talent of whom are still active, including Bauer and Shaw as key members of Cleveland’s 2016 AL Championship team.
While in Arizona, Sir Didi proved that he was worth such moves by earning the starting shortstop honors for the Diamondbacks for the 2013 and 2014 seasons. During that time, Gregorius hit at a .241/.314/.368 clip with 13 home runs and 55 RBI. In a bit of erroneous foreshadowing, Gregorius launched his first major league home run when his Arizona Diamondbacks visited Yankee Stadium in 2013.
Defensively, Sir Didi got off to an uncharacteristic rough start, committing 13 errors in his first full major league season in Arizona. But the slick-handed shortstop took some big strides in the following season as he only committed a total of six errors in 2014.
During the offseason following the 2014 season, with images of Derek Jeter singling in Antoan Richardson to walk off the Baltimore Orioles in his final at bat ever in Yankee Stadium still fresh in their minds, the New York Yankees were in search of a new shortstop.
Despite the availability of free-agent shortstops at the time such as Hanley Ramirez and Asdrubal Cabrera, the Yankees executed a three-team trade on December 5 to acquire the services of Gregorius. In what was originally scrutinized as an awful trade, New York sent RHP Shane Green to Detroit, who in turn sent left-handed starter Robbie Ray and a minor-leaguer(Domingo Leyba) to the desert, where Arizona shipping Gregorius to the Bronx.
With a few quality starts by Shane Green early on in Detroit, the realization that number two would not be coming back and a slow start to his Yankee career, Gregorius definitely heard his fair share of noise from the Bronx Boo Birds early on. But the resilient Dutchman bounced back to put together a solid 2015 campaign, slashing a .264/.318/.370 line with nine home runs and 56 RBIs (one more RBI than in two years combined with Arizona).
The 2016 season was far and away the Gregorius’ breakout campaign, launching a career-high 20 home runs and driving in 70 RBIs while slashing .276/.304/.447 in 562 at bats.
Fast forward to present day and we find that Gregorius is in his final season under contract with New York. Despite having the best all-around year of his life a season ago, the pressure is still very much on Sir Didi. And that’s because the centerpiece of the Aroldis Chapman deal with the Cubs and the 2016 AFL MVP Gleyber Torres is lurking at AA Trenton.
So far in 2017, Torres is 26-for-93 (.279), with seven doubles, one triple, one home run and nine RBIs in 24 games for the Thunder. And while those statistics aren’t exactly overwhelming, the fact that he is the number one prospect in the Yankees system and the fact that he seems to be the latest “can’t miss” shortstop prospect, there is no better time than right now for Sir Didi to prove that last season was not a fluke and that he is worthy of that highly-sought-after contract extension.
While it seems extremely unlikely that New York will re-sign him, you can never underestimate the power of the “contract year” and how it largely impacts the performance of the individual. Gregorius has made a career of proving people wrong and overcoming any and all naysayers.
Although it seemed a longshot at first, Sir Didi has done a remarkably good job taking over for the Yankee Legend Derek Jeter. If he can continue to progress at the same rate he has done throughout every year of his career, Torres will certainly have some large shoes to fill in the event that number 18 isn’t playing shortstop for New York next season. And if that is the case, but we have experienced over the last two seasons will certainly be a Knight to remember.