Critics have said that Didi Gregorius has the potential to be as good as Derek Jeter but the New York Yankees know that right now, Didi wins defensively.
Derek Jeter left the game of baseball in 2014. Right after, the New York Yankees brought in young shortstop Didi Gregorius in a steal of a three-team trade.
With big shoes to fill, fans were unsure if Gregorius could actually fill the massive void left by their beloved Captain.
Gregorius has yet to be in the World Series. He has yet to experience the pressures in New York come October. He’s got a lot to prove when it comes to being Jeter’s replacement.
But looking at it right now, the Yankees have got something golden at shortstop. They’ve got a player who has the clutch gene, can hit for power and play the short game.
Even more than that, they have a shortstop who has a power arm, great range and makes incredible plays. They found their shortstop who has already surpassed Jeter on the defensive end.
Will he ever pass Jeter on the offensive end? Probably not likely. And don’t worry, Didi likely won’t become the Bronx fixture that Jeter has become both during and after his career. But right now, it’s safe to say that Didi has excelled at his position in the field, making plays Jeter never would have even thought of.
Jeter’s defensive game was good but limited. He has a considerably weak arm for a shortstop. He made some stellar plays but those plays would be a piece of cake for Gregorius due to his speed and massive range.
No matter how much we love and respect Jeter, it’s okay to admit that he wasn’t the greatest fielder of all time. And it’s even more acceptable to admit that if we had to pick a shortstop based solely on defensive talent, Gregorius would be the winner.
At this point, comparing stats would be difficult, due to Jeter’s 20-year career versus Gregorius’ six-year career. However, Jeter has averaged 12.7 errors each season while Gregorius has only averaged 8 each year.
The biggest thing that Gregorius has going for him is his arm. While Jeter had a lackluster arm, Gregorius has made plays from the seat of his pants and his knees, launching a stronger throw than anything we’ve ever seen from Jeter in his career.
That arm has helped him turn more double plays, helped him range out of his position to still make plays and take away hits. He is truly one of those players who won’t make you cringe when the ball is hit his way.
In regards to the range debate, Jeter has made a total of 414 out-of-zone plays in his career, according to Fangraphs. Well, Gregorius has made 316 out-of-zone plays in only six years. He’s well on his way to surpassing Jeter in that category.
Another category that boasts Gregorius’ range is in Fangraphs’ Inside Edge Fielding chart. On plays that are tabbed as “Unlikely” (balls with a 10-40% chance of the player fielding), Gregorius makes the play 26.7 percent of the time while Jeter only made it 2.7 percent of the time.
Also, my colleague Christian Kouroupakis explored Jeter’s defensive struggles in a previous piece, mentioning that Jeter’s DRS (defensive runs saved) rating was -152 for his career.
Gregorius currently owns a -2 DRS rating, including a rating of 2 this season alone.
Gregorius may be better than Jeter on the field but it will go unnoticed because of the stigma surrounding Jeter’s name. His legend is so great in New York and the baseball world that sometimes people have a hard time admitting that he isn’t the best at something.
But in this case, it’s true. If Jeter had Gregorius’ talent at shortstop, his highlight reel would be even more lit than it is currently. He likely would’ve stolen more hits and become the most complete player in the history of the sport.
Sure, the Captain walked away with five Gold Gloves in his career. But stats and the eyes don’t lie. And what we’re seeing right now if a better quality defensive shortstop then we saw from the mid-90s until 2014.
Jeter will forever be our idol in New York. But it’s time to realize that while he was great at a lot of things, there might be someone better out there.
Didi Gregorius has shown us Yankees fans that while we can’t have Jeter’s bat, at least we have Gregorius’ glove. And that is enough to ease the pain of losing the Captain.