Facts are the facts. Didi Gregorius has not been the same player as he was the last two seasons for the New York Yankees.
I know what you’re thinking. Does this idiot know he’s talking about Didi Gregorius—the guy who replaced Derek Jeter and has been nothing but a respectable fan favorite for the New York Yankees? Does he realize that he had Tommy John surgery last year and is still trying to discover himself?
I get it and I’ll probably be ridiculed for everything I’ll say in the following.
Aaron Boone and the decision-makers behind the scenes know everything I’m about to say. More than three months from his 2019 season debut, Didi still hasn’t found his groove. His slash line of .249/.289/.471 and 94 wRC+ are below league average standards and are reminiscent of his 2015 and 2016 seasons. His defense has also declined. His negative-six defensive runs saved, per Fangraphs, are sixth-worst in Major League Baseball and he’s only played half the season.
It’s never easy to return from a serious injury, but there are some concerning signs for Gregorius. The shortstop was never a major on-base threat since he’s a free swinger, but even his walk rate has gone down from 8.4% last year to 5.2% this year.
However, Gregorius has had a knack for the big knock this year. His grand slam against the Rays on July 16, the day after Travis D’Arnaud’s game-winning home run against Aroldis Chapman, capped off one of the best Yankees wins of the year. It looked like he figured it out at that. That was mid-July.
Didi Gregorius. A hero to over bettors. A hero to Yankees runline bettors. A hero to New York. pic.twitter.com/AIP6woNEuP
— Eric Hubbs (@BarstoolHubbs) July 17, 2019
The Dodgers intentionally walked Gary Sanchez to pitch to Didi Gregorius. Bad idea.
— Jake Asman (@JakeAsman) August 24, 2019
The Dodgers saw his lefty-on-lefty stats. This season he has a .197 average against left-handers in 76 at-bats. In this situation, it backfired, but the sample size gave the Dodgers more than enough reason to test him.
Didi would go 5-for-41 in the next 1o games. His August numbers were not even close to what the Yankees expect from the starting shortstop.
Another major concern for the Yankees is that he’s not hitting at all in Yankee Stadium. In 128 at-bats, Gregorius has a .231 OBP and .548 OPS.
But he has 16 home runs! His first game was June 7!
Listen, in this era with balls flying out of the yard at a record pace, 25 home runs for Gregorius would be a lock if he played a full season. And it seems even coming back from Tommy John surgery, his power is still there. But his lack of consistency on offense, other than the long ball, isn’t the Didi Yankees fans know and love.
The Yankees know they have an abundance of right-handed hitters and that Gregorius provides some balance. In the last couple years, it was okay for him to bat third or cleanup to keep opposing pitchers off-balance.
Not too long ago, Didi hit a game-tying three-run home run off Ervin Santana in the 2017 Wild Card game. Decrepit Corey Kluber still has nightmares of Gregorius’ Game 5 heroics in which he blasted two home runs to power the Yanks to the ALCS.
Didi could very well turn things around and wash away all of the criticism.
This Yankees offense isn’t dependent on Gregorius. That isn’t the point. The point is that it’s been three months and Gregorius has been a below-average shortstop. Pitchers have figured out Gregorius and this problem could get magnified in the postseason.
It’ll be a bonus if he steps up when it matters in October. He has a week and a half to find his rhythm. He’s likely to start Game 1 at shortstop regardless of how he plays down the stretch. But Aaron Boone has a decision to make if by any chance they lose Game 1 and Gregorius struggles.
The playoffs are a different animal. Miguel Andujar, who finished second in the American League in Rookie of the Year, was benched Game 4 last year against the Boston Red Sox due to his subpar defense. Torres could very well play shortstop while DJ LeMahieu plays second base and Luke Voit or Edwin Encarnacion take first base duties.
The business is cruel. Hideki Matsui wins World Series MVP for the Yankees in 2009 and what do they do? They let the fan-favorite go in free agency to sign with the Los Angeles Angels.
Didi Gregorius is a free agent after the season. The Yankees have a situation where Torres was meant to be a shortstop. LeMahieu can move around, but his true position is second base. Third base has mostly been manned by Gio Urshela. Not to mention, Andujar, if not traded, will compete with him for that spot next year.
His value isn’t where it was before his injury that forced Tommy John surgery. He could very well accept the qualifying offer if need be. Hyun-Jin Ryu did it last offseason and his value is skyrocketing right now. But his contract shouldn’t be a discussion right now. That’s for another time.
Boone has the luxury of different options on a day-to-day basis. If lefties like Blake Snell, Brett Anderson, Martin Perez, or Wade Miley start games in the playoffs, you could see Gregorius on the bench due to his horrid numbers against lefties.
At this time, Didi Gregorius has a say in his future. It’s a clean slate starting now, but it’s time to step up.