The Yankees will probably be sellers at the trade deadline, meaning Bomber fans won’t have any October baseball to look forward to. And while any potential return that Carlos Beltran or Aroldis Chapman brings in would likely be a year or two away from the majors, Yankee fans can still take pleasure in watching the phenomenal Didi Gregorius at shortstop.
When Gregorius was brought in from Arizona two years ago, many believed that he had an impossible task of replacing Derek Jeter at shortstop. While scouts knew he possessed exceptional defensive skills, Gregorius was believed to be a mediocre batsman at best. The stats spoke for themselves (.241/.314/.368 slash line in two seasons with the Diamondbacks).
But Gregorius picked up his average considerably in his first year in pinstripes (.265 over 155 games in 2015) and has been even better in 2016, batting .299 with 11 home runs (already a personal season-high) and 41 RBI.
His high average has been a blessing on a team that’s struggled with consistent hitting, ranking fifth-worst in the AL with a team batting average of .250. He’s carried the bottom of the order to a large extent, usually batting sixth, but has still driven in the second-highest RBI total on the team.
What’s even more impressive about Gregorius this season has been his uncanny ability to crush left-handed pitching. Despite being a left-handed batter, Gregorius has actually fared better against southpaws, hitting .370 in 81 ABs. That’s in stark contrast to his .275 average against righties this season. It’s also come as a complete shock based on his time in Arizona, where Gregorius hit a paltry .214 against lefties.
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Gregorius gave credit to his veteran teammates for helping him figure out how to hit better against left-handers.
“I’m just trying to see the ball, try to get down early and try not to chase outside the zone,” he told Newsday recently. “That’s what I’m trying to do, especially when I’ve got all the veteran guys here. They can talk all the time about hitting. If you want to learn, there are a lot of guys with a lot of experience here.”
When asked about Gregorius’ improvements and consistency this season, Joe Girardi chalked it up to experience.
“I think he’s just gotten more comfortable because we’ve played him against left-handers,” the Yankees skipper told Newsday. “And he hits the ball all over the field, and I think that’s really helped Didi.”
Alex Rodriguez, who played 10 seasons at shortstop in his decorated career, has been particularly impressed with his teammate.
“He’s taking it to another level this year,” Rodriguez told ESPN recently. “It is fun to watch someone mature right in front of your eyes. He does one or two things almost nightly to show his skills.”