Pantorno: Time to give Yankees Didi Gregorius an elite tag
The Yankees shortstop is one of the best shortstops in baseball and needs to be treated as such, writes Joe Pantorno.
When one is asked to think about the best shortstops in baseball, who comes to mind?
Many will immediately mention Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros or Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians, possibly even Corey Seager of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Trea Turner of the Washington Nationals. Heck, even Manny Machado has sprung to the top of the list after moving over from the hot corner this season.
Yet for some reason, New York Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius is an afterthought, which doesn't make much sense given the abundance of coverage and overall lovefest the Bronx Bombers get from most corners of Major League Baseball. Maybe it's just reserved for Aaron Judge, the struggling Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.
Regardless, it's not out of the realm of possibilities to put Gregorius on the same level of the likes of Lindor, Correa and Co.
Nothing more than a light-hitting shortstop upon his arrival to the majors in 2012, Gregorius was nothing more than mediocre with the Arizona Diamondbacks, batting .241 with a combined 13 home runs and 55 RBI in 183 games over two seasons.
Following the 2014 season, he was dealt to the Yankees in a three-team deal that notably sent Robby Ray to the Diamondbacks where he was given the unfair label of becoming Derek Jeter's successor.
That's a title I wouldn't wish upon even my worst enemy.
His first season in the Bronx was insignificant, which provided Yankees fans with an incredible letdown after 20 years with No. 2 manning shortstop. In 155 games, Gregorius batted .265 with nine home runs and 56 RBI.
Then came the 2016 season and the arrival of Sir Didi.
While his approach didn't necessarily change at the plate in terms of the mechanics of his swing, Gregorius began driving the ball more in the air, which is a suggestion for all left-handed batters at Yankee Stadium given its short right-field porch.
Just take a look at the increase in frequency in which he's been able to get the ball in the air:
Fly Ball Percentage by Year
2015: 34.1% (6% HR/Fly Ball)
2016: 40.3% (10.4% HR/Fly Ball)
2017: 43.8% (12.1% HR/Fly Ball)
2018: 50% (25% HR/Fly Ball)
It has made him a cult hero in the Bronx over the past two years and put him in the discussion as one of the best shortstops in baseball over that span. After hitting a career-high 20 home runs with 70 RBI in 2016, Gregorius set a Yankees franchise record last year by launching 25 home runs, the most by a shortstop in pinstripes.
He's been a flat-out superstar this year, carrying the Yankees offense at times while leading the league with a .372 batting average and 29 RBI. His nine home runs also have him on pace to crush his 2017 career best.
But where does this compare with some of the other elite shortstops in the game? Well, Gregorius is right in the conversation:
Notable MLB shortstop stats since 2016
Corey Seager- .298
Carlos Correa- .295
Didi Gregorius- .287
Francisco Lindor- .283
Carlos Correa- .376
Corey Seager- .368
Francisco Lindor- .344
Didi Gregorius- .324
Carlos Correa- .499
Corey Seager- .488
Didi Gregorius- .486
Francisco Lindor- .465
Didi Gregorius- 54
Francisco Lindor- 51
Corey Seager- 49
Carlos Correa- 48
Carlos Correa- 199 RBI
Didi Gregorius- 186
Francisco Lindor- 176
Corey Seager- 158