By Adam Westendorf
Sir Didi Gregorius this year has been on fire. With the offense early in the year struggling, Gregorius has been one of the only Yankees to consistently hit all year. All of us Yankees fans love Gregorius, but how is it he has broke out and become a star?
When the Yankees traded for Gregorius in 2015 the Yankees were taking on a 25 year old project. The trade was made by the Yankees trading Shane Greene to the Tigers, and the Tigers trading Robbie Ray and Domingo Leyba to the Diamondbacks while the D-Backs shipped Gregorius to the Yankees. Didi’s first month in New York wasn’t kind. Struggling at the plate and in the field, Yankees fans grew restless early on in his tenure. Gregorius was brought in to replace Yankee legend Derek Jeter. Also the Yankee pitcher that was traded to the Tigers, Shane Greene, was looking like a top of the end starter for the Tigers. As the season went on Didi finished the year with a decent slash line of .265/.318/.370 with nine home runs, and a K% of 14.7 and BB% of 5.7.
In 2016 Gregorius had a change in his approach at the plate. After the first couple weeks of the season Didi was struggling again. Veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran and first basemen Mark Texeira told Gregorius to become a first pitch hitter. Gregorius took the advice of the two, and he started to find success at the plate and started to hit for more power. He cut down his strikeout percentage from the year before because of it, but also his walk percentage suffered as well. Another big reason that he found more success is because he started to lay off pitches out of the zone and rolling them over for a ground ball out. He finished the year with a slash line of .276/.304/.447 with 20 home runs, and a 13.7% K rate and a 3.2% BB rate.
2017 was Didi’s break out year with the Yankees. He missed the first month of the season with a shoulder strain suffered in the WBC. In his first month back he hit .304, but he was hitting the ball with more power than we had seen before. Finished the first month with six doubles and three homeruns. From then on Gregorius was no push over in a Yankees lineup that had the likes of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez in it. Gregorius was penciled in the lineup in between the two big mashers and his production continued to rise. He finished last year with 25 home runs, which is a Yankees franchise record by a shortstop. He hit .287/.318/.478 in the regular season, and in the postseason hit three of the biggest home runs. The three run home run at home against the Twins to take the lead in the Wild Card game to put them ahead 3-2, and then two home runs off of Cy Young winner Corey Kluber in game 5 of the ALDS.
Now what is it that Gregorius has done to make himself better and take the leap into stardom? Gregorius is on fire right now to start the season hitting .347/.442/.787 with seven doubles and a team leading eight home runs. What is he doing that is different from last year? Didi has had the same approach of first pitch swinging yes, but he is being way more selective and more disciplined at the plate as his walks have gone up. He has made the adjustment to know that pitchers are going to be more careful with him and not throw him first pitch fastballs for him to crush.
Didi Gregorius has gotten better right in front of our eyes as Yankee fans. He went from head scratcher that we didn’t know if he would be on the team to fan favorite, and most important, star. Didi has already come out and said that New York is the place he wants to be and wants to sign and extension and be a part of the next World Series team. Didi is a star in this league and is finally getting the recognition he deserves.