by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Over the past two years the Yankees’ Didi Gregorius has been among the biggest breakout shortstops. After struggling in his first year in New York he’s posted back-to-back strong campaigns, developing into the long-term replacement for Derek Jeter as opposed to being the expected short-term placeholder. That doesn’t mean he’s a lock to maintain the numbers, even coming off this type of strong campaign:
534 At Bats
.287 Batting Average (153 Hits)
25 Home Runs
3 Stolen Bases
.318 On Base Percentage
.478 Slugging Percentage
.287 Batting Average on Balls in Play
He’s now hit 45 HR over the past two seasons, though that alone helps to ring the red flag that there could be an issue brewing. Why? What else factors into the decision? Let’s take a look:
In order to maintain the power (HR/FB of 10.4% and 12.1% over the past two seasons), Gregorius has taken a fly ball approach. While it hasn’t cost him in the average department, yet, the fly ball rate has continuously been elevated:
- First Half ’16 – 33.5%
- Second Half ’16 – 48.4%
- First Half ’17 – 40.7%
- Second Half – 46.5%
It hasn’t cost him in his BABIP, though the number has been rather pedestrian. For a player without significant speed, there is the risk that this type of fly ball rate sinks his BABIP even further (think .260ish). What happens if you couple that with any type of regression in his power?
That alone is an issue, but then you couple it with proven poor plate discipline. Last season he posted his highest SwStr% (11.4%) and O-Swing% (40.8%) since 2013, the first season he had a significant number of AB (20 AB in ’12). While he posted a 12.3% strikeout rate, despite the discipline, is anyone comfortable that he’ll be able to maintain it?
The swings and misses against any one pitch type isn’t terrible, but he struggled against all pitches equally (Whiff%):
- Hard – 11.35%
- Offspeed – 13.60%
- Breaking Balls – 15.99%
That’s a lot of risk for a player who isn’t going to steal a lot of bases or hit 30+ HR. You have a player who could see his BABIP tumble and strikeouts rise, meaning the days of posting a .250-.260 average once again become real (he’s a .266 career hitter). You can argue that he’ll be helped by the impressive lineup around him, and that’s fair, but he could ultimately slot in sixth or seventh in the lineup if the struggles do become real. He’s a usable option, but he’s more of a low-end starting shortstop or middle infield option as the risks are greater than you think.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
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|Starting Pitchers||1-20: 03/24/18|