by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Didi Gregorius appeared to back up his breakout 2016 with an even better 2017, though there were reasons to be skeptical and expect a regression. Thus far those thoughts appear to be misguided, as he’s actually gotten better over the first few games of 2018. All he’s done over his 15 games is hit .327 with 5 HR, 16 RBI and 14 R. Even more impressive may be his seemingly dramatic improvement in plate discipline:
- Strikeout Rate – 6.2%
- Walk Rate – 18.5%
Considering his career rates of 14.3% and 5.8%, respectively, is this nothing more than a small sample size of has he truly emerged? Let’s take a look…
Gregorius has significantly improved both his SwStr% (6.6% compared to a career mark of 10.3%) and O-Swing% (28.6% compared to a career mark of 36.7%). Those types of marks would justify the improvements, and the biggest change has come against breaking balls (he has a 7.14% Whiff%, less than half of last year’s 15.99%). Time will tell if these are just a short-term aberrations or if he’s really made an improvement. If it’s the latter, the overall outlook looks significantly different… Though there is a fairly big warning sign that can’t be ignored.
Thus far he owns a 52.1% fly ball rate, which would indicate he’s taking more of a home run-centric approach. it hasn’t been an issue yet, or has it? He’s not carrying an elevated BABIP (.256), nor would we expect him to, and if he can’t maintain his 20.0% HR/FB the average risk will be significant.
In fact, if he continues swinging for the fences at this type of rate is there any chance he can maintain his current strikeout and walk rates? If you are selling out for power you typically don’t offer the best plate discipline.
The rise in his fly ball rate has been a trend, as he went from 40.7% in the first half to 46.5% in the second half of 2017. That’s good for his power, but unless you believe he’s going to be a 30+ HR slugger the potential risk may outweigh the reward.
With his BABIP potentially capped and his strikeout rate likely to rise, seeing him hit closer to .260ish is not far-fetched. That’s not to say that he would be valueless, especially hitting on the middle of the Yankees’ batting order, but there’s a good chance his value is never greater.
Don’t call him a must sell by any stretch, but if the right deal comes about it makes sense to consider.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
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