Why Didi Gregorius has emerged as an unsung power threat for Yankees

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(Getty Photographs)

NEW YORK — Over the previous three seasons, Didi Gregorius has develop into probably the greatest shortstops in baseball, creating a power stroke with the Yankees that he didn’t possess in earlier stops in Arizona and — briefly — Cincinnati.

Because the begin of the 2016 season, Gregorius has the fourth-most house runs amongst shortstops and is third in RBIs, fifth in slugging proportion, seventh in WAR, eighth in runs scored and tenth in defensive runs saved and UZR, per Fangraphs. And 10 video games and forty two plate appearances into his 2018 marketing campaign, Gregorius leads the American League in on-base proportion, slugging, OPS, complete bases, runs and walks.

After hitting 9 residence runs in his first season with New York in 2015 — the primary beginning shortstop within the Yankees’ submit-Derek Jeter period — how has Gregorius developed into an enormous-time power threat for his place?

“I haven’t modified something. It’s been the identical factor, similar strategy,” Gregorius informed Sporting Information. “Nothing has modified, besides in all probability driving it extra within the hole. However that’s all I’m making an attempt to do, making an attempt to hit line drives from the left area line to the suitable area line, nevertheless they pitch me, and attempt to make changes from there.”

Regardless of Gregorius’ claims that he hasn’t modified, there’s one main change that would clarify the spike in his power numbers over the previous couple of seasons: Extra fly balls, as evidenced by the next chart:

Yr Line Drive % Floor Ball % Fly Ball % HR/Fly Ball %
2015 21.2 forty four.7 34.1 6
2016 19.6 forty.1 forty.three 10.four
2017 20 36.2 forty three.eight 12.1
2018 17.2 34.5 forty eight.three 21.four

Gregorius’ line-drive fee barely modified, however his proportion of fly balls went up almost 10 proportion factors from 2015, when he hit 9 residence runs, to 2017, when he smacked 25. And as he hit extra fly balls, the share of them that went out elevated as properly. According to the current power surge seen in baseball, Gregorius is hitting extra balls within the air and seeing his run manufacturing drastically enhance.

“He was in all probability extra of a line-drive, hole-to-hole, contact sort of man early in his profession and he’s developed actually right into a threat, a center-of-the-order, power, run-producing threat,” Yankees infielder Neil Walker stated. “And that’s not an straightforward factor to do on this recreation.”

Orioles All-Star second baseman Jonathan Schoop grew up enjoying with and towards Gregorius of their native Curacao, and stated you all the time knew he would convey his “A” recreation and that you simply needed to be prepared for that as an opponent.

“He was all the time a great hitter, since he was younger,” Schoop stated. “Nevertheless it’s a matter of time and [getting] the probabilities and the expertise. Now he’s gotta keep it and get higher yearly.”

Consider it or not, outfielder Brett Gardner is the one lively place participant who’s been on this Yankees roster as lengthy as Gregorius — Jacoby Ellsbury is on the disabled listing — and has witnessed Gregorius’ offensive evolution up shut.

“When he came to visit right here, clearly making an attempt to step into the footwear of Derek Jeter, I didn’t actually know what to anticipate. I don’t assume anyone did,” Gardner stated. “And the best way he’s reworked his recreation during the last couple of years is simply unbelievable. … I don’t assume he will get close to sufficient credit score that he deserves. He’s only a actually, actually, actually particular participant.”

Gardner additionally spoke about Gregorius’ means to drive runners in and get well timed hits, as evidenced by a .304/.321/.480 slash line with runners in scoring place final yr. His sixty one RBIs in these conditions ranked third amongst shortstops final season, per MLB.com.

Gregorius’ knack for driving in runs got here in useful final week towards Tampa Bay within the Yankees’ house opener. He not solely hit a pair of three-run homers, but in addition capped off the eleven-four win by hitting a two-run single within the eighth inning to provide him eight RBIs on the day, probably the most by any participant in a house opener in baseball historical past.

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And as Gregorius has emerged as a power threat, he’s now hitting fifth in a stacked Yankees order behind Gardner, Aaron Decide, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez. Yankees radio announcer John Sterling recommended final week that opposing pitchers might let up or breathe a sigh of aid after getting previous Decide and Stanton, making Gregorius a serious beneficiary of New York’s relentless batting order.

“I do assume that groups in all probability assume that when they get by means of Decide and Stanton, the probabilities of vital injury just isn’t as elevated,” Walker stated. “However the reality of the matter is that guys like Didi and Gary (Sanchez) are gonna have a whole lot of alternatives, simply as Decide and Stanton will, to drive in runs and do injury.”

As soon as Stanton will get issues going, Gregorius goes to have a singular alternative to drive in numerous runs for this Yankees offense. No shortstop has pushed in a minimum of one hundred runs throughout a daily season since Troy Tulowitzki did it in 2011, and Gregorius might have an actual probability to interrupt that streak.

“I’m simply making an attempt to maintain the identical aggressive strategy that I’ve, selective aggressive, and attempt to placed on good swings,” Gregorius stated. “All I’m making an attempt to do is attempt to get on base for the subsequent man to do one thing.”