The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
Didi Gregorius Becomes Capable Shortstop Replacement for Derek Jeter

When Yankees living legend Derek Jeter retired from baseball after the 2014 season, there was a lot of concern among Yankees fans about how the club would backfill the irreplaceable star.  After all, he was one of the biggest reasons the Yankees hadn’t suffered a losing season during his 20-year tenure.  No one could reasonably be expected to fill his shoes, unless GM Brian Cashman went out and traded for another premier shortstop.

Furthermore, during the time Jeter wore the pinstripes, he had virtually blocked all Yankees shortstop prospects from getting any time in the majors.  Consequently, there were pretty slim pickings from candidates in the Yankees’ organizational pipeline to inherit Jeter’s spot in the lineup.

Cashman indeed reached outside of his organization to find Jeter’s replacement.  After the 2014 season, he came up with Didi Gregorius from the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Other than for his unique name, Gregorius hadn’t garnered much attention during his three partial seasons in the majors.  He was initially signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 2007.  He was born in The Netherlands, but spent most of his life in Curacao, historically an unusual breeding ground for major-league prospects.  The Reds then traded him to Arizona after the 2012 season in a three-team deal that also included the Cleveland Indians.

Before going to the Yankees, Gregorius had a reputation as a good-fielding, light-hitting player, certainly not in the same stratosphere as Jeter.  His signing by the Yankees raised more than a few eyebrows, even though they were in the process of revitalizing the team with younger players.  He had some big shoes to fill.

However, Gregorius responded with a decent debut season with the Yankees in 2015.  He had a respectable season as the regular shortstop, when he hit 9 HR and 56 RBI while batting .265, all career highs to that point in his career.  The Yankees managed to claim a wild-card spot that season, only to lose to the Astros.

In 2016, Gregorius upped his game when he found a home-run stroke that led to 20 dingers for the season.  Jeter had last hit 20 or more home runs in 2004, so Gregorius’s improvement was a pleasant surprise for the Yankees.  He also drove in 70 runs while improving his batting average to .276.

2017 was an even better season for Gregorius even though he missed most of the first month of the season due to injury.  He wound up hitting 25 homers and drove in 87 runs, batting in the cleanup spot for a good part of the season.  The Yankees hit the most home runs in the American League, while featuring Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge, who hit a rookie record of 52, and Gary Sanchez, who smacked 33.  The team came within one game of getting to the World Series, as Gregorius did his part by slamming three home runs in post-season play.

When Giancarlo Stanton was acquired by the Yankees over the winter, it was naturally assumed the slugger would bat in the cleanup spot.  But Gregorius, a left-handed hitter, has maintained his cleanup role so far, sandwiched in between the right-handed hitting Stanton and Sanchez.

So, while Gregorius is no Jeter (who generally batted at the top of the order and hit .310 and had an OBP of .377 for his career), he has found his niche in the potent Yankees’ offense.  Often overshadowed by the other members of the Baby Bombers, Gregorius hasn’t yet been mentioned in the same breath as other premier American League shortstops like Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Xander Bogaerts, and Manny Machado.  But he is rapidly changing that perception.

Jeter got his bronze plaque in the Yankee Monument Park last year, alongside Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra and other legendary players.  Gregorius won’t likely be joining that elite group of Yankees greats down the road.  But right now, there aren’t too many people complaining about what he’s doing for the Yankees.

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