From Derek to Didi (Jeter to Gregorius that is). The transition has been one that New York Yankees fans are still wrapping their minds around, even though we are past the halfway point in May.
Though many fans will claim that after 18 seasons they are accustomed to seeing Jeter at shortstop, we can’t kid ourselves. If Gregorius was having a masterful season so far, this transition would be going as smoothly as, say, Tino Martinez taking over for Don Mattingly at first base in 1996.
We have to remind ourselves that Gregorius, 25, is still an up-and-comer when it comes to playing in the majors, something both Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman and Manager Joe Girardi understood when acquiring him in a trade this offseason. This is also his first season getting the chance to be a full-time starter.
The most he has ever started in a season in the majors was with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2013, where he started 97 games as a shortstop. Now that he is in New York, he has to adjust to the big stage of the Yankee Stadium facade that surrounds him, along with realizing he’s replacing a future Hall-of-Famer in Jeter.
Let’s be frank here for a second, Gregorius has been having a paltry outing so far in 2015. To date, he is batting .204 with seven RBIs while at shortstop he holds a .971 fielding percentage with four errors.
Out of the 22 hits (in his 108 at bats) he has totaled this season, only four of them have been multi-base hits, all of them doubles. He has struck out 23 times as well.
Despite these numbers, we should at least be patient with Gregorius until he finds his way. You may dispute this, but Cashman and Girardi would not have acquired him if they thought he wasn’t worthy of wearing the pinstripes. Gregorius’ ability to bat lefty is an exceptional talent for a shortstop that the Yankees want to tap into.
Additionally, with Alex Rodriguez still under contract, it wouldn’t have been a sound decision to throw a lot of money at or acquire a star shortstop and paint themselves into a corner with their mounting payroll. And from Cashman’s standpoint, this situation with Gregorius will either make or break his future with the Yankees.
If Gregorius pans out, then both Cashman and Girardi will stand tall and dismiss their reputation as a team that buys talent and are unable of developing talent. For this season, the Yankees view Gregorius as an asset, not an experiment. They want him to hold down the shortstop position long-term, and if they want to succeed with that, it should be known to Girardi and his staff that Gregorius must have the proper coaching and guidance to get his numbers up, and that should be one of hitting coach Jeff Pentland’s priorities in his first season on the job.
If Gregorius can handle the New York-style pressure and the blatant comparisons between him and Jeter this season, he can be all-but-assured that that chatter will go away beginning in 2016.