2016 Statistics: 153 games, .276/.304/.447, 20 home runs, 32 doubles, 7 stolen bases
2017 Roster Status: Arbitration eligible
Didi Gregorius came to New York with the most undesirable task ahead of him: replace Derek Jeter. It wasn’t just Jeter’s productivity on the field that Gregorius would need to try and recreate, but he had to step into the shoes of a legend. That’s a tall order for anyone.
It’s probably safe to say at this point that the transition from Jeter to Gregorius has gone about as well as anyone could have hoped. Didi has thrived with the Yankees, and it was never more evident than his incredible campaign in 2016. Gregorius hit 20 home runs! He’d never hit more than nine as a big leaguer before.
Gregorius was one of the consistent bright spots on offense for the Yankees this season, hitting better than many might have expected him to. Didi’s proficiency with his glove was never in doubt, but whether or not he could hit enough to stick had been a real question. He bounced from Cincinnati to Arizona and then to New York without really answering the question of whether or not he could be an everyday player in Major League Baseball.
That question was emphatically answered after posting a .751 OPS and 20 home runs in 2016. Only Starlin Castro and Carlos Beltran had more dingers for the Yankees. Only Gary Sanchez (3.2 fWAR) finished with a higher WAR than Didi (2.7 fWAR) among position players on the team.
Hitting at a high level while turning in highlight reel worthy defense pretty much cements Gregorius’ place on the Yankees. New York has a number of talented shortstops coming up through their system, which is never a bad thing, but Didi’s presence makes it where none of them need to be rushed to fill a void. That wasn’t true before the trade to bring Gregorius to New York when there was nothing to speak of behind Jeter in the shortstop pipeline.
Gregorius doesn’t have to turn into a Hall of Famer like Jeter in order to be valuable for the Yankees. As long as he hits reasonably well and plays good defense, Joe Girardi and co will likely be very happy with his production. Gregorius also happens to be one of the most easily likable Yankees on the team, which always helps. The Yankees have rightfully earned a reputation of being pretty vanilla when it comes to their players, and having someone like Didi around to lighten things up is always nice from a fan perspective.