Development in players isn’t always linear. Yet in Didi Gregorius’ time with the Yankees, it sort of has been, at least at the plate. In his debut season in pinstripes, Gregorius put up an 89 wRC+. In the years since then, it’s gone from 89 to 97 to 107 to now 121 in 2018. That’s not to mention his defense, which has been pretty good ever since he showed up.
He was already beloved by many due to his seemingly affable character and amusing Twitter account. Not that he wasn’t before this year, but in 2018 he more than justified the love. Gregorius put up his best season as a Yankee according to nearly any metric you’ll find. While there were some hiccups along the way, his season was even more proof that he was one of Brian Cashman’s best coups.
2018 Statistics: 134 games, 569 plate appearances, .268/.335/.494, 27 home runs, 86 RBI, 89 runs, 23 doubles, 5 triples, 4.6 WAR, 121 wRC+
2019 Contract Status: Arbitration eligible, free agent in 2020
What’s funny is, even as good as Gregorius was, his season arguably could have been even better. In March and April, he had one of the best months you’ll see. He hit 10 home runs and finished it by triple-slashing .327/.421/.735. He earned AL Player of the Month honors, and led the league in home runs, RBI, and WAR.
The reason why Gregorius’ season wasn’t better than it was is almost solely due to what happened in May. Whatever the reason, his play completely fell off a cliff when the calendar changed over.
In May, Gregorius hit .149/.184/.213. That is nearly a .800 OPS difference from one month to the other. His overall season OPS fell nearly .400 points by the time May was over. After 19 extra-base hits in his first 28 games, he hit just four in May. He went from the best player in baseball in March/April, to arguably the worst in May.
The rest of Gregorius’ season was not quite March/April level, but was still really good. May alone basically took .100 points off his overall season total. It also arguably cost him his first ever All-Star Game appearance. He’s already been borderline before, and if he hadn’t fallen off a cliff, his stats would have been too good to ignore.
Even with all of that, he still deserves his high grade. He broke the record for home runs in a single-season by a Yankees shortstop. It was a record he already held, having broken it in 2017. It was his third-straight 20 home run season, which is also a first for a Yankee shortstop.
Injuries also hampered Gregorius at points in the season. He spent time on the disabled list in August after a collision at first base. He missed some game, and possibly might have been out for the playoffs, after injuring his wrist while scoring the Wild Card-clinching run.
After the season, the injury news only got worse, when it was revealed that he needed Tommy John surgery. The prognosis on that is better for position players than pitchers. So hopefully he can recover relatively quickly, and get back to the player he was in 2018, because the players he was in 2018 was pretty darn good.