Concern about the Yankees future at shortstop had been somewhat of a tradition over the last few years. The team was fortunate enough to have a Hall of Fame shortstop who remained an effective hitter well into his late thirties, which gave them the luxury of plenty of chances to find his replacement. But when the inevitable occurred and Derek Jeter turned human and retired, the obvious replacement was not apparent. Surprisingly enough, rather than go straight to the free agent clearance aisle, Brian Cashman swung a deal for a young, cheap and cost-controlled shortstop in Didi Gregorius. An interesting prospect, but one with enough question marks that Jeter's successor might not even be here yet.
You don't get amazing young shortstops for the likes of Shane Greene, so Gregorius' major league bonafides are still in doubt. While it's expected that he'll be a massive upgrade defensively, he has yet to show much of any batting skill in the majors. Gregorius had a 76 wRC+ in 2014 and an 83 mark for his career. For reference purposes, that 2014 mark placed him 31st out of 40 for all shortstops with at least 250 plate appearances. That's probably not going to cut it in 2015 unless Gregorius proves to be a defensive wizard the like of Andrelton Simmons, which is pretty damned unlikely. I presume the Yankees have a baseline for what they need from Gregorius, but how long will he have to reach that baseline?
The team has showed a propensity for giving established veterans plenty of time to produce (Brian Roberts, Stephen Drew), but it's been a while since they gave someone as young as the soon to be 25 year-old a starting job. Yangervis Solarte was relatively youthful when he wrested the starting job away from the veteran Kelly Johnson, but he also set the world on fire in his first month or so. It would obviously be in Gregorius' best interest to come out and hit .350 for the first month, but the inverse is just as likely. Does Didi Gregorius hitting .200 going into May still have job security? It's hard to say, but that certainly won't stop me from making an educated guess.
I think it's telling that Brendan Ryan is still here and Drew was retained. While Cashman's statements on the matter indicate that Gregorius is the de facto starter, he may still have to show that he deserves the role. His 2014 season and middling minor league numbers don't make for a profile of a player who is going to have a starting position on lockdown. Scouting reports on Gregorius may help him in that his quick bat may have some untapped potential in it, but not so much that the team will feel particularly invested in him if it doesn't translate to success.
My opinion is that the middle infield is a very fluid situation right now. Gregorius, Drew and Jose Pirela could all be fighting for playing time because none of them are sure starters. Steamer projects Gregorius to have a .241/.302/.357 triple slash, and I think that's about the minimum output he'll need to keep his job. He'll be well served getting off to a hot start and entrenching himself so Joe Girardi isn't tempted to give his job to the veteran Drew.