A little over a month ago, news broke that Didi Gregorius suffered a shoulder injury in the World Baseball Classic. Reports indicated that the strain would sideline the Yankees’ shortstop for approximately six weeks. Talk about a bad omen. That kind of news can deflate all of the optimism built up during spring training. The injury bug bit, the lineup collapse would surely follow.
In an interesting turn of events. the implosion never happened. The Yankees have weathered that storm and more, considering the Gary Sanchez injury occurred shortly thereafter. In fact, they’ve done so with style. The Yankees currently lead all of baseball in wRC+ with a mark of 124. Their +30 run differential indicates it’s no fluke, either.
This early-season success is in no small part due to the contributions of Ronald Torreyes, Gregorius’ temporary replacement. Through 58 plate appearances, Torreyes owns a .293/.293/.431 batting line, good for a 101 wRC+. He’s also tied with Aaron Judge and Starlin Castro for the team lead in RBI with 13. How about that.
The hot start has propelled the Yankees to an 11 - 7 record. They currently sit in second place in the American League East. It’s tough to be upset with that record. In fact, it rivals even the rosiest of expectations heading into the season. The good feelings are beginning to slow down, however. Cracks are appearing in the foundation.
Pitchers have exposed the Yankees’ lineup over the past few games. Brett Gardner suddenly lost the ability to reach base; Matt Holliday saw his contact rate plummet; Greg Bird turned into one of the unluckiest batters in baseball. Signs of unraveling have appeared. The results have mostly held out, but the warning signs have flared up.
Fortunately for the Yankees, reinforcements are on the way. Didi Gregorius has made three rehab starts for High-A Tampa. Reports indicate that he looks likes his old self. He’s getting repetitions in the field and crushing minor league pitching. That’s exactly what you want to see during rehab stints.
Take last night’s performance for example:
#Yankees Didi Gregorius just CRUSHED an 0-1 pitch ON TOP of the Outfield Bar in RF at Steinbrenner Field. His 1st HR of his rehab.— Nick Flammia (@TYRadioGuy) April 25, 2017
Ah, yes, give me the Didi dingers. Don’t hold back, either. I want them all.
Gregorius came into his own at the plate last season. He hit .276/.304/.447 with 20 home runs. He paired those numbers with elite-level defense, making him a true two-way player. He’s a dynamic bat who could kickstart a sluggish offense, especially as he enters his peak hitting years. In other words, he’s just what the doctor ordered.
It remains to be seen when Gregorius will make his 2017 debut with the Yankees. That news should emerge in the coming days. When he does, he will provide coverage to a lineup at risk of being exposed. The Yankees did an admirable job of filing in for Gregorius while he was on the shelf. They performed far better than anyone expected. When he comes back, the club can continue to press down on the accelerator. A fresh bat is ready to do some heavy lifting.
Data courtesy of FanGraphs.