The Yankees looked to be in trouble this spring when starting shortstop Didi Gregorius went down with a shoulder injury during the World Baseball Classic. Shortstop is a key position for most teams because not only do they need to find a new bat, but they also need a strong glove to fill in. Ronald Torreyes certainly provided the team with enough talent to hold them over, but it’s good to have Didi back.
Gregorius has been back for four games so far and already he’s proven himself to be an effective bat in the lineup. In his first game of the season, he collected a single, double, and RBI in New York’s wild 14-11 victory over the Orioles. He had a nearly identical batting line the following day, except this time he was able to score two runs. On the 30th, he contributed three hits and two RBI, even though the Yankees ended up losing that one in extra innings. It’s been a small sample size, but Didi has made his return known.
You might be quick to say that Ronald Torreyes doesn’t deserve to get the shaft and get sent back to the bench. It’s clear that he doesn’t after hitting .313/.313/.433 over the first month of the season. He also managed to do a fine job in the field after some shaky early plays. In the end, though, the the team needed Didi because of long-term projection. I mean, Gregorius hit 20 home runs last year, and Torreyes did not.
Whatever the two players have done (or not done) in the short-term, things are majorly different over a longer period of time. Torreyes is only projected to have an 80 wRC+ and 0.5 WAR in 2017, but Gregorius is expected to hit 92 wRC+ and 1.6 WAR. It might not sound like much of a difference, but these numbers add up. Didi has already made some impressive plays at short, so even if the level of play in the field is the same, the hope is that the bat ultimately becomes the difference-maker.
Another benefit of having Gregorius in the lineup again is his ability to balance out the lineup. So far this season the batting order has been a little one-sided when it comes to right-handed hitters. At any given time, the Yankees could have been rolling with five or six right-handed batters in the lineup, while their left-handed hitters leave something to be desired when it comes to their power stroke (I can’t believe I’m referring to Didi Gregorius as a power hitter now).
As good as Torreyes was in filling in, it’s good that the Yankees got their starting shortstop back after only a few weeks. It has worked out that the team has not missed him as much as we all originally expected they would. As we’ve seen, backup players can hold down the fort for when starters go down. We’ve seeing it with Austin Romine’s breakout while Gary Sanchez remains hurt. As good as these players have been, at a certain point they come back down to Earth. The Yankees might not have needed Didi Gregorius to find success, but they will require him to remain where they are.