Didi Gregorius has been one of the best stories for the Yankees in a season where you have so many good ones to choose from. Gregorius looked like he wasn't long for New York and that the pressure from the many angry fans were going to run him out of the Bronx.
Many fans didn't seem willing to give him much of a break despite the fact that the pressure of replacing Derek Jeter would be hard for even the most mentally tough players. It certainly didn't help that Shane Greene, whom Gregorius was traded for, was lighting the world on fire in Detroit. At the same time Gregorius just did not look like a MLB caliber player. He hit .206/.261/.238/.449 with an 36 wRC+ and his much hyped defensive ability wasn't there either. His many mental lapses both in the field and on the base paths were hard to watch. However, baseball is such a crazy game, and Gregorius kept battling and improving just a little bit every month until finally it all clicked this past July. Meanwhile, Greene has been one of the worst pitchers in all of MLB with a 6.97 ERA.
Gregorius hit .317/.360/.427/.786 with a .344 wOBA and an 117 wRC+ in July. This has brought his season slash line up to .257/.305/.350/.655 with an 80 wRC+. Obviously, that looks like nothing special. However, when you consider the average MLB SS is hitting .252/.299/.365 with an 82 wRC+ you see that Gregorius has basically been SS MLB average offensively despite the brutal April. With Gregorius' elite range on defense you would easily take him hitting league average for the position, and lately it looks like he can be even more.
The big difference with Gregorius at the plate is that he has a much shorter swing than he did earlier in the season and is taking the ball the other way. This has helped him even hang in there against some lefties. He used to have that big loop in his swing and pitchers were easily exposing it. You definitely do not want that for a non-power hitter. These heat maps and spray charts below will show how much more Gregorius has been taking the ball to the opposite field lately.
As you can see, Gregorius' heat map and spray charts from July indicate just how well he has taken the outside pitch to the opposite field. It's pretty evident all the ground balls to the left side Gregorius was hitting in April. That's fine when you're Mark Teixeira or Brian McCann and you're going to crush a ton of homers, but not for Gregorius. The upcoming videos are from Gregorius' first career home run with Arizona at Yankee Stadium and his RBI single to the opposite field in yesterday's game.
Even though he hits a home run on the first swing, you can see how big and loopy Gregorius' swing is. Also, he has a very big leg kick that a lot of power hitters have. On the replay from behind the catcher in the second video, you can see how much more shorter, quicker and compact his swing is with no leg kick whatsoever. Gregorius' feet are stationary on the ground.
We haven't had the opportunity to watch many young players develop lately with the Yankees. It has been enjoyable to watch how far Gregorius and Nathan Eovaldi have progressed as the season has gone along. You can see what the Yankees saw when they traded for both of them and after slow starts for both it's starting to look like they may develop as the organization had hoped. Shortstop is probably the toughest position to fill on the diamond, and Gregorius is starting to look like a keeper after previously looking like a dud.