It’s no surprise: middle infield is thin. And now, unfortunately, it’s even thinner. A list of what might lead you to considering Didi Gregorius, who is getting his new gig via the Aaron Hill injury, for your lineup:
- Erick Aybar is out a few weeks with a heel injury
- Aaron Hill is out six to eight weeks with a hand injury
- Jose Reyes is out two months with an ankle injury (though not as bad as the video would lead you to think)
- Brian Roberts is out a few weeks with a hammy issue. I feel bad for this guy.
- Jason Kipnis is out with a who-knows-how-long-let’s-just-kill-Nick’s-fantasy-team-HAHA obscure elbow injury.
- Gordon Beckham is out six to eight weeks with a wrist injury.
- Adeiny Hechavarria is out a few weeks with an arm injury.
- Hanley Ramirez is out until mid-May with that annoying WBC thumb thing
- Horrible news just came out regarding glorious Captain Jeets
Derek Jeter had CT scan that revealed small crack in area of previous injury, will not return until sometime after All-Star break.
- Rafael Furcal is out all year.
- Danny Espinosa is day-to-day with a wrist injury, although he’s expected back this week.
Get the point yet? If you had any two of those guys (like me), you’re probably scrambling for a replacement. And, partner, it’s slim pickings out there. And, partner, that’d be the only reason you’d really ever consider picking up Didi Gregorius.
Gregorius is one of those quintessential shortstops. He runs, jumps, throws shot-cannons, has good instincts, smooth hands, and has pretty much everything else you need to be a good defender. According to MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, Gregorius will be a six-defender with a seven-arm (scouting ratings range from two to eight). All good and dandy for the Arizona Diamondbacks, but what will he do offensively?
From 2008 to 2011, Gregorius made slow improvements across his entire offensive arsenal. His batting average crept up to .289 between high-A and double-A in 2011, and his OBP followed suit. He was striking out less, improving his gap power, and even hitting a few more home runs than his years prior. Everything except for his baserunning — he was 11-for-21 stealing bases — was showing decent growth. And he was still young. Gregorius was only 21 in 2011.
Last year, though, Gregorius seemed to hit a superficial plateau upon arriving in triple-A. After batting .278 and posting a .344 OBP during his first part of the year in double-A, he dropped to a .243 BA and .288 OBP once arriving in Louisville. Looking simply at that you might be a bit turned off, but Gregorius’s peripherals did hint that he was hanging tough. He hit 10 doubles and six homers in 202 triple-A plate appearances, compared to 11 doubles and one homer in 359 double-A PAs earlier in the year. At age 22, it would only make sense that Gregorius was filling out. He was getting stronger.
Gregorius had gotten as far as being in the talks to start 2013 as the Diamondbacks’ starting SS, but they fell through once Cliff Pennington arrived from Oakland.
Now, with Reno, Arizona’s triple-A affiliate, Gregorius’s box scores are great, but misleading. In the launching pad that is the Pacific Coast League (NEVER trust PCL offensive stats), Gregorius has two homers, a .387 BA, a .424 OBP, and has struck out only once in 33 PAs. It’s pretty, sure, but trust me, you can’t trust it.
I want to tell you, and myself, that Gregorius will provide a steady stream of runs and stolen bases as a MI plug-in, but I’d be lying. His BA will regress, natch, and you can of course expect more strikeouts and fewer walks. At the very best, expect someone who won’t murder your BA category, but won’t do much else. Considering he’s batting eighth in his debut, he won’t be steady source of runs or RBI — especially when they’re playing home or vs. other NL teams and he’s batting in front of the pitcher. Playing fast and loose at the bottom of the order, Gregorius might swipe a few bags, but stay away if you play with net steals rather than just SB totals.
If you can pick up someone like Brandon Crawford, who is scorching hot, or even Jhonny Peralta, you’d be best advised to take them over Gregorius, even in a keeper league.