Didi Gregorius had a spectacular year in 2017, hitting .287/.318/.478 with 25 home runs and 87 runs batted in, and defensively, developing into one of the best shortstops in baseball. On September 20, he broke the all-time record for most home runs in a season by a Yankee shortstop. Earlier in the season, he had recorded his 500th major league hit. Sports Illustrated said Gregorius “might be the player that best stabilizes one of baseball’s most fearsome offenses.”
Even Yankees general manager Brian Cashman didn’t see this coming.
“I thought he’d be an above-average defensive shortstop and a left-handed bat with some pop against right-handed pitching with developing questionable skills against left-handed pitching,” Cashman said. “That’s not a question anymore.
His double-play mate, Starlin Castro, likewise outperformed his career numbers, batting .300/.338/.454 with 16 home runs and 63 runs batted; although defensively he does not rival Gregorius, he did a serviceable job for the Yankees and may be one of their most underrated players.
What’s the future for middle infielders in the Yankee organization? The 40-man roster sports four additional middle-infielders, Ronald Torreyes, Tyler Wade, Gleyber Torres and Thairo Estrada. Looking up and down the rosters of the organization, one sees a plethora of able middle infielders at various stages of development, including Cito Culver, Nick Solak, Abital Avelino, Hoy Jun Park, Kyle Holder, Wilkerman Garcia, Oswaldo Cabrera, Jesus Bastidas, Eduardo Torrealba and Brayan Jimenez.
While we can expect Torreyes and Wade to play utility roles, Yankee fans have been told by Cashman to expect to see Torres vying for a job during Spring Training next year. Torres played some games at third base in Triple-A last year before getting injured, and could compete with Headley for the third base job. Estrada has not played above Double-A, splitting his time between shortstop and second base and batting Estrada may be around for Spring Training, but will probably begin the season in Trenton or Scranton Wilkes-Barre.
Should the Yankees go after former Braves prospect, and MLB.com’s No. 32 prospect, 17-year-old Kevin Maitan originally from Venezuela? If they fail to land prized Japanese phenom and two-way star Shohei Ohtani, he could be an option for the organization.
Even at 17, Maitan has been compared to fellow Venezuelan Miguel Cabrera, not in stature, but in skills. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Maitan has been variously described as a pure hitter with average power, a power hitter with a little more swing-and-miss AND an offensive monster who combines the best of both worlds. Scouts are universal in their praise of Maitan’s ability at the plate.
As many questions as there are going into the 2018 season, who will play at shortstop for the New York Yankees is not one of them. How to make the best use of the logjam of talent in the middle infield will definitely need to be answered in the coming season, but more star power potential wouldn’t hurt, right?