When Aaron Hill was placed on the disabled list last week, the Diamondbacks called up prospect Didi Gregorius, whose name sounds more like a maid’s than a baseball player’s. Seriously, what sounds more correct — Maid Didi or Didi, starting shortstop? Well, if anything, he has certainly cleaned up…at the plate so far! Gregorius came to Arizona over the offseason during that surprising three team trade with the Indians and Reds that sent Trevor Bauer to Cleveland and Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati. He has two homers in 11 at-bats already. In NL-Only leagues and perhaps deep mixed leagues, he’s likely gone after last night’s FAAB. But is he worth a look in shallower leagues while Hill remains on the shelf?
In February, Marc Hulet ranked Gregorius fourth overall among D-Backs prospects. Known for his fielding, Hulet called him “a gifted fielder, [with] outstanding range, a plus arm and excellent actions.” On his hitting, Hulet added that “he gets pull happy but has some surprising pop from the left side”. But until his time at Triple-A, both with the Reds in 2012 and over a tiny sample in 2013 with the D-Backs farm club, this surprising pop failed to materialize in statistical form.
Previous to the two aforementioned Triple-A stints, Gregorius’ career best ISO was just .154, as he hit five home runs in 188 at-bats at High-A in 2011. Something may have clicked though upon his promotion to Triple-A last season. His ISO jumped to .184, and that was carried over to his first 31 at-bats at the level to open this year as he posted a .258 mark with two homers in that small sample.
Now in Arizona, he has already homered twice. Hmmm, we always hear that power is the last skill to develop. Might we be witnessing that skill developing right before our eyes? Perhaps. His two home runs thus far, while relatively unimpressive from a distance standpoint, were still categorized as “plenty” at ESPN Home Run Tracker. I would bet that he handily beats his RoS ISO projections from both ZiPS and Steamer, which comes in at .125 and .118, respectively.
Aside from the potential for surprising power, he makes pretty good contact, but unfortunately doesn’t have a history of strong BABIP marks in the minors. Without an above average BABIP, he probably won’t contribute positive value in batting average, but a decent contact rate should ensure he doesn’t hurt you there.
Typically middle infielders will bring some speed to the table, which Gregorius does, but not a whole lot of it. He stole just five bases in 2012, and was caught seven times. At best, a full season might lead to 5-10 steals, and that’s about it. With Gerardo Parra and Martin Prado fixtures at the top of the order, Gregorius really has no potential to move up to a better lineup slot, which is going to hurt his RBI and run totals.
At the moment, Gregorius isn’t guaranteed to start every game since Prado can play, like, every position, which gives the team the flexibility to move people around and not necessarily need Gregorius. But if he continues to hit, he could conceivably take over the starting gig from Cliff Pennington and remain up even when Hill returns. That said, even though I think he will surprise in the power department, the upside simply isn’t there for him to be worth anything in shallow mixed leagues.