If the Major League Baseball season was reduced to just one month’s worth of games, Didi Gregorius would most likely be a shoo-in for American League MVP honors.
In 28 games this season, Gregorius has slashed .327/.421/.735 with a league-high 10 home runs and 30 RBI. The 28-year-old’s torrid start at the plate has been a catalyst for recent success, as the Yankees (18-10) have won nine of its last 10 games. On Monday, Gregorius was named the American League’s Player of the Week.
Although Gregorius has been adamant that he’s not a home run hitter, his numbers simply suggest otherwise. Dating back to last May, he has hit 35 home runs, and he’s also driven in 117 runs. These combined statistics are from a six-month span, since he missed nearly all of April 2017 due to a right shoulder injury.
Home run hitter or not, Gregorius is improving his game on a weekly basis, and his methods don’t seem to be complex.
“I’m just a guy trying to hit the ball over the place and trying to go wherever they pitch me,” Gregorius told ESPN Radio’s The Michael Kay Show on Tuesday afternoon. “They throw me in, try to pull the ball. They throw me away, try to go the other way. So, that’s all I’m trying to do, trying to go gap-to-gap.
“You always dream big because you don’t want to set a cap like, ‘This is where I want to be, this is where I want to get.’ For me, there’s always room for improvement. So, I will never say this is going to be my best year but I always can do better than the year before. So, that’s what I’m trying to do. I know it’s not easy to find a lot of consistency and stick with a gameplan, but it’s a lot of work and a lot of progress, so you’ve got to trust the process.”
Gregorius’ tremendous April has sparked several conversations about the future shape of the Yankees’ infield. Next winter, All Star shortstop and third baseman Manny Machado will be an unrestricted free agent, and most experts believe New York will make a hard push for the slugger.
But with Gregorius blossoming into a star, perhaps the Yankees could invest their money elsewhere — especially if Gregorius continues to perform exceptionally well with the bat and glove. After the 2019 season, Gregorius will be eligible for free agency, but he told The Michael Kay Show that he’d be open to playing the rest of his career in New York if the club expresses interest in it.
“I mean, why not? But right now I’m not trying to focus on that,” Gregorius said about a potential long-term deal with the Yankees. “I’m just trying to play the season out and see what’s going to happen. If [the Yankees] talk about it, they’ll probably talk to my agent and see where everything is going to go and then we’ll see from there. If they offer me a chance, then yes.”
Gregorius has approached this season with a championship or bust mentality, but the road to the World Series will still go through Houston. The defending champion Astros (20-10) received tremendous pitching from all five of its starters in April, and on Tuesday night, the Yankees were held to just three hits in a 2-1 loss at Minute Maid Park. It was New York’s fifth consecutive loss in Houston (counting last season’s ALCS).
“Everybody knows they have a really good pitching staff,” Gregorius said about the Astros. “We need to play to win. I think that’s the main thing that we have to do. Nothing’s going to be easy. Both teams are playing good. We want to play to win as many games as possible. Doesn’t matter where we play at. We need to win, that’s it. It’s not a mountain we have to climb or none of those things.
“As soon as we came to spring training, everybody knew we had a really good team. It’s just a matter of time where we all start clicking together. Everybody believes in themselves, and this team can do a lot of damage when everybody’s together.”