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2015 Sleeper Series: Didi Gregorius

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Didi Gregorius' process at the plate was good in 2014 despite poor results

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

On the surface, Didi Gregorius doesn’t look to have much fantasy appeal in 2015. He's coming off an unproductive year in which he batted .226 with a 76 wRC+, and Yankees GM Brian Cashman said Gregorius will likely platoon with the light hitting Brendan Ryan. However, there are statistics that show that Gregorius may have some hidden upside for 2015.

Career Overview

In 703 PA with the Diamondbacks from 2013-14, Gregorius produced the following statistics:

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

SB

wRC+

.241

.314

.368

13

3

85

Gregorius has large platoon splits for his career. Against righties, Gregorius has been slightly above league average as a hitter:

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

wRC+

.262

.332

.411

13

102

Against lefties, Gregorius has been terrible:

AVG

OBP

SLG

HR

wRC+

.184

.257

.233

0

33

Gregorius is still only 24, so there's still some time left for him to become a competent hitter against LHP, especially with a new organization who will give Gregorius new coaching and possibly uncover something that makes it click for him against LHP.

Gregorius hit the ball hard in 2014 and was not rewarded for it

Despite having poor production, Gregorius’ process at the plate last season was actually good. Mark Simon of ESPN wrote,

Gregorius had a hard-hit rate of 20.4 percent. He was one of 34 players to have at least 250 plate appearances this past season and a 20 percent hard-hit rate.

That list includes just about all of the game's elite sluggers. Gregorius' hard-hit rate was a match for that of Justin Upton and Mike Trout, and one-tenth of a point behind Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Bautista.

So if Gregorius can hit it like those guys, why did he hit .226, the lowest batting average among those 34 players?

It’s a great question, and we imagine Cashman and his crew did a detailed study on this before working on this deal.

Their likely finding was that Gregorius often went unrewarded when he hit the ball on the nose.

Gregorius registered 56 hard-hit balls this past season, 30 of which went for base hits, so he hit .536 when hitting the ball hard.

That’s an unusually low number. The average major leaguer hits around .700 on his hard-hit balls. And Gregorius has hit that mark before. In fact, in 2013, he recorded the same number of hard-hit balls. They resulted in 39 base hits.

Had Gregorius fared that well in 2014, he’d have hit .259 -- a vast difference from .226.

He also probably would have hit a few more home runs. A look at Gregorius' spray chart shows a number of just-misses -- balls hit hard and hit to the deepest part of the outfield that were turned into outs.

Though Chase Field is a friendly ballpark for left-handed hitters, Yankee Stadium rates even more so. Some of those just-misses could have done major damage in the
Bronx.

Based on Simon's research, Gregorius has hidden value. It's unclear how much playing time Gregorius will receive, but there is some upside here for deeper leagues. Gregorius' hard hit rate is right up there with the top hitters in the sport, and Yankee stadium is an excellent park to hit in for left handed hitters.

GM Brian Cashman also thinks Gregorius has room for improvement offensively. Cashman said,

"We believe that there's more gas in the tank in terms of his development on the offensive side…He's not a finished product."

If you are in a deep league in 2015 and find yourself struggling to find a decent play at middle infield, Gregorius may provide good value for the slot he's currently being valued at.