Didi Gregorius Or Chris Owings? The Diamondbacks Dilemma
Didi Gregorius and Chris Owings are competing to be Arizona Diamondbacks’ Opening Day shortstop. Gregorius entered Diamondbacks camp with an advantage due to being a superior defender with a year of big league experience. However, the Dutch shortstop’s late season offensive struggles, coincided with Owings’ summer of awesomeness. Hence, the competition.
The 24-year-old Gregorius started 97 games at short for the Arizona Diamondbacks, posting a .252/.332/.373 line. Consider it a solid performance for a top flight rookie defender. June saw Didi Gregorius‘ production plummet, slashing a paltry .218/.311/.398. Arizona Diamondbacks General Manager Kevin Towers suggested that the league caught up to his young left handed hitting shortstop. Fatigue may have also factored into his dip in production. A look at late season video revealed the re-emergence of poor habits from Gregorius’ time as Cincinnati Reds minor leaguer at the Double-A level.
Scouting Scoop: Didi Gregorius
My first look at Gregorius was with with Cincinnati’s Double A affiliate Pensacola in 2012. Laterally quick and agile, Gregorius put on a show in the field, cementing himself as one of the best defensive shortstops in the upper minors. The bat was more difficult to project though. Didi Gregorius presented with no game plan, gripping and ripping anything close to the strike zone. Gregorius’ back knee collapsed, causing him to swing under pitches. The result was weak popups on the infield. A hitch in his load elongated Didi Gregorius’ swing, making it difficult for him to catch up to premium velocity. Through the flaws, Gregorius’ hand/eye contact was apparent, along with quick hands. At a disadvantage, Gregorius was still able to work deep counts and fight pitches off.
Reviewing 2013 game film, the load hitch was gone, consistent with what a contact said reported after his 2012 stint in the Arizona Fall League. His approach was more refined as well. The Gregorius of May attacked fastballs, especially away, driving balls to the gaps. The Gregorius of August was busted in with fastballs. As the season wore on, his collapsing back knee became more pronounced as well. This negatively affected his extension, resulting in weak popups and fly balls. Pitchers caught on and busted Gregorius middle in. A 0.89 GB:FB ratio will not make for a long, successful career.
Premium defense plus some offensive improvement equals a quality Major League shortstop. Quite often, this is worth more to an organization than a bat first profile like Chris Owings. If Nick Franklin is traded, it will provide insight into the trade value of Owings considering the profiles are similar. In a perfect world, Owings would slide to second base, but with Aaron Hill and Martin Prado signed through 2016, a trade is his best chance for immediate playing time. Expect Didi Gregorius to win the job and lock down the Diamondbacks shortstop position for years to come.
25 Feb 2014 / Chris Blessing /
Categories: MLB Analysis
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