In time, Didi's talents will shine with Arizona
Acquired in trade, shortstop prospect can hone skills in all areas of game
Even though we each experienced Scout School in separate years, we use the same principles taught by the same instructors.
When we meet, we share opinions and review the players we have seen.
It's amazing how often we agree in our evaluations.
During this past Fall League, we were unanimous on the most athletic player we had seen. We concurred that Mariekson "Didi" Gregorius showed outstanding agility, balance, coordination, strength, physical proportion and rhythm.
Gregorius is first and foremost an athlete.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Gregorius doesn't have an unwanted ounce on his well-proportioned body.
Gregorius, who will be 23 in February, is the product of a baseball family. His dad, his uncles and his brother all played baseball in the Netherlands, Gregorius' homeland.
The Cincinnati Reds signed Didi as an international free agent. He began his career by playing 31 games for the Reds' Rookie club in the Gulf Coast League. He hit an unremarkable .155 in 109 plate appearances. Interestingly, he walked and struck out 10 times each. He made 12 errors in 134 chances.
The following season, at age 19, Gregorius showed an improved bat at the Reds' Billings rookie club, hitting .314 in 255 plate appearances. He also played at Class A Sarasota, where he hit .254 in 74 trips to the plate.
To date, Gregorius has played parts of five seasons in his Minor League career. He has a composite .271 batting average covering 1,909 plate appearances.
This past season and prior to his appearance in the Arizona Fall League, Gregorius played eight games with the Reds. He got six hits, all singles, in 21 plate appearances.
Had Gregorius remained in the Reds' organization, the near future may well have produced a position battle with highly regarded shortstop Zack Cozart.
Cozart, now 27, is further along in his offensive development than Gregorius. Cozart is a good fielder with upside remaining in his hitting ability and power potential. In fact, last season Cozart hit 15 homers for the Reds, showing power as an important component of his overall offense. From what I've seen, there is more power to come.
Cozart's best days likely lie ahead. The Reds could have easily chosen to retain Gregorius in their organization, possibly moving Cozart to second or third base. Gregorius would then take over at shortstop, his best position.
Instead, Cincinnati had an opportunity to shore up its offensive production by obtaining left-handed-hitting outfielder Shin-Soo Choo from Cleveland.
The Reds engaged with the Indians and Arizona Diamondbacks in a three-team trade that sent Choo and Jason Donald to Cincinnati from Cleveland, Matt Albers, Bryan Shaw and Trevor Bauer to Cleveland from Arizona, Drew Stubbs to Cleveland from Cincinnati, Lars Anderson and Tony Sipp to Arizona from Cleveland and Gregorius from Cincinnati to Arizona. It's less complicated than it may seem.
The multiple-team transaction addressed needs of all three clubs.
At the time of the trade, many D-backs fans voiced displeasure with losing highly touted pitcher Trevor Bauer for the lesser-known Gregorius.
Their concern was understandable. Bauer was a former first-round Draft selection. In the eyes of many player evaluators, he has top-of-the-rotation upside.
However, I firmly believe that once D-backs fans watch Gregorius play, they will understand how valuable he can be to their club.
At this point, Gregorius is a defense-first shortstop.
The most compelling part of Gregorius in the field is his incredible range to all directions. His first-step speed, quickness and instincts take him to places few shortstops reach. I have seen him handle numerous ground balls behind second base with time to plant his feet and throw.
And can Gregorius throw. His arm strength is close to, if not at the top of the scouting chart. It is his lack of consistent accuracy on his throws that can spell trouble at times. That's the major source of his errors.
Gregorius has the knack of making the hardest possible play look very simple. Upon occasion, he has also been known to botch a simple play.
Spring in his long legs offers Gregorius the ability to make the leaping catch that takes away line-drive base hits.
At the plate, the left-handed-hitting Gregorius can square up pitches and hit line-drive ropes down the right-field line or hit the right-center-field gap.
An intelligent hitter, Gregorius has the patience to be selective at the plate. He works pitchers to deep counts, waiting for a pitch to drive. Most importantly, he doesn't extend his swing to try and hit home runs. At this point, he realizes his best opportunity to generate offense is to remain a line-drive gap hitter. His offense is still under construction.
One part of his game that has not developed is his ability to properly use his speed to steal bases. It isn't that he gets thrown out trying to steal. In my opinion, he just hasn't tried to steal enough.
Gregorius is a good enough athlete to become the focal point of an infield. In fact, I believe his defense is very close to being Major League-ready. He simply must be less careless with his throws.
MLB.com ranks Gregorius as the fourth-best D-backs prospect.
Since Arizona has options at shortstop, when camp breaks, it may not be necessary to begin Gregorius at the Major League level. However, given what I have seen of his ability, it won't be long before he forces his way to the 25-man roster.
If he plays as projected, obtaining Gregorius will make great sense. Shortstops like Gregorius just don't come along very often.