Didi Gregorius hit .252 with 7 home runs and 28 RBI in his first season with the Arizona Diamondbacks while playing a pretty solid shortstop.
At 23, though, the expectation is he still has room to improve, and that may be why ESPN.com's David Schoenfield, in a piece titled, "Ten breakout players to watch for 2014", has Gregorius on the list.
When Kevin Towers acquired Gregorius from the Reds last offseason in a three-team deal, the trade was widely criticized since Arizona surrendered Trevor Bauer, the third overall pick in the 2011 draft. But Towers loved Gregorius' defense and Bauer had worn out his welcome in Arizona. Gregorius missed some time with injuries as a rookie but showed more potential with the bat than many expected, hitting .252/.332/.372, and showing the ability to turn on some pitches with seven home runs.
He's never going to be an offensive star, but he puts the ball in play, and if he can improve against left-handers (.200/267/.245), his numbers will look pretty good for a shortstop. If his defensive proves to be as strong as Towers sold us on them (the defensive runs saved metric had him at minus-1 run in 2013), he has a chance to be a very good player. His fantasy value may be limited by his lack of offensive skills, but I believe Gregorius can turn into a championship-caliber shortstop.
Gregorius' first season with the D-backs got off to a torrid start, but his batting average declined each month and he drove in just nine runs after the All-Star break.
But, the D-backs acquired him because of his defensive prowess, and nothing Gregorius did last season should make anyone doubt he'll be an effective middle infielder for years to come.
And if Schoenfield is right, the shortstop will begin to put it all together this coming season.