After Derek Jeter’s retirement, one of the biggest questions heading into Major League Baseball’s offseason was how the New York Yankees would replace The Captain at shortstop.

Based on previous years, the assumption was that the Yankees would sign an aging free agent such as Hanley Ramirez. However, general manager Brian Cashman decided to take a different route, acquiring Didi Gregorius from the Arizona Diamondbacks in early December as part of a three-team deal.

“I was a little surprised about the trade, I’m not going to lie,” Gregorius recently told Bleacher Report. “Because, you know, it’s the Yankees.”

To be pursued by the Bronx Bombers clearly meant something to the 25-year-old. Meanwhile, that the Yankees traded for Gregorius, of all people, was particularly appropriate.

When the Diamondbacks acquired Gregorius prior to the 2013 season, Kevin Towers, the team’s general manager at the time, said the shortstop reminded him of a young Derek Jeter.

Now, Gregorius is poised to play the same position in the same park occupied by Jeter for the better part of the last 20 years. It goes without saying that he has big shoes to fill, and it’s almost a guarantee that expectations will be unreasonably lofty.

As Jeter’s successor, Gregorius is fully aware he’s in a special and unique situation.

“I don’t look at it as being a long-term replacement, because I’m not really replacing him,” said Gregorius with a chuckle. “It’s not like he’s moving to second or third base.

“But it’s amazing to be playing shortstop for the Yankees after Jeter. I’m pretty sure he’s coming out here [spring training] to talk to the team, and I’m sure he’ll have advice for me, and I’ll be asking him questions.”

I broke down Gregorius’ chances of being the Yankees’ long-term fix at shortstop back in December:

Gregorius has always drawn rave reviews for his defense at shortstop, which is more or less the reason he’s now been included in two separate three-team trades in the last three years.

Gregorius has impressive range in all directions as well as natural fluidity at the position, and the defensive metrics support his reputation as a strong defender at shortstop.

Specifically, FanGraphs’ overall defensive rating (3.9 Def, min. 1,000 innings) for Gregorius over the last two seasons places him ahead of guys like Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Adeiny Hechavarria and—wait for it—Derek Jeter.

While Gregorius has already received high praise for his slick glove, the Yankees are hopeful his bat eventually will catch up.

There’s something to be said for Gregorius’ ability to consistently post an extra-base hit rate above 50 percent (he posted a 51 percent clip in 2013 and followed it with 58 percent last season). But with 13 career home runs in 724 plate appearances, Gregorius is unlikely to offer much over-the-fence power in his career.

Yet as a left-handed hitter who hits a lot of fly balls, it’s possible that Gregorius might enjoy a slight power spike playing at Yankee Stadium, which, coincidentally, was the scene of his first MLB home run on April 18, 2013.

“I’m looking forward to hitting at Yankee Stadium,” said Gregorius. “Everybody talks about the short porch in right field, but I’m not going to become a dead-pull hitter. Maybe I’ll hit a line-drive home run, you never know; but I’m planning on using the entire field.”

One area of focus for Gregorius moving forward will be improving against same-sided pitching, as he enters the 2015 season with a .184 batting average, zero home runs and 25 percent strikeout rate in 180 career plate appearances against southpaws.

“I focused on that this offseason because I’ve really never seen a lot of left-handed pitching, and you can’t get comfortable against them if you’re not seeing them,” stated Gregorius.

“I worked with Giants hitting coach Henry Meulens, and he helped me learn to stay closed against lefties, and I’ve already been talking about it with the hitting coaches here, too. So we’re making improvements.”

The Yankees’ decision to gamble on Gregorius’ age and upside was a healthy risk, as he’s a guy with five years of team control who can offer modest power from the left side of the plate to go along solid baserunning and defense.

From Joel Sherman of the New York Post:

A person familiar with the way the Yankees rate players say they add points to a player’s offensive ability based on how much he helps on defense, and that is why they had such interest in Gregorius. Plus, the Yankees feel it is hard to find offense in this market, particularly at shortstop. A team can improve by scoring more or giving up less. The Yankees believe Gregorius will help them give up less while still having the chance to grow into a competent hitter.

Gregorius knows the unavoidable comparisons to Jeter are likely to follow him through his first season in New York, and he’s eager to distinguish himself on the field from the future Hall of Famer. However, he also has a realistic grasp of the situation.

“I’m not going to put pressure on myself,” he said. “I’m just going to relax and play the game right and be the best I can be whenever I go out there. Don’t worry about anything else; just go game by game.”

For Gregorius, succeeding Jeter at shortstop for the Yankees is an afterthought to proving he’s an everyday player.

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