With the historic London Series only a few days away, we continue the Bat Flips and Nerds player previews with a look at the two shortstops likely to be playing in London on 29/30 June.
Team: Boston Red Sox
Height: 185cm (6’ 1”)
2019 salary: $12 million (signed a six-year, $120 million contract for 2020-25)
At half of the size of the Isle of Wight and lying 18 miles off the coast of Venezuela, the tiny island of Aruba has produced five MLB players, the most successful of whom is Xander Bogaerts.
MLB is blessed with an excellent crop of shortstops, and Bogaerts is one of the finest. He leads the position with .372 OBP over the last 12 months, to go along with an impressive tally of 26 homers, 97 runs and 110 RBI.
Bogaerts has represented the Netherlands on three occasions, including in their successful 2011 World Cup campaign.
Loyalty matters and the right-hander made it perfectly clear that he wanted to stay in Boston, so the Red Sox lost no time in locking up their shortstop to a six-year, $120 million extension. So, although he is earning $12 million this season, Bogaerts will get a cool $20 million in each of the next six years.
His knack for getting on-base at the heart of the potent Red Sox lineup has resulted in Bogaerts leading the AL with runs scored this season. Don’t be surprised if he is driven in a couple of times during the London Series.
Team: New York Yankees
Height: 190cm (6’ 3”)
From: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2019 salary: $11.75 million (free agent at the end of this season)
The London Series represents the first time MLB will be played in Europe. Didi Gregorius is one of the few current Major League players born in Europe, in Amsterdam to be precise. The greatest hitter to have hailed from the Netherlands underwent Tommy John surgery last year but has now returned to the Yankees lineup.
Had it not been for Gregorius’s family moving from the Netherlands to the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao when he was five, it is very unlikely that he would be the Yankees shortstop.
“In Curaçao and Aruba, you get a bat when you are 5 years old. In the Netherlands, you get a football and start kicking it around.”
Mariekson Julius Gregorius adopted the nickname “Didi” after US teammates struggled to pronounce “Mariekson”.
He was acquired by the Yankees to fill the impossible void left by Derek Jeter’s retirement. After a year of acclimatisation, the left-hander slugged 20-plus home runs in each of the next three seasons. Jeter only broke the 20 home run mark three times in his illustrious 20-year career.
Like Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, Gregorius represented the Netherlands in their triumphant 2011 World Cup run although injuries prevented him appearing in the 2013 World Baseball Classic and then cut short his attendance at the 2017 event.
With Gregorius unavailable to start the season, the Yankees picked up veteran shortstop Troy Tulowitzki as a stopgap. The five-time All-Star of Polish descent was a dynamic shortstop in his prime, but injuries all too often curtailed his seasons. Tulo is recovering from an ankle injury, so it is unclear whether he will travel to London.
The smart money is on Gregorius playing shortstop in the London Series, but with Gleyber Torres or DJ LeMahieu available, Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone has three elite options for the two middle infield spots.
Watch out for the rest of our player profiles and make sure you follow @BatFlips_Nerds on Twitter to keep up-to-date with all of the latest London Series news.