Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Has Bounced Around The Infield Since His Debut Last April, And It Appears That Won’t Be Changing Anytime Soon
The Cuban-native signed a seven-year deal with the Blue Jays back in 2016, and management already knew back then how good of a hitter he was capable of becoming. However, there’s still a big part of Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s game that is missing. That part is finding which position he’s best suited for given his defensive skills.
Coming up through the minor leagues, Gurriel Jr. was positioned at shortstop and second base. But, he has yet to develop into a quality defender. If it weren’t for his hitting ability, he would most likely still be in the minor leagues. Last season with the Blue Jays, he split his time between shortstop and second base, just like he did throughout the minor leagues.
Gurriel Jr.’s defensive numbers from a season ago, are likely why the Blue Jays are open to positioning him somewhere else. According to Fangraphs, Gurriel Jr. recorded a worse completion percentage on routine plays last season, than Jose Reyes did during the 2014 season. Let me further explain this for you. So, Fangraphs calculates the difficulty of each ball put in play and gives it a rating and a percentage. They give a percentage of difficulty between 90-100% to routine type plays that occur. Meaning, those plays should be pretty easy to convert on.
So, Gurriel Jr. recorded a 92.2% completion percentage on routine plays in 351.1 innings at shortstop last season. In comparison, Reyes recorded 96.9% on routine plays in 1243.2 innings in 2014 with the Blue Jays. Now, I know right away most people will point towards the fact that Reyes played in a lot more innings than Gurriel Jr. But, that doesn’t change the fact about how similar they’re when it comes to defense. It also shows even with how poorly a defender Reyes was with the Blue Jays, he still recorded more outs on routine plays than Gurriel Jr. did.
Why was Gurriel at first base instead of Tellez last night? Montoyo said he wanted to see how he'd do over there. #BlueJays committed to turning him into super utility player so that was the reasoning.
— Gregor Chisholm (@gregorMLB) April 5, 2019
Although, Gurriel Jr.’s tools at the plate are what’s keeping him in the lineup consistently. Those tools are also what make him a candidate to transition into a super-utility player. The eleven home runs, 35 RBI and .281 BA in 65 games last season are why Charlie Montoyo wants to keep him in the lineup everyday. But making him into a super utility infielder might not be the worse idea either, and here’s why:
If you look at the last four teams to win the World Series, they all have had super-utility player on their roster. Everywhere from Brock Holt on the Red Sox, to Marwin Gonzalez on the Astros and Ben Zobrist on the Royals and Cubs. Each of these teams had a player who was versatile all around the diamond. But, he also was a key contributor at the plate as well.
While these players don’t give you Gold Glove-caliber defense at one position. They do give you the flexibility throughout your roster. That then allows you to give your other key players more playing time at one position, while also keeping that other key bat in your lineup as well.
In today’s game, it’s all about flexibility and creating the best lineup of nine players that you can with it. But when you have multiple quality players at one position, then you’re going to have to utilize that flexibility with your lineup. Which is exactly the case with the Blue Jays, Gurriel Jr. is a very good hitter, but his defensive skills aren’t as good as some of the prospects that they have in their minor-league system. So instead of choosing one player over the other, the Blue Jays are putting a plan in place to defuse that conflict. Which will likely benefit them long-term as well with their goal of getting back to meaningful baseball.
*Featured Image Credit: Roy Widrig
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My name is Thomas Hall. I’m a former graduate of Sheridan College. I’ve been writing for just over 2 years. My most recent writing stint came at The Sporster. I’m also a massive sports fan, obviously baseball and the Blue Jays are No. 1 for me. But, football, basketball and hockey aren’t far behind.