Lourde Gurriel Jr has provided a much needed spark since the Toronto Blue Jays called him back up
On May 24, 2019 the Blue Jays recalled Lourdes Gurriel Jr.from AAA Buffalo. He had been sent down back on April 15. During his 5 1/2 week absence, the Jays had a Gurriel jr bobblehead stadium giveaway. While it may have been somewhat embarrassing to the organization to have a Gurriel jr bobblehead while Gurriel himself was down at AAA, the organization must recognize his talent and popularity to feature him in a giveaway in only his second season in MLB.
Prior to his demotion, Gurriel jr was used as a second baseman. He had been having trouble making routine throws from second to first. The organization sent him down, in large part, to work in his defence to be able to help the Jays once they brought him back up.
While he was there, he was also used in the outfield. It wasn’t his first time playing outfield. He had previously played 40 games in LF for the Industriales in the Cuban National Series league in the 2015-2016 season prior to defecting.
In 15 games since being back he is batting .309 while slugging an eye popping .709, including 5 HRs, 5 doubles and a triple. If you eliminate pitcher Trent Thornton and his 2 hits in 3 at bats, Gurriel Jr’s 125 wRC+ is the highest on the Jays.
This hot hitting is certainly welcome, especially on a Blue Jays team that ranks at or near the bottom of the American League in most offensive categories. Toronto is currently last in the American League in batting average, OBP, slugging percentage and second last in runs scored.
Since rejoining the Jays, Gurriel jr has been used exclusively in left field. The organization appears to be set in the infield for the forseeable future with Guerrero jr, Biggio, Tellez and Bichette when he is promoted will presumably take Freddy Galvis’ SS job at some point.
The outfield situation is a different story. Toronto has struggled to find outfielders who can stay healthy and play well on both sides of the ball. Kevin Pillar, the Jays opening day CF has been traded to the San Francisco Giants. On the same day of that trade, the ball club announced a 5 year, $52 million contract extension with OF Randal Grichuk. Other outfielders Teoscar Hernandez, Anthony Alford, Billy McKinney, Jonathan Davis and Socrates Brito have split time in 2019 between the Blue Jays and AAA Buffalo. Dalton Pompey continues to try to work his way back from a concussion he suffered in spring training.
It makes sense to take a look at Gurriel Jr out there and see if he could fill this need for them.
Gurriel jr certainly hasn’t looked out of place in left. He has made 100% of the routine plays, 50% of the “even” plays (between 40-60% likelihood) and one unlikely play (between 10-40% likelihood) on a very nice running catch vs the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 8th.
The Blue Jays have made no secret of the fact that 2019 is a rebuilding year for them. The work they are doing this season may not translate in to many wins this season but they hope that it will in future years. The organization’s goal seems to be to put together as much young, controllable talent as possible and develop that talent for the future. Gurriel Jr signed a 7 year, $22 million contract with the Blue Jays as an international free agent back on November 11, 2016, which runs through 2023. In MLB terms, this contract is looking like a steal.
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