After struggling early, Lourdes Gurriel Jr has bounced back and claimed his spot on the Blue Jays roster
It was an up and down season for Lourdes Gurriel Jr. both literally and figuratively speaking.
Gurriel’s rookie season 2018 was highlighted by setting a rookie record with 11 straight games with multiple hits. He finished the season with a .755 OPS, and a 106 OPS +.
Defensively in 2018 he split time between SS and 2B and struggled at times, finishing the season with -9 DRS.
He broke camp with the Blue Jays out of spring training in 2019 and he was the starting 2B for them on opening day. Unfortunately things didn’t go well for him early in the season. On April 14 he was batting .175 with a .525 OPS.
He also had his struggles defensively. After making a throwing error on a routine ground ball, manager Charlie Montoyo took him out of the game in favour of Alen Hanson. Soon afterwards, the Jays optioned Gurriel to AAA.
The 25 year old had played left field back in his native Cuba before coming to MLB. Considering his defensive struggles at 2B and the fact that it was only a matter of time before middle infield prospects Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio would be called up to the majors, giving Gurriel a chance to play LF seemed like a no brainer.
Gurriel was recalled on May 24, along with Cavan Biggio who made his MLB debut. Upon returning to MLB, Gurriel was used in left field. It proved to be a good move for him and the team. He had nine outfield assists (which led all MLB left fielders in spite of not having enough innings played to be a qualifier) to go with a 1.000 fielding percentage. His 1.68 range factor would be 5th best among qualifying LFs.
According to Inside Edge Fielding, he made 100% of the routine plays, 83% of plays with a 40-90% likelihood, and 40% of “unlikely” plays with only a 10-40% chance of being made.
From the time he was called back up until the end of his season, he was a different hitter, with a slash line of .393/.414/.964.
Gurriel finished the 2019 season with a slash line of .277/.327/.541. His wRC+ of 124 was fourth best on the Jays, third if you eliminate pitcher Trent Thornton‘s 274 in three at bats.
For me, the only remaining concern regarding Gurriel is his durability. He has already missed a significant amount of time in his professional career due to injuries.
In his first three years in the Blue Jays organization from 2017-2019, Gurriel has had four separate DL/IL stints due to various leg injuries. He also spent time on the 7 day concussion DL in July of 2018 after colliding with Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez at 1st base. On September 24, 2019, Gurriel had his appendix removed which ended his season.
The organization has certainly had other talented players who, for one reason or another couldn’t seem to stay healthy (Devon Travis, Dalton Pompey to name a couple). The reality is if you can’t stay on the field, you can’t contribute. Late in the 2019 season, the Jays had Gurriel play LF even though they knew he wasn’t 100% recovered from injury. The idea was for him to learn how to play when he isn’t completely healthy. It’s unfortunate that his season once again ended early, this time due to the appendicitis.
Gurriel found his stride as an MLB hitter in 2019. As a left fielder he fills a need for the team in a position he plays well. Under team control through 2024, as long as he stays healthy, you can pencil him in at left field for years to come.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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