Gio Urshela and his Improbable Breakout
In a year plagued by numerous injuries, it is remarkable how the Yankees are one of the best teams in the MLB. It seems that when a man goes down, the next one up exceeds expectations. Nobody on this Yankees team has outperformed their expectations more than Gio Urshela.
Before this year, Urshela was not well known by Yankee fans or baseball fans in general. However, he got an opportunity to prove himself when Miguel Andujar went down with a torn labrum in the beginning of the season. This was Urshela’s chance to make a name for himself. He took full advantage of that and is now one of their hottest hitters. Urshela had to go through a rocky road to get to the majors but it seems as though he’s here to say.
Gio Urshela signed as an international free agent in 2009 with the Cleveland Indians and made his professional debut in 2009. He played for the Dominican Summer League Indians and the Arizona League Indians. Urshela made his major league debut on June 8th, 2015. He would finish that season with lackluster numbers. In 81 games he hit only .225 with 6 home runs and 21 RBIs. In 2016, Urshela played in AAA, and didn’t reach the majors again until 2017.
Even in 2017, Urshela did not play a lot as he only made an appearance in 67 games. He did not fair well through those games as his average was only .224 and had an OPS of .551. After a disappointing stint with the Indians, Urshela was traded to the Blue Jays for cash considerations on May 9th 2018. Urshela didn’t see much time in the majors while he was with the Blue Jays. He only played in 19 games and batted .233 with one home run and three RBIs. On August 4th, 2018 Urshela was traded again this time to the New York Yankees.
A New Beginning
Gio Urshela always had a great glove, but his weakness at the plate was his downfall. It was the reason why he could not stay on an MLB roster. However, Yankees, Triple-A hitting coach, Phil Plantier, helped Urshela fix his swing. Plantier emphasized how important using your legs are in your swing. Before Plantier, Urshela did not use his legs much resulting in him not being able to drive the ball. They also worked on his batting stance. Plantier’s coaching seemed to have immediate affect on Urshela as he batted .307 with 2 home runs and 12 RBIs and an .815 OPS in just 27 games. The Yankees were so impressed with his improvement they locked him up on a minor league deal.
Gio Urshela really started to take off in 2019. He took over as the starting 3rd basemen when Miguel Andujar was ruled out for the season. Nothing was ever expected of Urshela. He never played much in the majors and was nothing special to that point. However, he is putting up arguably better numbers than Andujar did in 2018.
Urshela is in the running for the batting title as he is hitting .336. As of now, Urshela would have to average around 3.5 plate appearances a game in order to be eligible to win the title. This is very possible. Urshela doesn’t just have a high batting average but also a very respectable slugging percentage of .567. He has 18 home runs this season as well as 66 RBIs. Urshela had only 8 career home runs prior to this season. He has an OPS of .944 which is considered well above average. His OPS is higher than all-stars such as Nolan Arenado, Mookie Betts, Josh Bell and J.D. Martinez.
Urshela’s Advanced Stats
WAR is a stat that many baseball fans turn to when looking at how good a player is. Gio Urshela has a WAR of 3.4 which is outstanding. To compare, all star 3rd basemen such as Nolan Arenado and Kris Bryant both have 3.5. These players also have roughly 100 more ABs than Urshela does. Since WAR is a cumulative stat its possible that within the same sample size, Urshela would have an even greater WAR than these two stars.
Weighted runs created (wRC+) is another advanced stat used by baseball gurus. The average wRC+ is considered to be 100. Urshela has a wRC+ of 145. This is good for 14th in the MLB among batters with a minimum of 350 PAs. Urshela is ahead of star players such as Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna Jr. and J.D. Martinez. Urshela is showing that even in late August he is still playing at an elite level. Advanced stats and standard stats both show how well Urshela has been all season.
What’s Next for Gio?
It is not clear what is in Gio Urshela’s future. He is under a minor league contract for just this season. However, he is under club control until 2024 due to his service time. With the way he is performing, Urshela will most likely be brought back into the fold next year by the Yankees. It will be interesting to see who the Yankees want as their starting 3rd basemen. Miguel Andujar should be back for the beginning of the the 2020 campaign. If Gio Urshela can keep up his offensive numbers he should be able to keep his starting job. Andujar is too much of a defensive liability and Urshela can hold his own at 3rd base. Andujar would fit much better in the lineup as the primary DH. If Andujar cannot fit as a DH he may be a valuable trade piece as he is only 24 years old.
Gio Urshela has one of the more interesting success stories in the MLB. He spent quite some time in the minors and was struggling. He found new life however, when he joined the Yankees organization. At age 27, Urshela can still play at an All-Star level for years to come. It is going to be exciting to see what he can do for the Yankees or any team he plays for in the future.
Author Twitter: @JackMurph27
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