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Thoughts on Blue Jays rookie Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

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Assessing the Jays rookie

Tampa Bay Rays v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

A few days ago, a reader asked me for my take on Toronto Blue Jays rookie Lourdes Gurriel, Jr.

The last time I wrote a comment on Gurriel was on the Blue Jays Top 20 list for 2017 with this vague tidbit:

4) Lourdes Gurriel, Jr, INF-OF, Grade B: Age 23, Cuban, signed for $22,000,000 in November; to be perfectly honest this is a placeholder grade and ranking until we get to see how he looks in spring training; despite being one of the more prominent Cuban talents reports are mixed; best tools appear to be arm strength, power potential, and defensive versatility, but opinions vary on how it will all pan out, especially with the bat

As you may recall, things did not go well for Gurriel in his debut: he hit just .229/.268/.339 in 236 at-bats in 2017 between High-A and Double-A with 43 strikeouts and just 12 walks. He made two trips to the disabled list and in general just looked over-matched, though the injuries and a year-long layoff from playing baseball during the leaving-Cuba process were certainly contributing factors.

Entering 2018 I had him rated as a Grade C+ but he landed outside the Jays Top 20 prospects so he didn’t get a write-up.

The 2018 version of Gurriel was much more like the Blue Jays expected: he hit .301/.330/.466 between Double-A and Triple-A, then continued to hit after being promoted to the majors at .281/.309/.446. In 249 major league at-bats he hit 11 homers and posted a wRC+ of 103, though his 9/59 BB/K ratio leaves something to be desired.

Advanced metrics weren’t wild about his infield defense and his overall fWAR came out at 0.4, but overall the season has to be considered a success, especially compared to 2017.

Based on what we know now that he is settled in, I think I would go with a B/B- for a re-grade. I like the power and even with so-so range the defensive versatility is useful. He’s shown he can adapt and make adjustments, which is a good thing because he’s still got some work to do. His approach is quite aggressive and there are enough questions about his ability to handle breaking pitches that linear steps forward are not automatic; there could be some significant ups-and-downs here.

If I had to guess, I’d say he will be about the same in 2019 as he was in 2018, perhaps a little weaker, but then he’ll take a step ahead in 2020. I can see Lourdes being similar to his brother Yuli Gurriel with the Houston Astros, perhaps with more strikeouts and eventually a bit more isolated power.