Astros legend works with Cuban legend at first base
Jeff Bagwell joins the Astros at spring training and works with Yulieski Gurriel at first base.
Have the Houston Astros finally found a steady presence at first base since the Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman days? We have gone through Brett Wallace, Carlos Pena, and many current players including Marwin Gonzalez. Of the names I mentioned, Gonzalez was able to contribute at the plate. The team has also tried Jon Singleton, Tyler White, and A.J. Reed, but none have taken charge yet.
Reed or White could still be the future at first base. But for the start of 2017, Yulieski Gurriel appears to be the guy. Hinch confirmed this via Brian McTaggart. Not only is this the first time that Gurriel has participated in an MLB spring training, but it’s also the first time that he did not represent his home country. As Cuba participated in the World Baseball Classic, Gurriel had to watch them play on TV.
In addition to participating in his first Spring camp with Houston, he is also learning to play first base full-time. In Cuba, he was mostly a third baseman or second baseman. Alex Bregman rose quickly last year to steal third base away from Gurriel, so he will have to adapt. Despite playing in five games last year at first, Gurriel still has a lot to learn the position.
Bagwell shares some defensive tips.
The 2017 MLB Hall of Fame will be welcoming three players in July. One of those players is Houston Astros’ legend, Bagwell. Despite his brief stint as a hitting coach, Bagwell has kept out of the spotlight as much as possible. One thing that he does try to do is be a guest instructor at spring training for a few days. This year, the new Hall of Famer got to work with Gurriel on how to play first base.
We think of Bagwell as a first baseman, but we have to remember that Ken Caminiti was blocking Bagwell at third base. After playing third base mostly, he had to move to first base like Gurriel. So Bagwell was able to help him in footwork and other defensive skills. Via ESPN, Gurriel has enjoyed working with someone he watched as a kid.
Gurriel, the first baseman.
Hinch mentioned that Gurriel is starting to look more comfortable at first base. Before last year, Gurriel had never played first base before. The 32-year-old Gurriel might be better served as the first baseman. Bregman looks to be an above-average third baseman, so you need him there.
Gurriel’s 2016 stats: .262/ 3 HR/ 15 RBIs in only 130 at bats.
Astros fans still don’t know what to expect from Gurriel. The last time he played in Cuba, he batted .500 for that season. Even though he is past his prime, he should still hit for average and mid range power. With Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann joining the team, they will team up with the old rookie as leaders.
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Gurriel didn’t get much of a chance to get off to a hot start last year. A full Spring will help the former Cuban star become more comfortable at the plate. With Bagwell’s brief teaching, maybe he will become that guy to cover first base for the next four years. If not, White and Reed are knocking on the door. I’m excited to see what Gurriel can do offensively.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***