Astros: Yulieski Gurriel, Future AL Rookie of the Year?
Is it possible for someone, like a certain Astros batter, to be so well-known to the public yet fly under the radar?
Such is the case with Astros’ corner infielder Yulieski Gurriel. After signing a five-year, $47.5 million deal last July, the baseball world was well aware of the Cuban superstar, but this year Yuli has quietly been the one of if not the best player on the team. In fact, if he keeps it up, he could potentially be in serious contention for the AL Rookie of the Year. Let’s look at some of the competition that Gurriel faces for the prestigious award.
The current favorite for the 2017 AL Rookie of the Year is none other than Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi. This consistent hitter has already started the year on a tear, hitting .329 with a solid .818 OPS while being one of the few hitters to contribute well to the underwhelming Boston offense. He is a current stud and a future superstar for years to come with the Red Sox.
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Another outfielder in the AL East, Aaron Judge, has seen his Rookie of the Year possibility gain steam after a hot start to the season. Judge is currently tied for the league lead in home runs with nine while posting an impressive 1.081 OPS. Being under the bright lights of New York certainly helps his chances of bringing home the award and his early season trend supports it as well.
It would be a shame to leave top-three prospect Yoan Moncada off this short list of potential AL Rookie of the Year candidates. While he is currently not on the roster for the Chicago White Sox, it should not be long before he sees a regular amount of at-bats at second base or even the outfield. This five-tool athlete disappointed in his very brief major league stint last year, but expect him to come back with a vengeance when gets the call-up.
Gurriel has arguably had the best start to the season out of all the potential AL Rookie of the Year candidates. He has slashed .347/.365/.514 and is actually just getting comfortable for the surging Astros. His fielding at first base has also been fantastic for it being his initial time playing the position ever in his professional career. Should Yuli continue to tear the cover off the ball and maybe draw more walks (only one through twenty games), he may bring home the award to Houston.
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If Gurriel indeed does win the award, it would be the second Rookie of the Year winner in three years for the Astros with Carlos Correa winning it in 2015. At 32, Gurriel would also be one of the oldest players to win the award, tied with Sam Jethroe and Kazuhiro Sasaki. He is also barely eligible for the award after having exactly 130 at-bats last season, the maximum allowed. No matter the outcome for Gurriel, his contributions to the team have been a definite plus for the Houston Astros.
*Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference*