Yuli Gurriel became a World Series hero for the Houston Astros, now they are testing him out as a backup middle infielder.
The Houston Astros have one of the best middle infield duos in the game with Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. They also have a rising star in Alex Bregman at third base. There are not too many Open spots around the infield with Yuli Gurriel expected to play first base. Don’t forget about super utility guy Marwin Gonzalez who can play almost anywhere.
According to Jake Kaplan, A.J. Hinch informed Gurriel that he would play other infield positions this Spring. No, they are not looking for him to replace one of those stars, but just to increase his defensive flexibility. Right now Mr. Flexible is Gonzalez, but he will be a free agent after this season.
The acquisition of Gonzalez in 2012 could be one of the big reasons that the Astros won the World Series last year. While he is not really an everyday player, the ability to play around the field is not easy to find. With that said, his value after this season could land him a bigger deal elsewhere.
A backup plan.
While the Astros players have talked about building a dynasty, not every player will be able to stick around. Gonzalez may be on the move, so his role on the team with a need to be filled. On Talking Stros, we have suggested a player like Tyler White or Tony Kemp filling that super utility role. I would not have considered that Gurriel could fit in that role.
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Assuming a player can automatically pick up a new position is not always the case. However, Hinch wants to give Gurriel some playing time at second base and maybe see what he looks like at shortstop. He already can play first and third, but I’m not sure he could pick up playing the outfield as Gonzalez can.
While Gurriel may not play too much second base or shortstop, just the added value will increase his value for the team. There are always injuries and who knows, A.J. Reed or White could force their way on the roster with a hot start to the season. Gurriel will miss the first five games of the season, so there will be another hitter on the roster in his place.
After a mildly disappointing debut with the Astros in 2016, Gurriel hit .299 last year with 18 homers and 75 RBIs. His nickname is the pineapple due to his hairstyle. Gurriel has three years left on his deal, so it is possible that he could be part of 1-2 World Series titles. Having multi-positional players on the roster helps with the depth. If needed, here comes Gurriel to save the day.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***