Be on the lookout for Yuli Gurriel‘s return to the Astros’ lineup reasonably soon. Like, the next game kind of soon.
The Astros are heading home following Wednesday’s afternoon game in Minnesota to take on the Rangers. Their return to Minute Maid Park, in this instance, isn’t an important or noteworthy one. Another regular season series at the beginning of the regular season.
But there is one return you should pay attention to this Friday: Yuli Gurriel.
Yes, you read that tweet from Brian McTaggart of MLB.com right. Gurriel, who had left-hand surgery to remove the hook of the hamate bone earlier this year, is expected to return to the Astros’ lineup this Friday. He has spent his time on the DL following his reinstatement from the Restricted List earlier this month.
And we all remember the incident behind the Restricted List visit. Regardless of whether you agree or not with the manner of how the Astros and Major League Baseball handled the entire situation, the incident and punishment are now in the past.
Regarding actual on-field impact, the return of Gurriel is an important one for Houston.
The Astros have experienced an uptick in strikeouts this season, and Gurriel isn’t known for striking out. In fact, he only struck out 11% of the time last year. Strikeouts, in general, can be overanalyzed, especially regarding offensive production. However, Houston’s increase in this category cannot be completely ignored. In short, Gurriel’s return should help mitigate the strikeout issue.
His right-handed bat also fits in nicely as the fifth hitter in the lineup in various matchups, especially with left-handed pitchers. For example, Marwin Gonzalez, a switch-hitter, isn’t as effective swinging as a right-handed hitter as he is from the left side. Gonzalez has also played eight games at first base along with an occasional appearance by J.D. Davis. Gurriel’s return will allow manager AJ Hinch more flexibility in determining how to utilize Gonzalez in various matchups. These Astros value flexibility.
Overall, Gurriel’s return is a good one for an offense that has truly yet to click in 2018. By adding his bat back into the middle of the lineup, the Astros’ offense everyone loved from 2017 is one step closer to coming back.
**Statistics and information courtesy of FanGraphs and MLB.com**