The Houston Astros under the mind of Jeff Luhnow landed and developed some of the best in- house products in the past decade. One name seems to fly under the radar of opposing fans, that is Yuli Gurriel. While being signed in the summer of 2016 as an international free agent, Gurriel was 32-years-old and starting a new chapter in his major league career.
Although dominating baseball leagues internationally, the big right-hander finally got his chance to play in the best baseball league in the world nearing his mid 30s. At this point in his career, Gurriel is being seen as a shell of what he once was from his 2020 numbers, when in reality, he is getting better. All in all, Gurriel would’ve been better than Albert Pujols, if he had defected from Cuba earlier in his career.
While looking like a shot in the dark, the numbers show that Yuli Gurriel could’ve been a better player than Albert Pujols.
This theory all started as a fun joke, after Gurriel was showing glimpses of a young Pujols in his 2017 season, but now, I’m all in. I know there will be backlash in my opinion on the subject, and Pujols was one of the most dominate players in baseball history for 10+ years but take a look at their numbers side-by-side.
While Gurriel dipped his feet in major league water for the first time in 2016, I’m not going to look at these numbers, as he only played in 36 games. The right-hander would go on to finish fourth in AL Rookie of the Year voting the next season at 33-years-old. The ages for the matchup seasons are what each player finished the desired year as.
Pujols: .258/.330/.437, 116 OPS+, 17 home runs, 64 RBIs
Gurriel: .299/.332/.486, 121 OPS+, 18 home runs, 75 RBIs
Pujols: .272/.324/.466, 126 OPS+, 28 home runs, 105 RBIs
Gurriel: .291/.323/.428, 105 OPS+, 13 home runs, 85 RBIs
Pujols: .244/.307.480, 118 OPS+, 40 home runs, 95 RBIs
Gurriel: .298/.343/.541, 127 OPS+, 31 home runs, 104 RBIs
Pujols: .268/.323/.457, 113 OPS+, 31 home runs, 119 RBIs
Gurriel: .232/.274/.384, 76 OPS+, 6 home runs, 22 RBIs (60-game season)
Pujols: .241/.286/.386, 80 OPS+, 23 home runs, 101 RBIs
Gurriel: .349/.455/.566, 191 OPS+, 4 home runs, 16 RBIs (in progress)
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While playing foreign baseball, Gurriel slashed .336/.417/.579 in 15 seasons, which is unbelievably dominant. The big question is whether or not it would’ve translated to MLB, but we will never know what the right-hander could’ve accomplished, if he defected sooner. The numbers are close, so you can make the final judgement whether they would’ve both been in the same conversation in their primes.
Gurriel was never the monstrous home run hitter that Pujols once was, but these side-by-side comparisons should help you see my point. Even though Gurriel might’ve not mashed the same amount of long balls or produced the same amount of runs, the right-hander would’ve been in the same conversation of talent and skill, if Gurriel played his prime in MLB. This is all a fun comparison of numbers, so don’t get too upset.