In his sixth season, Astros’ Yuli Gurriel has taken on a new role, best at the dish.
Let’s unpack the 2017 Rookie of the Year candidate’s career-year and his future with the Astros, after having his team option picked up for 2022.
Gurriel had a year, not just at the plate but also in the field. Gurriel beat out two other finalists to earn his first Gold Glove at first base, the Astros second all-time at that position, while he is now the oldest first baseman in MLB history to win the honor.
The 37-year-old also won the American League batting crown hitting .319 for the season, beating out fellow Astro Michael Brantley who was also in the chase. Gurriel also had a career-best OPS+ at 131, besting his monster year in 2019 while also having a career-high in OBP at .383.
One key component that led to his superior OBP was his patience at the plate, which earned him another career high in walks with 59, as 37 was his previous career high. Gurriel also had a career-best 169 hits.
Other notable stats for Gurriel this year include his decent production of 15 home runs and 81 RBI, both being his third-best.
Astros fans were hopeful he would build upon his ’19 season stats or stay close to them but he fell short of those power numbers this season, yet made up for it all with his hits and OBP, which resulted in almost the same amount of runs scored this season. Regardless of who your favorite player is on the Astros, fans certainly have a newfound respect and perhaps favorite in Gurriel.
In the postseason, Gurriel’s hitting and success were unchanged. Gurriel hit .311 for the postseason with one home run and 10 RBI. Like many Astros, his best series was against the Boston Red Sox, where the right-hander hit .455 with a home run and six RBI, over the course of 10 hits with only one strikeout.
Even though he only hit .273 against the Atlanta Braves in the World Series, he was still one of the top performing hitters for the Astros with six hits and three runs scored. One criticism of Gurriel this season and postseason has been hit clutch hitting and power numbers going down.
However, Gurriel had just as productive of a postseason as ever, despite hit power numbers this season dropping from 31 home runs in 2019 to 15 this year. Gurriel’s 10 RBI was his second-best postseason of his career, while also slashing three-run home run against the Red Sox.
The Astros have retained Gurriel for another season, picking up his $8 million team option prior to going into the winter meetings. At 37, questions remain about how long he can perform at a high level, and general manager James Click might be waiting to see how ’22 pans out to sign Gurriel to a longer contract, at most I could see three years.
His deal could be similar to the current one he is on, where he would be guaranteed two years and have club options for a year or two. As for me, I hope Gurriel can produce and continue to be productive into his 40s, but he will get some competition from younger players trying to break through to the big leagues in spring training, such as Taylor Jones.
If Gurriel can hit in the 20s in home runs and stay up in the 80s in RBI, I don’t see any reason to doubt he won’t return after the ’22 season. However, if his power numbers drop again and his RBI production slows, it might be time to see him platoon with a younger bat.
Including Gurriel, the Astros have seven finalists for the All-MLB team: Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers Jr., Ryan Pressly, Kyle Tucker and Gurriel. You can vote here.