Over the past several weeks, Yuli Gurriel has been the placeholder in the two-spot in the Houston Astros’ lineup in Michael Brantley’s absence. The coveted two-spot in this particular lineup is protected on either side by the powerful bat of Yordan Alvarez and the veteran Jose Altuve and therefore gives plenty of opportunities to drive in runs and see better pitches than a typical two-hole hitter.
On the face of it, Gurriel’s stats in the two-hole don’t look bad at all compared to his season average. In 27 games in that spot, he has hit .275 with a .653 OPS. The true issue with Gurriel in that position, however, is his power outage, although that happens to be a theme for his whole season. While hitting in the two-spot, Gurriel has a .339 slugging percentage and has driven in just 10 with seven doubles and no home runs.
Gurriel should move from the two spot to the six-hole or lower as he has seen more success in those spots in the lineup. When batting sixth, Gurriel has slashed .292/.344/.504 with an OPS of .849 over 31 games played. He has also hit 12 doubles and four home runs while driving in 15, which greatly dwarfs his production in the two-spot.
Even though he is nearing the end of his career, Gurriel can put a good swing on the ball when he gets a good pitch and he will receive plenty more in the sixth spot as compared to the two-hole. In his first game back in the six-hole on Sunday, Gurriel went 1 for 4 with two RBI in the Astros’ win against Baltimore. He could easily see more time in the six-spot or even the seventh, depending on the version of the lineup Dusty Baker goes with on a given day.
Michael Brantley’s .288 average with five home runs and 26 RBI has been tough to replace and the Astros have tried both Yuli Gurriel and Jeremy Peña in his former spot. Peña has done better in that spot and easily bests Gurriel’s production. Peña hit .278 with seven home runs and 13 RBI, which is more productive than his season average of .244.
Either way, Gurriel should not be in the two-hole as he is much more productive in the six-spot and Peña has done better in the two-hole. Trey Mancini also has hit in the second spot in 60 games this year during his time with Baltimore and hit .264 with 8 home runs and 30 RBI, so he could be an interesting new option for Dusty Baker.