Previewing the Best Candidates to Play 1B For the Houston Astros in 2023
By Alec Brown
4) Yuli Gurriel
I'll preface with this: I believe Yuli Gurriel both will and should re-sign with the Houston Astros next season. That said, if he is the everyday first baseman, something has gone wrong in free agency.
Gurriel, hot postseason or not, is coming off of his worst season at the plate in his career, in the MLB or internationally. He will turn 39 in June of next season. Yes he had a great postseason, but it is a safe bet to assume he will be a below average hitter again if tasked with manning 1B 140+ times again next year.
There aren't many 39-year-olds anywhere putting up big numbers at the plate. Gurriel's season was plagued with soft contact and one can imagine he won't start lacing the ball day-in and day-out as he approaches 40.
So why should be be brought back? I don't believe it a coincidence Gurriel was fantastic in the postseason, slashing .347/.360/.490 with two home runs and only one strikeout in 49 at-bats. The playoffs, by nature, have plenty of built-in off-days for travel. The load is much lighter than the grind of a 162-game regular season. The rest was massive for the aging veteran, as he found the fountain of youth and looked like the hitter 'Stros fans have become accustomed too.
As Jim Crane told MLB.com's Brian McTaggart, Gurriel can also play second and third-base. He's a phenomenal locker room asset and his Cuban connection is vital to a team that has dominated the international market.
If Gurriel is re-signed as an infield utility player, he can spell both Altuve and Bregman for days off, as well as some promising 1B candidates to be touched on later. We may see Gurriel again as a .280 hitter that brings good base-running and leadership in the club house if he plays every second or third day.
Gurriel needs to be an Astro as long as he plays. His international stature is too large to lose. But there are three other options better suited to play first for Houston next season.