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Astros: Yuli Gurriel - Utility Player?

First, I am going to repeat the opening I gave when discussing Yuli in November. You probably will want to read that as well.


I LOVE Yuli Gurriel and what he has done for our Astros team and for the City of Houston. He has helped build connections to other Cuban players and helped them decide to come play for the Houston organization. He is loved in the city of Houston in general. He had a tremendous post season in 2022.


That is what makes discussing the merits of Yuli returning difficult as we are planning for the 2023 Houston Astros season. With that being said, I have a warning.


WARNING- Signing Yuli Gurriel as a Utility Player will make the Astros WORSE!


Do not believe me; read below.


Astros Twitter and even the Astros Front Office seem fixated on something that makes ZERO sense - Yuli Gurriel as a Utility Player. I think the Front Office is actually just saying this and they don't REALLY mean it.


Some state they don't care just let Yuli sit on the bench and be ready to shine when needed. In the modern construction of the active roster an MLB team carries 13 position players. One cannot have a player they intend to start in 20 or less games on the bench because he can only play one position and play it poorly at best.


For the Astros the bench will be

- Backup Catcher- Diaz, Lee, or someone else

- Jake Meyers if healthy- fourth OF

- Mauricio Dubon- OF/IF utility player

- David Hensley- IF Utility with limited exposure to LF

OR could it include someone else?


When people discuss a utility player, they usually mean a player that can play adequate defense in at least three positions. I have reviewed the defensive history of the current "utility" players and compared them to Yuli. Here is how I would rate the them position by position (10 Great- 1 Terrible).

Instantly, you are going to argue the rating is too harsh on Yuli. First, let's show how many innings these players have at each position in 2020 to 2022 from AA to the MLB. Can we agree the basic requirement of being a utility player for a position would be experience at the position in the recent past?

In the last three seasons Yuli has not played anything but a couple of innings at 1B while EVERY other possible "utility player" on this list has at least two or more positions they have played 20+ games.


You will object- "of course Larry! Yuli was busy at 1B, so he didn't play other positions." So why do we think he CAN EFFECTIVELY at age 39?


In fact, how did it go the last time Gurriel played significant innings at other positiions?

Year - Position

Innings

DRS

OAA

​UZR/150

2018- 2B

101

-2

-2

-26

Project Season

< -20

< -20

2019- 3B

328

-3

-2

-21

Project Season

< -12

< -8

EVEN IF, you can somehow convince yourself that you want to try Yuli at 2B and 3B as his utility roles anyway, why would you?


Here are the relative BATTING stats for the possible utility players.

This franchise has to decide are they going to give younger players a chance to fill even backup roles, or do they want aging veterans in those roles. When you look at the performance in 2022 and the projections for 2023, allocating resources to Yuli who is not even the best expected hitter of this group make no sense.


Every option on that chart projects to be close to even BETTER than Gurriel in 2023.


As stated initially, the Astros will have a bench of 4 players. This is the priority order for these players on the 26-man active roster.

  1. Meyers or McCormick will be the 4th OF (the other will start). Meyers projects to hit 97 wRC+ and is a great OF if healthy.

  2. Diaz is likely to be on the 2023 Astros or Korey Lee will. Diaz projects to be the best bat on the bench.

  3. Dubon WILL be on this team as he was tendered arbitration. (I guess he could be traded, but that is unlikely.) If the Astros got a 97 wRC+ hitting Dubon with his position flexibility, that would be HUGE and extremely valuable.

  4. One last slot for primarily an IF utility player. This probably means Matijevic starts in AAA. So, do you want Hensley or sign Gurriel for $6-8M?

  5. Gurriel has vastly more experience

  6. Hensley projects to be a better hitter, better fielder with more positional flexibility, and he will make 1/10 of what Gurriel will.

Why is that you all want Gurriel again?


I checked something in my WAR calculator based on PT.


IF the Astros signed Gurriel and gave him 150 PA (100 at 1B, 25 at 2B, and 25 at 3B), the projected WAR for the team WOULD DROP o.3 WAR. Yes, bringing Yuli back as a utility player makes the team marginally WORSE.


Why is that you all want Gurriel again?


Again, I LOVE Yuli Gurriel for what he has done for the Astros. Let's find him a non-playing role and build a future with Gurriel as a consultant/ coach.


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