Toronto Blue Jays: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is starting to turn it around
One of the Blue Jays young core players with a baseball pedigree in his bloodlines, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. can bring a lot to the lineup if he is playing on his game. While he may have made his debut as an infielder back in 2018, a few seasons of establishing his identity at the major league level has seen the Cuban native entrench himself as one of the Blue Jays’ prominent outfield options, primarily suiting up in left field.
With the signing of George Springer this off-season, there were some rumours/predictions across the Blue Jays fan base that the team may move Gurriel Jr. towards a potential utility role given his ability to play multiple positions and with the outfield becoming a crowded area. Those rumours did not gain a lot of traction when Springer began the season on the injured list (IL), opening the door for Gurriel Jr., Randal Grichuk, and Teoscar Hernandez to try and establish themselves as the go-to guys beside Springer when he is healthy.
Grichuk and Hernandez had strong starts to the season while Gurriel Jr. struggled out of the gate, straddling the Mendoza line for the entire month of April and early into May. When Springer made his first return, it appeared that Gurriel may be in a tough spot for playing time given how well the others were performing. However, Springer returning to the lineup was short-lived as the quad was still nagging him and he had to return to the IL, where he currently still stands.
Since the Blue Jays returned for their last homestead in Dunedin, something in Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has clicked in that he is not only seeing the ball better at the plate but is also putting some serious power behind his swings.
With these quality at-bats, the long-haired left fielder has seen his slash line climb to .253/.266/.370, gaining almost 50 points in his batting average and OBP and over 100 points in his slugging percentage in just over ten days’ time. The hot streak would continue into New York City yesterday when Gurriel smacked a home run to right-center field, an oppo shot that would give him his fourth home run of the year and his second in as many days. He also currently has 14 RBI on the season with three walks and a .637 OPS. Since May 13th, Gurriel has gone 18 for 44 (.409) with two home runs and four RBI.
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While the slash line is on the lower side when compared to Hernandez, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Marcus Semien, having Gurriel contribute in the bottom half of the lineup and starting to gain momentum is going to benefit the team as they head into June.
The Blue Jays have struggled to get production from the 7th, 8th, and 9th spots in the batting order, with none of these spots sporting an average above .200 or an OBP. over .340. This impacts the team when a pitcher has to face the top of the order a second time, as Semien, Bo Bichette, and Guerrero Jr. have limited runners on base before them through the second, third, and fourth time through the lineup.
With Gurriel being able to get on base and putting himself in position to score when the top of the lineup turns over, solo home runs or doubles into the gap could score an extra run, which could be the difference-maker between heading into extra innings and losing in heartbreaking fashion like fans saw last weekend in Tampa. He currently has started 19 games in the sixth spot in the order but has started 13 games in the seventh spot and five games in the eighth spot, with the most production coming from being seventh in the order (.278/.278/.426 with a .704 OPS).
Having Lourdes Gurriel Jr. starting to produce at the plate will do wonders for a Blue Jays roster that is already boasting one of the top lineups statistically this season; 2nd in home runs (71), 5th in average (.254), 6th in OPS (.751), and 7th in RBI (222). If Gurriel can continue to get on base and keep the rallies going, an already potent Blue Jays offense could see some more run support from the bottom of the order.