I spent 24 hours, and I wish I had more hours, writing and rewriting this post for you. This is a tough cat to understand. So many things point to positives, but there are still a few underlying issues that make you wonder if it’s real. Since being recalled from minors Lourdes Gurriel Jr., of the Swinging Gurriels, is destroying baseballs at a .355/.401/.739 clip with 14 HRs in 152 PAs. That would roughly pace him for a 60 HR season. No big deal right? He might be the hottest bat in all the land.
So obviously that can’t continue, nothing lasts forever, and the magic doesn’t seem quite as, well, magical after that first date. BUT! Sometimes you find that special something — that certain je ne sais quoi, that spark — that keeps the fire burning long after the fireworks. Ya feel me? Unlike your so-called friends that say what you want to hear, I’ll tell you the truth. How do I say this? This might not be the Gurriel you want, but he might be the Gurriel you need (to win).
On this table, I included only his stats since returning from the minors May 24th in order to underscore how ridiculously hot he has been. He spent all those late nights, making things right; and now its all good baby. At the time of writing this, he currently ranked 11th on the 30-day player rater, he’s kinda a big deal right now. The last 6 weeks for him have been a tour de force. His BABIP is certainly a bit high, but even with that regressing to last year’s level, it would still leave him above .300 for that period. Post-recall, he’s been a totally different hitter compared to last year. Maybe we should call him Douglas Quaid.
|Barrel%||Exit Velo||Launch Angle||HardHit%||FB%||HR/FB%|
Another graduate of the School for the Launch Angle Challenged. He’s getting better, harder contact and more lift. Gurriel is riding an inflated HR/FB ratio that is a bit high, not too crazy, which supports a lot of his new found power but it should level out some the rest of the way, down to around a respectable 20% (Tommy La Stella is currently at 19.3%). The slight tick down in average exit velo is distracting a bit due to his slow start; it was an impressive 92.4 in June.
|2018 vs Breaking||2||.232||.329||0.0||29.4|
|2018 vs Offspeed||2||.244||.400||2.2||32.6|
|2019 vs Breaking||8||.338||.800||4.3||22.9|
|2019 vs Offspeed||2||.348||.696||8.0||20.0|
Against breaking balls, he’s raised his launch angle from 11 to 22. Just like with Ketel Marte, he is crushing breaking balls now when it used to be his biggest weakness. He already has 8 HR off of those pitches with a .800 SLG, and a combined 12.3% walk rate on non-fastballs when it was 2.2% before. Specifically against sliders this season, Gurriel is batting .356 with a .933 SLG and .578 ISO (last year he was .250/.339/.089). That’s a massive improvement, he’s a better Ketel than Ketel; Teapot? Crockpot? but he’s not a load of crock.
Maybe I know he breaks breakers. Maybe I know his LA is up. Maybe he’s missing fastballs. Maybe his Ks are up. As good as the news is on his discipline vs secondary pitches, his average against fastballs is down over 50 pts to .255 compared to .313 last year. This includes an increase in Whiff% from 14.3% to 26.8% on fastballs. He could be exposed and be vulnerable to heaters up in the zone, but he is absolutely dominating things down in the zone and middle-in. However, his chase rate on pitches outside and away has been cut in half.
What I do know, is he producing much better contact across the board, and when you make good contact usually good things happen. Players like Javier Baez have made a living with a free-swinging approach and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. could be the next. There might be some league-wide subtext to this; players focusing on a more launch angle-centric approach seem to be putting their bats in a better position to make good contact on breaking balls when they used to swing over the top of them or get weak contact. At the end of the season, I’ll be interested to see if performance against breaking balls has gone up across the league, due to this trending philosophy. UPDATE: he just jammed his wrist on defensive play at the end of the week, so it’s worth watching how that will affect his hitting this weekend.