Since June 6, Yuli Gurriel (1B/3B, Houston Astros) is in the top five in home runs, slugging, and RBI and in the top 10 in batting average and wRC+. Prior to June 6, Yuli had only four home runs and a .691 OPS. The turnaround was completely unexpected and has been utterly unbelievable, and it continued last night with yet another surprising performance (2-3, 3 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, BB, SB).
This guy is Carl (yes, that is actually his picture).
Carl is my coworker who loves the Astros and is excited about what Yuli Gurriel is doing. Carl did me a solid at work, and this is how he requested I return the favor. I am not terribly happy about it, as I have little to no idea why or how Yuli is doing all of this. I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY, CARL.
Of all of the surprising changes that Gurriel has made to his stat line, one remains constant: the guy makes a lot of contact. His zone contract rate is at least 80% against every single pitch type he has faced this season, as it has been his entire career. In fact, his zone contact rate is over 90% against every pitch type he’s ever faced in his entire career except for changeups. He does the most damage, though, against fastballs and sliders. He’s slugging .571 and .576, respectively, against them this season, and the vast majority of his home runs have come against those two pitches.
It’s hard to determine if he’ll be able to carry any of this into a future season, though. As I’ve stated many times, stats generally can’t distinguish between a hot streak and a skill chance. Gurriel isn’t hitting any more fly balls than he used to, though his home run to fly ball rate has jumped by 10 points. He isn’t pulling the ball any more than he used to, either, and he’s still popping out more than 13% of the time when he puts the ball in the air (FYI—infield fly ball rate, or IFFB%, is a measurement of infield fly balls divided by fly balls, not balls in play). He’s not even really hitting the ball much harder than he had previously, and below is his average exit velocity and average launch angle by month, which doesn’t really show any changes (except for August, but the sample size for August is only a handful of games).
I didn’t dig terribly deep, but I honestly can’t find anything eye-popping that’s changed with Gurriel. I’m not going to just say “drop him because regression” because as I said, I didn’t dig that deep; however, it’s a little troubling that I didn’t see anything. Owners should keep riding his coattails because he simply hasn’t slowed down, but it will definitely be worth a deeper dive in the offseason while preparing for 2020 drafts.
Ozzie Albies (2B, Atlanta Braves)—4-6, 3 R, 3B, 2 RBI, SB. He has three stolen bases over his past four games and looks locked into the 2-hole in the lineup. This is everything his owners wanted and gives him a chance to reach his full fantasy potential, which is something like a 20- to 25-home run player with 15-20 stolen bases and a high batting average.
Nelson Cruz (DH, Minnesota Twins)—4-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI. Over the past 30 days, Cruz has 16 home runs, which is six more than any other player. His .964 slugging in that stretch is 192 points higher than anyone else’s. Apparently, the 39-year-old still has something left in the tank.
Jose Abreu (1B, Chicago White Sox)—3-4, R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, BB. I don’t think we’re going to get the .290-.300 hitter that we saw in 2014 through 2017, but a 30- to 35-home run first baseman with a .270ish batting average and 100 or more RBI is still pretty darn useful.
Ronald Acuna Jr. (OF, Atlanta Braves)—3-5, 4 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB, SB. He’s on a seven-game hitting streak with multiple hits in each of his past three. This is, at a minimum, a 35-home run, 30-stolen base player who could feasibly get to 40 and 35 as a 21-year-old. The hype was real. Heck, if anything, it wasn’t enough.
Miguel Cabrera (1B, Detroit Tigers)—3-5, 2 R, 2B. He’ll be lucky to slug .400 the rest of the way, but the .280-.290 batting average and mostly everyday at-bats gives him some OK value in AL-only leagues. He’s had an amazing career, though, and I will always be a fan.
Ryan Goins (2B/SS, Chicago White Sox)—3-5, 2 RBI. He has performed admirably filling in for Yoan Moncada, slashing .333/.440/.540 in 76 plate appearances. There isn’t much power or speed, though, and this could all fall apart at any time. He’s a desperate fill-in for extremely deep leagues but nothing more.
Aristides Aquino (OF, Cincinnati Reds)—3-4, 2 R, HR, RBI. The unheralded Reds prospect has a four-game hitting streak going since getting a chance to play at the start of the month. I don’t think 10- or 12-team managers can consider adding him to their roster, but it’s a nice story. This is an NL-only play.
Austin Meadows (OF, Tampa Bay Rays)—3-5, R, HR, 2 RBI. He had a rough June, but outside of that, Meadows has been nothing short of phenomenal for the Rays. He has a wRC+ of at least 139 in every month except that dreadful June (where he had a wRC+ of 52) and continues to show strong power and speed. This is going to be a top 30 to 40 outfielder for me in 2020.
Austin Romine (C, New York Yankees)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 2 2B, 3 RBI. He’s been a top-five catcher over the past 15 days on the ESPN Player Rater, but with Gary Sanchez due back this week, he’ll go back to a fantasy nonfactor.
Jorge Soler (OF, Kansas City Royals)—2-2, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB. He’s well on his way to a 40-home run season after clobbering his 30th and 31st home runs last night. Scouts and evaluators always knew there was power in his bat, so it’s great to see things finally come together for him.
Tucker Barnhart (C, Cincinnati Reds)—2-3, 3 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI, BB. He’s just a guy for fantasy purposes, though he plays most days when healthy and has three home runs in his past three games and has been red-hot since returning from injury, slashing .379/.471/.724 since July 26. He’s an OK second catcher for those of you in formats that require it.
Bo Bichette (SS, Toronto Blue Jays)—2-5, 2B, SB. When I featured him in this column a little while ago, I indicated that you might be able to catch lightning in a bottle. So far, that’s exactly what he’s been, with seven multihit games in his nine starts and a double in seven consecutive games. He also stole his first base in the majors yesterday, which is another important element to his game. Are you excited yet, Toronto fans?
Wil Myers (3B/OF, San Diego Padres)—2-5, R, RBI, SB. It’s been a far from ideal season for Myers, but if there’s a bright spot to focus on, it’s that he has hit .353 over his past nine games and has a sub-30% strikeout rate in that stretch. That’s something, right?
(Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire)