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Gurriel is Back!

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. re-signed with Diamondbacks.

Batting practice at World Series.
Batting practice at World Series.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Did re-signing Gurriel keep the status quo, or did it improve the team?

Status quo: He played last season and will play next season. Isn’t that the definition of the status quo?

What about the aging curve? In October, he turned 30. This Fangraphs article talked about several batters, including Yuri Gurriel, whose lack of decline kept the aging curves from being steeper. Perhaps Lourdes Gurriel Jr. will also defy the aging curve. My view is that Lourdes Gurriel Jr. will not experience aging curve decline at age 30 (next season).

Improve the team: My view is that next season he will improve his excellent batting and he will be a strong defender.

For four consecutive seasons, the following table shows a clear trend of improvement in three metrics (SO/PA, whiffs per pitch, and BIP per strike). My view is that the trend will continue with a slight improvement next season?

Data from Baseball Reference.

Improved Batting Next Season. Looking at the ZIPS projections his home runs will fall dramatically from 24 to 16. That same projection has his OPS increasing very slightly from .772 to .777.

His playoff batting was just as good as his regular season batting, including his HRs per AB. My view differs from the projections because my view is that the fall in his home runs will be only small, certainly less than the 33% projected, thereby his OPS will have a large increase. The Marcel projection is very similar to the ZiPS projection. For details see the following table.

Data from Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.

Improved Defense Next Season. Over the last two seasons in left field, the following table shows a trend of improvement in four defensive metrics (Outs Above Average, overall DRS, range and positioning DRS, and average throwing velocity). Last season, his defense in left field was truly outstanding. My view is that his defense will continue to be outstanding.

Data from Baseball Savant and The Fielding Bible.

Gurriel added intangibles to the Diamondbacks.

“Either way, it’s a wonderful sign the team continues to spend after a World Series appearance, and what better way than with a known commodity and a well-regarded teammate. The vibes are good.” — Steven Burt, SB Nation 2023

“He is a very likable guy and fun to watch. You know something interesting will happen when he is in the game.” — Tom Dakers, SB Nation, 2022

“Gurriel is a teammate and fan favorite. Known for his flamboyant purple hair and ever-present smile, the Diamondbacks are bringing back a known positive force to their clubhouse. He spoke effusively near the end of the world series about how much he loved playing here as well.” — Jack Sommers, Fan Nation Inside the Diamondbacks, 2023

https://www.azsnakepit.com/2023/12/17/24005153/diamondbacks-sign-lourdes-gurriel-jr-to-three-year-deal

Adversity Changed His Future

On 19 December, when a day of my virtual marathon was rained out, I watched the first episodes of the Lone Ranger. They told the story of how adversity changed the Lone Ranger and put him (plus his horse and people around him) on his path to success.

Similar to the Lone Ranger, adversity changed Lourdes Gurriel and put him on his path to success (and reaching the World Series!). In April of 2019, his batting slumped (OPS went from .755 to .525, and SLG went from .541 to .275). His defense was below average. As a second baseman, his throwing to first was sometimes wildly off target.

On 15 April he was moved from the Majors to AAA. In AAA, his batting bounced back. On 5 May, the Blue Jays moved him from second base to left field. He had a lot to learn but in three weeks (24 May) they promoted him to the Majors to exclusively play left field. His batting was awesome. His splits for May and June follow:

  • May: .393 BA, .414 OBP, .964 SLG, 1.378 OPS.
  • June: .337 BA, .381 OBP, .683 SLG, 1.063 OPS.

Playing left field was Lourdes Gurriel’s path to success (and playing in the Majors). In 2019, his defense in left field was below average (which wasn’t bad for an infielder moved to left field in May). What is spectacular is that by the next season (2020) his defense improved so much that he was a finalist for a gold glove in left field. Again, in 2021 he was a finalist for a gold love in left field. Some defensive metrics (OAA, DRS, and arm strength) continued to improve through 2023.

Summary.

Lourdes Gurriel will improve the Diamondbacks:

  • His trend of improved batting will continue. Most significantly, his home runs will not decline nearly as much as projected.
  • His strikeouts per plate appearance, his whiffs per pitch, and his balls-in-play are excellent and will continue to improve.
  • His excellent defense will continue.
  • He adds positive intangibles to the team.