Opinion: Three reasons to love the most happy fella, Gio Urshela

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that something very exciting is happening down at third base at Yankee Stadium.

Among the “replacement” Yankees who came up to join the team in the wake of half the team finding itself on the Injured List was Gio Urshela.  However, fans expected the 2019 season to be another great one for 2018 Rookie of the Year contender, Miguel Andujar.  Not to mention, there was hope that the issue of his less than stellar fielding would resolve itself because his bat was too good to lose.

Photo Credit: Newsday/Jim McIsaac

However, Andujar’s fielding didn’t turn out to be his problem in 2019.  When Andujar found himself with an early-season labrum tear landing him on the Injured List, followed by a short return only to find out he would require season-ending surgery, someone had to step up.  Urshela quickly became the man for the job. He has stepped up in such a way that he’s given fans and management alike many reasons to love his work.  Here are just three:

He hits with RISP, but provides variety in his offensive game
On the 2019 season, Urshela is 18-for-48 with RISP, which comes out to a batting average of .375.  Out of those 48 at-bats with RISP, 19 of them were with two outs -- and he is 9-for-19 with RISP and two outs.  While DJ LeMahieu is clearly the team's superstar with regards to RISP with an average of .478 overall with RISP, Urshela also gets the job done.  Following a 2018 season in which situational offense was not the team’s strength, having multiple players making things happen with RISP is a gift.  

He was the surprise of the season
Fans were waiting to hear about more from Gleyber Torres, everyone was anxious to see how the first-base battle between Greg Bird and Luke Voit played out, and there were high hopes for pitching prospects Jonathan Loaisiga, Domingo German, and Chance Adams. All that was known about Urshela was that he was purchased last season from the Toronto Blue Jays, and that his MLB experience was limited to just over a full season's worth of games. Having only made 19 MLB appearances with the Blue Jays in 2018, Urshela wasn’t even expected to come up to the major leagues on a full-time basis during the 2019 season.  Now, he’s become the player who stepped up when it was least expected it.  He wasn’t even a so-called “Home-Grown” Yankee as he came up through the Cleveland Indians system.  Now, he’s on the All-Star game starter final ballot.  Not often do the fans get the chance to hear of a baseball fairy tale quite like this one is turning out to be.  

He flashes the leather
Urshela consistently finds himself in the lineup at 3B.  Other members of the Yankees’ starting lineup often find themselves shuffled between the DH or 1B or SS spot, but not Urshela.  His ability to get to balls on either side of his body, make accurate unbalanced throws, and make tough plays in important situations have made Yankees fans further attached to their third baseman. According to Fangraphs, he makes 29 percent of plays that are tabbed as unlikely to be recorded as an out and has made 19 plays OOZ (out of zone).

Will Urshela continue his career-altering season going forward?  He has cooled off at the dish in June batting .226, but some regression was expected given how hot he began.  Of course, fans and management have to wonder, how will he fare in the hopeful postseason?  I can only hope that he won’t end up with Alfonso Soriano syndrome and fail to produce anything other than a strikeout in the playoffs, but my hopes are pretty high.  With Andujar not scheduled to return anytime soon, it’s Urshela’s time to shine -- and to give Aaron Boone a good problem to have next year, one that is similar to the problem at 1B that came in preseason this year.  With two third basemen with star quality, who will get to start?

Article by: Mary Grace Donaldson


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