37.60%. Thirty seven point six zero percent.
That's the highest percentage of balls put into play by a Major League hitter with over 100 plate appearances in 2017. That title belongs, to the World Series Champion- Yuli Gurriel.
Gurriel's journey to the Major League's has been certainly a different one but arguably a better one than most. At 33, the first baseman has star studied resume inclusive of medals in a World Baseball Classic, 2 Olympics games and in 4 Baseball World Cup's ....and of course a World Series ring courtesy of the 2017 Houston Astro's. When you sprinkle in his Cuban defection, a stint in the Japanese league and one of the best haircuts in the show, Gurriel makes for one of the most colorful characters in the sport.
Asides from having one of the most intriguing resumes within the Majors, Gurriel is one of the games most underrated and underappreciated hitters. The Cuban hit .299 in 2017 with 18 home runs and 75 RBI's his contribution was some what lost behind the super stardom of Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and of course, World Series MVP- George Springer. But in under appreciation comes value. The same value which is the biggest buzzword in fantasy baseball. Which value sleeper is going to contribute to me winning my fantasy league? As fantasy mock drafts currently stand, Gurriel is projected to be the 208th pick on average in every fantasy league, something which appears to me to be quite simply amazing. And here's why.
Gurriel's 2017 season got off to a pretty slow start in when hitting .200 in May with a OBP of .255 (He would later go on to record an OBP of .378 in 2017). Despite gaining 26 base hits in his first 22 games right out of the gate, the Cuban began to struggle with certain mechanics within his swing.
Here we see Yuli Gurriel facing José Ureña on May 17th. The righty put on a dominant display of 1 run ball through 5.1 innings striking out 3. In this example we see Gurriel combatting Ureña's slider by shifting his weight to his back knee causing his balance to shift and subsequently lose control of the bat coming through the strikezone.
With Gurriel off balance we see both his front knee and arms lock up which ends up in him making an ugly shape in just trying to foul the slider off. The Cuban doesn't get anywhere near the pitch and its an easy strikeout for Ureña.
Here we see Gurriel a month later in June, when he is out of his slump. Notice how his head is further out over the plate cause his weight to almost sit above the front of his pelvis as oppose to his back knee. The allows for his swing to be shorter, more compact and quicker through the plate.
By being in a balanced position, Gurriel is able to square the ball straight back up the middle for a base hit, keeping his shape and more importantly his balance. Notice how he finishes with his chest facing the pitcher as oppose to the previous example, where his lead shoulder is almost at a parallel to second base.
His ability to make adjustments and drive the ball back up the middle are just one of the many reasons as to why you should draft Yuli Gurriel in 2018.
In 2017, the Cuban finished 4th in AL Rookie of the year voting, arguably a huge injustice to the incredible mature talent that graces Minute Maid park. His rookie season was exceptional, and here is why.....
37.60% of balls faced were put into play. (Mike Trout 26.10%)
11% of his plate appearances were strikeouts (Corey Seager 21.40%)
He advanced 52% of thirdbase runners with 2 outs or less (Anthony Rizzo 51%)
16% of his AB's with baserunners resulted in an RBI. (Justin Turner 15%)\
Hey, even if he does end up on the DL60 or hitting .175. How good is that hair?