Indeed, Eleven, just whom the fuck is that guy? Once a week I’ll be breaking down a player who is surprising the league – for better or for worse. This will range from stars we’ve grown to expect greatness from all the way to obscure players who have appeared out of nowhere. In each case it will beg the question: Whom the fuck is that guy?!
Gio Urshela – 3B, New York Yankees
Admittedly, I like to be cautious in my projections for athletes in New York, especially when they seem to come out of nowhere. But for every Jeremy Lin and Greg Bird there is a unique case such as Giovanny Urshela. By now, I am assuming most of the baseball-watching world has heard of Urshela, whether it be because of the numbers he’s putting up or the fact he plays in the media capital of the world. I have been watching Urshela closely this season, waiting for him to slow down. I’m not maliciously watching Gio hoping he cools off and reverts to hitting ~.220, but rather I’ve been utterly fascinated with how Urshela has not only kept afloat, but instead has become a key contributor of the New York Yankees.
When the Yankees came into spring training in 2019, most analysts had dubbed this lineup one of, if not, the strongest in the American League. The Yankees’ lineup had monumental upside and the narrative would be shaped around their incredible depth and length when it came to their starting lineup. One through nine, there were no easy outs and the batting order had more warnings than the side effects of Keytruda when presented to opposing teams’ pitching staff. A huge reason for optimism was due to the presence of New York’s ‘baby bombers’ consisting of Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll realize that the highly touted lineup of the Yankees has been decimated by injuries. One such injury that seemed to signal red-alert danger was the season-ending injury to Miguel Andujar. For reference, Andujar was one of the most productive rookies in all of baseball last year:
Anytime a team loses a player like Andujar it can be the kiss of death. When the New York Yankees lose someone like Andujar, the media rushes to conclusions faster than Sonic the Hedgehog on Adderall with potential fallouts and of course, trade possibilities to help close the gap. However, Brian Cashman has been someone who seems to have broken the mold of reckless spending in New York and had shown that his wit had paid off again with the signing of DJ Lemahieu. The plan was simple, Lemahieu would cover third base while Troy Tulowitzki held short, and Torres stayed at second. Simple right? Well, for as good as this looks on paper it did not last long as Tulowitzki – unsurprisingly – found himself on the injured list as well. As a result, Lemahieu went to cover his natural position at second with Torres sliding over to shortstop – leaving third base a black hole in the infield. Again, Cashman did not panic and instead of making a hasty trade, the Yankees found themselves turning to Gio Urshela:
Urshela had been a total bust in Cleveland and Toronto – and the numbers certainly dictate that he was not able to fill the giant shoes of Andujar. Known primarily as a defensive wizard, Gio was not known for his bat. However, since he has become the regular third baseman, not only has Urshela held his own at the position – he’s excelled:
He’s been so good in fact, that some have even posed the question if his presence makes Andujar expendable. The line of thinking is not too crazy when you dig into Urshela’s numbers – specifically when you dig into his situational hitting:
Overall Urshela is hitting well above .300 with runners in scoring position, and until recently was batting 1.000 with the bases loaded – .800 is still well above average where it stands today. The Yankees knew they were getting a solid defensive third baseman, but not many could have predicted they’d be getting this type of offensive production.
Credit needs to be given to not only Brian Cashman for seemingly finding yet another castaway-turned impact player (see Luke Voit in 2018), but also the player development of the Yankees for seeing the potential in a player lie Urshela. Gio’s rise seems to be legit at this point and it will be a story to monitor as we approach the trade deadline in July to see just how much the Yankees trust him moving forward. To echo John Sterling, the Yankees play-by-play announcer, Gio Urshela has every reason right now to be “the most happy fella’”.
Sidebar – the Yankees got Gio from Toronto for cash; the most lopsided trade since Dave Winfield was traded for a nice dinner in 1994.