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Is Yuli Gurriel a HoF-caliber Talent?

Houston Astros Photo Day Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Before people start going crazy, no, in no way am I advocating that Yuli will make the Hall of Fame nor be remotely close to ever achieving enshrinement. Yuli came to the big leagues at the age of 32 after an extended period of not playing baseball due to his journey away from his home country of Cuba. And now at age 35, it’s pretty hard to argue that he would not be at the back side of his career. But, here’s his stats in his age 35 season:

.298/.343/.541 with 31 HR, 40 doubles, and 104 RBI

An .844 OPS is nothing to scoff at, and he ended up ranking 8th best among 1st basemen last year. Ranking above names like Paul Goldschmidt, Jose Abreu, Joey Votto, and others.

Now you may be saying, 8th best at 1st base really is not that great. And that’s an understandable take, except Yuli truthfully is not a 1st baseman, having played third base and second base most of his career, and moved not out of necessity due to range but due to the needs of the Astros.

So let’s take a look at the overall playing career of Yuli Gurriel, which has spanned almost two decades (19 years), albeit there are different levels of competition, and the number of games played is nearly half per year (I’d understand an argument about it keeping him fresh, but at the same time obviously takes a huge toll on counting stats). None the less, let’s start at a macro level view of his 19 year career.

.324/.394/.551 with 2,145 hits, 443 doubles, 318 HR, 1,319 RBI, 139 SB in 1,415 games

Now those are some impressive counting stats to begin with, but the main thing I want to point out is the difference in the number of games. We’ll use Craig Biggio as a counter point, as his career lasted 20 years, and he ended up playing in 2,850 games. More than double what Yuli has played in.

Now I understand, the Cuban league, while very strong - is not the MLB. Yuli was consistently considered the best player in the Cuban leagues with his father being another all-time legend. In 2006, scouts stated that Yuli Gurriel would be an easy first round draft pick after watching him play in the World Baseball Classic.

I’ve been scouring the internet and found equivalency calculators but the results ranged drastically (which makes sense given the limited info to calculate off of). So let’s go a different route. Let’s say if Yuli has consistently produced across his career in the MLB how he has in his age 33-35 seasons. Here was his Average for those years.

.296/.333/.486, with 161 hits, 21 HR, 39 2B, 88 RBI,

If he had been drafted in 05, and made it to the bigs in 06, he would have had a 14 year career to date. We’d be looking at the following:

.296/.333/.486 (819 OPS), 2,254 hits, 294 HR, 546 2B, 1,232 RBI

This of course isn’t a perfect system, and in fairness taking the back end of almost any players career and doing a mechanical forecast as if that’s how they would have hit throughout the majority of their career is not really fair to the player, but even with this extreme detriment, we’re getting within shooting range of a HOF career.

So let’s compare that to our very own second base hall of famer Craig Biggio’s first 15 years.

Biggio - .291/.381/.436 (.817 OPS), 2,149 hits, 437 2B, 180 HR, 811 RBI, 365 SB

Gurriel - 296./333/.486 (.819 OPS), 2,254 hits, 546 2B, 294 HR, 1,232 RBI, 56 SB

I was amazed how similar they stacked up. Yuli definitely presents with more power (although the difference in Astrodome and the ball could play a large factor). The SB is not really a fair comparison as we’re looking at the back end of his career, Yuli had stolen 250+ bases during his time in Cuba.

I do understand an argument that Yuli could have had injuries, or other factors that played a role in altering his overall stats, a completely fair argument but he actually suffered a broken hamate bone, which already factored in missed time and is notorious for sapping stats (primarily power - which you can see in the short sample size).

Now I’ll admit this is a fairly non-scientific approach to determining it, but from an initial glance, I can’t help but wonder if we would be looking at Yuli as a likely Hall of Famer if he had played in the MLB for the entirety of his career.

This fairly simple exercise, based on the stats of his age 33-35 seasons make me wonder what kind of numbers he could have put up in his prime.

What do you think? Would Yuli have been a Hall of Famer?


Is Yuli Gurriel a HoF caliber talent?

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  • 57%
    (85 votes)
  • 22%
    (34 votes)
  • 20%
    (30 votes)
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