“Who’s That Guy?” is a new weekly Yahoo Sports feature highlighting a baseball player who you should definitely be watching this week. We’re not talking about the Mike Trouts and Max Scherzers of the world, instead it’s new and interesting players. Maybe a hot prospect who just got called up or a veteran role player having a moment.
Half the fun of the Toronto Blue Jays is all the famous last names. There’s Bichette, Biggio and Guerrero. But Vlad Jr. isn’t the only guy on the team with a famous dad — there’s also Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
And while his dad isn’t a household name in the U.S., he’s baseball royalty elsewhere. And Lourdes Jr. is one of the young talents sparking these upstart Blue Jays, who are surprise postseason contenders, sitting at 24-18, second place in the AL East and three games better than even the Yankees.
Gurriel has been especially potent lately. On Tuesday, he took home the AL Player of the Week award after hitting .467 across eight games in the past week. And while he’s not his team’s biggest name — or even their most surprising standout player, that’s Teoscar Hernandez — Gurriel is another player making the Jays more interesting to watch in 2020 and whose surname you should probably know by now.
Why do you need to know him?
The Blue Jays are ahead of the schedule in 2020 — an example of the type of unpredictability a 60-game season can throw at you. The Blue Jays are better than even the Yankees right now, which is a bet hardly anybody made before this season started. We knew the Jays had potential, but now quite like this.
While other players on the Jays get more attention, Gurriel has been one of their most steady contributors. Last week in his Player of the Week campaign, he hit two homers, collected six RBIs and led the AL with 14 hits and 23 total bases. That included a four-hit game Sunday against the Red Sox. Currently, he ranks third behind Hernandez and Biggio as the Jays’ most valuable offensive player.
He and the Blue Jays now have beaten the Yankees in two straight games Monday and Tuesday, sending the Yankees to .500. It was Gurriel who delivered the game-tying RBI Monday as the Yankees blew a 6-2 loss to the Jays en route to a 12-7 loss.
Where did he come from?
He’s Cuban baseball royalty, the son of Lourdes Gurriel, one of the most decorated Cuban baseball players ever — even though he doesn’t carry the same name recognition in the U.S. The elder Gurriel won gold medal after gold medal in his baseball career — including at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and at six World Baseball Cups from 1980 to 1994.
He produced two sons who are currently in MLB. Yuli Gurriel, Lourdes’ older brother, has been with the Astros since defecting from Cuba in 2016. He and Lourdes defected at the same, though Lourdes Jr. is 10 years younger and signed with the Jays as a 23-year-old. He played a year in the minors and debuted with the Jays in 2018. He made a bit of history then, too. That June, he had 11 straight multi-hit games, becoming the first rookie to do since Shoeless Joe Jackson in 1911.
Is he a one-hit wonder?
Gurriel isn’t a flash in the pan, but he isn’t likely to be the Jays’ long-term offensive juggernaut. He is not, for instance, Vlad Jr. But this year at least, he’s been better. Gurriel has improved at the plate every year since his rookie season — he clubbed 20 homers last year for the Jays and his batting average is up 24 points this year while his on-base percentage is up 27 points. But with talent around him in the Jays lineup, there’s little reason not to believe he Gurriel can be a valued and productive players beyond a one-week hot streak.
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