Gurriel, one of the most accomplished athletes in the history of Cuba, hasn’t gotten off to an overly productive start in a small sample size of 95 plate appearances in America. In his first game action of the season, the 32-year-old hit .229/.293/.361 with two homers while spending minimal time at four different minor league levels. The Astros will now hope to receive something a bit closer to Gurriel’s output in 2015, when he concluded his career in Cuba by notching a hit in exactly half of his 174 at-bats. In 225 plate appearances, he drew 38 walks against a meager three strikeouts and smashed 15 home runs en route to an .874 slugging percentage.
Given their collection of infield talent, there have been plenty of questions regarding where the Astros will use Gurriel. Initially, he’ll serve as their designated hitter, according to Angel Verdejo Jr. of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). That means fellow midseason call-up Alex Bregman will continue at third base, where the highly regarded 22-year-old has spent most of his time since the club promoted him last month.
If the hot corner is where the Astros want Bregman for the long haul, it could push Gurriel to first base or even the corner outfield. First baseman Luis Valbuena suffered a setback with the strained right hamstring that has kept him out all of August, and he could miss the rest of the season, per Todd Karpavich of MLB.com. Gurriel could slot in there in the near term, then, but the Astros have a highly touted prospect who’s currently in the majors in A.J. Reed. In the outfield, Houston hasn’t gotten much production this year from anyone other than George Springer. With Colby Rasmus out until next month with an ear cyst and scheduled for free agency in the offseason, left field seems like a logical landing spot for Gurriel.
Regardless of where he plays, the Astros need the Gurriel signing to pay dividends immediately if they’re going to climb back into the American League playoff race. The Astros were surging when they recalled Bregman on July 24, but they’ve since lost 16 of 25 and are 9 1/2 games behind AL West-leading Texas and 4 1/2 out of a wild-card spot.