2019 was a surprising year for New York Yankees third baseman Gio Urshela. Can he keep the momentum going and protect his starting spot?
No one expected the 2019 New York Yankees season to somewhat turn into a Cinderella story. Although they were a favorite to make it to the World Series, it was shocking to see them have thirty-plus stints on the injured list.
With 2018 Rookie of the Year runner-up Miguel Andujar out, due to a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, no one would expect virtually unheard of Gio Urshela to fill that void. A season later, the starting third base position belongs to Urshela. But can he keep it throughout the upcoming season (if there is a season)?
2019 was supposed to be Andujar’s year. In 2018, the Dominican Republic native played in 149 games having 47 doubles, 27 home runs, 92 RBIs and a .297 batting average. When he got hurt, it was another in a growing list of problems the New York Yankees needed to solve.
Embracing the team’s “next man up” philosophy, Gio Urshela did whatever he could to get playing time. Urshela had to show that he deserved it.
In 2014, Urshela was considered Cleveland’s 12th best prospect. In 148 games with the Indians, Urshela had a .225 batting average, 95 hits, and 36 RBIs. After a slow start in 2017, Urshela was traded to the Blue Jays, where he only played in 19 games. With a crowded infield with upcoming prospects, they decided to outright him to the minors and trade him to the Yankees, where he would spend the rest of 2018 at Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre.
In April of 2019, Andujar was placed on the injured list. The Yankees had to bring in a temporary replacement. The new third baseman, Urshela took advantage by going 25-for-71, good for a .352 batting average in his first month.
Complications would arise when Andujar made his return. In an interview with Mike Francesa, Yankees skipper Aaron Boone raved about Urshela’s contributions and how he earned his spot.
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"“I think what we’ve seen, really on both sides of the ball, and because he’s so good defensively too, he has absolutely earned a place on this team now, Boone said. It’s hard to envision him not in the majors…He has gotten a number of big hits for us. He’s driving the ball. He has just been a steady guy right in that line-up.”"
Urshela finished his first season as a member of the New York Yankees with 139 hits, 21 home runs and a batting average of .314. The 28-year-old third basemen finished third in all-star voting, slightly missing out on the opportunity. Urshela was the spark, the Bronx Bombers needed for that season.
With Andujar coming back this year at full health, he is looking to earn a starting spot. Urshela proved to be a great defensive player but also started to show he is capable of having an offensive stride. He could hold the starting position and push Andujar to play a different position such as left field or first base. Whether that happens or not is up to Urshela and how well he can duplicate his 2019 performance.