Gio Urshela has been a key contributor for the New York Yankees this season, though he may not see much of the field this postseason.
It’s probably safe to say that no one expected Gio Urshela to perform like he has this season. Coming into this season, the New York Yankees were expecting Miguel Andujar to continue to build off his impressive rookie campaign from a season ago.
Unfortunately, Andujar’s season ended abruptly due to injury. The absence of last season’s AL Rookie of the Year runner-up has done wonders for Urshela this season. Before this season, Urshela hadn’t played 100 games in a single season at the major-league level. The 27-year-old has certainly taken advantage of the open position at third base this season.
Through 114 games this season, Urshela has produced 32 doubles, 18 home runs, 67 RBI, .224 ISO, .366 BABIP, 140 wRC+, 3.0 fWAR and has slashed a line of .331/.370/.555/.924 as well. The Yankees have to be impressed with what Urshela has done so far this season. Coming into spring training, Urshela didn’t have many expectations.
The Yankees planned to have Urshela as a depth piece to call into action in a pinch. Fortunately for the Yankees, Urshela has proven to be much more than just a bench player this season. Although, even with Urshela’s impressive production, the Yankees won’t have a position for him to play every day soon enough.
With the Yankees’ lineup getting healthier with each passing day, that means a few of the players who have been major contributors this season will soon find it tough to receive regular playing time. The Yankees just recently added Edwin Encarnacion and Luke Voit back in the lineup. As a result, DJ LeMahieu needed to move over to third base.
Currently, the Yankees won’t have to worry about Urshela’s playing time until he returns from his groin injury. Even when Urshela makes his return to the lineup, the Yankees won’t really have an issue because of where they are in the standings. However, the Yankees will likely have to utilize Urshela off the bench once the playoffs begin.
While it will be a tough decision to take Urshela out of the starting lineup during the most important time of the season, the Yankees just can’t afford to take anyone else out of their lineup.
LeMahieu has been a major part of the Yankees’ offense this season. So, it makes clear sense as to why they would choose him over Urshela during the postseason. In his first season as a Yankee, LeMahieu has become the everyday leadoff hitter and recorded 28 doubles, 24 home runs, 90 RBIs, .200 ISO, .351 BABIP, 138 wRC+, 4.8 fWAR and has produced a line of .331/.378/.531/.909 through 126 games split between first, second and third base.
The Yankees desperately need LeMahieu batting leadoff in every game of the postseason. They will also need to have Voit and Encarnacion playing every game as well, which then leaves Urshela as the odd man out. The Yankees playing in the AL also means that it’ll be difficult to give Urshela many opportunities off the bench as well.
Baring an injury to an infielder, Urshela likely won’t be brought in as a late-game defensive replacement, since he’s performed as a below-average defender this season. Through 853.2 innings at third base this season, Urshela has committed 13 errors and has recorded a -3 DRS, -3.1 UZR and a -4.9 UZR/150.
Unless the Yankees’ lineup becomes stagnant during a series, Urshela won’t often be used a pinch hitter during the postseason either. The only time Urshela would be frequently brought into the game is if the Yankees make it all the way to the World Series.
Urshela could then be used as a pinch hitter in the pitcher’s spot during games played in the National League ballpark. Until then, Urshela would likely only enter the game as a pinch hitter during a clutch situation late in games.
The lack of a role for Urshela during the playoffs seems like a waste of his breakout performance this season. But the Yankees are about to face a problem that most teams would love to have. They’re going to have to make the very tough choice to sit someone who helped lift them to the best record in baseball despite a slew of injuries.
Depending on what happens in the postseason, the Yankees may be able to create an open spot for Urshela next season. During the offseason, the Yankees could explore the possibility of trading Andujar once again, as they have done in the past.
For now, Urshela will just have to watch the majority of the games during the postseason from the dugout in hopes that he’ll be called upon to make an impact during a high-leverage situation.