The Yankees scratched and clawed out an absurd win Monday night in Anaheim against the Angels. The Yankees’ offense didn’t show up for most of the 14 innings that were played, and everyone that pitched, excluding Aroldis Chapman, looked pretty good. The standout for the Yankees had to be Gio Urshela.
Urshela—who has been filling in for the injured Miguel Andujar at third base—had two big at-bats for the Yankees on Monday.
In the top of the 12th, Urshela belted a sac fly to center to score a hobbled Clint Frazier, who was the go-ahead run at the time (and Chapman would later give up that lead in the bottom half).
In the top of the 14th with two outs, Urshela came through once again with a humungous double to score Gleyber Torres, who had reached base via a throwing error by Angels’ catcher Jonathan Lucroy after he made an errant throw following a dropped third strike.
The biggest reason to why Urshela is up with the major-league team to replace Andujar is because of his nifty glove at the hot corner. Throughout his short time in the Bronx this season, Urshela has been on a number of highlight reels with his dazzling play at third base—as it appears he’s doing something amazing defensively every single game.
There’s that unbelievable play that he made against Boston last week:
On Monday, it was this… another great play at third base for Urshela:
Urshela’s defense—even though sabermetric values such as DRS (defensive runs saved), UZR (ultimate zone rating), and UZR/150 (ultimate zone rating per 150 games) don’t support him due to the small sample size of playing time—has been a big reason why the Yankees haven’t been missing a beat early on in the season. He’s been making plays for the Yankees that would not be made if the likes of Andujar were still manning the hot corner.
Don’t get me wrong, I miss Miguel Andujar more than the next person, but that’s 99.9% because of his bat. Well, here’s the thing… Urshela has been putting up some pretty solid numbers for a defense-first third baseman during Andujar’s absence.
After going 2-for-5 on Monday, Urshela boosted his season slash line to .297/.372/.405 (.779 OPS) through 43 plate appearances to go along with a 110 wRC+ (weighted runs created plus). I get that’s a pretty small sample size, considering he’s only played in 14 games, but look at Miguel Andujar’s offensive numbers from a year ago.
Andujar hit .297/.328/.527 (.855 OPS) with a 128 wRC+ in 149 games. For a guy with some pretty doubtful defense, those offensive numbers were the only good thing about his game, but Andujar could really, really smack a baseball last year—and that’s all that mattered.
However, for a guy that’s playing a little below Andujar’s offensive metrics, but playing much better defense at the hot corner, you’ve got to really like what you’re seeing out of Urshela. Even though his offensive output will likely decline over more playing time, what the Yankees are getting out of him through Urshela’s first 14 games of the year has to be encouraging.
Up to this point, and this is going to probably be taken harshly by fans, the Yankees have been better with Gio Urshela at third base this season than they would’ve with Miguel Andujar—considering his offensive and defensive output were the same as 2018. The plays that Urshela makes are plays that Andujar simply doesn’t convert on, and Urshela makes them on a regular basis with ease. Urshela has been putting up above-average offense up to this point, so there’s also that to like.
I’m not trying to say that Gio Urshela is a better option long-term for the Yankees than Miguel Andujar, because that’s just 10000% not true, but over the course of the Yankees’ first 22 games this season, Urshela’s play on both sides has benefited the Yankees more than Andujar’s play would have on both sides, and we can probably thank Urshela’s defensive prowess for that take.