The 2018 MLB season saw the Boston Red Sox win a World Series title with clutch pitching from Chris Sale and David Price and stepped up contributions from players like Steve Pearce (World Series MVP).
In 2019, it seems the bitter rival New York Yankees are using the same formula. With an unheard amount of injuries and a second-year manager (Aaron Boone), the Yankees have an 81-41 record with almost a month left in the season.
What’s been the key to success? Contributions from players you wouldn’t expect. With injuries to players like Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, and Aaron Judge, the Yankees have shown the MLB its incredible amount of depth.
Fans have seen players like Mike Ford, Mike Tauchman, Cameron Maybin, Domingo German, and DJ Lemahieu all thrive in big situations. One player that deserves all the spotlight and recognition is current Yankees 3B Gio Urshela. Without Urshela, you can make the case that the Yankees wouldn’t be in the position they are.
Credit: William Bradford Davis, New York Daily News
The words undervalued and overlooked describes Urshela’s story, as he started in the big leagues in 2015 with the Cleveland Indians. In his rookie season, Urshela showed that his defense would never be an issue, but had a .225 batting average.
The Indians decided to let him go in 2017, as they found Jose Ramirez was a player that had much more offensive consistency. He got another shot with the Toronto Blue Jays, but didn’t stick around too long because of his bat.
Before the 2019 season, the Yankees took a flyer on Urshela as they felt his defense was the perfect complement to second-year 3B Miguel Andujar’s offense. Andujar broke the Yankees rookie single-season record for doubles and looked to be destined for greatness in his second season. He tore his labrum sliding into third base, and required season-ending surgery.
Urshela was supposed to be a temporary replacement, but he’s elevated his offense to new heights. In 101 games, Urshela has posted a .335 batting average, hit 18 home runs, 64 RBI and a .964 OPS. That’s a huge jump for a career .225 hitter. Even with the low average, Urshela’s walk and strikeout rate have remained consistent throughout his entire career.
The key to 2019 is more of a mental adjustment. Prior to 2019, the highest number of games Urshela played was 81. With everything working out the way it did, Urshela must feel more locked into the fact that the job is his. The Yankees now have an unexpected good problem. Third-base was a gaping hole for a long time and it will be interesting to see who enters 2020 as the starter.