Late age breakouts rarely carry over. However, Gio Urshela received a key component to one when he arrived in New York, a clearer path to playing time. Injuries paved the way for him to breakout in 2019 and even with all the obstacles 2020 presented for fantasy, he shined once again. During 174 plate appearances over 43 contests, he slashed .298/.368/.490 with 24 runs, six home runs, 30 RBI and a stolen base.
His plate discipline metrics improved across the board. Urshela reduced his swinging strike percentage to 8.4 and his O-Swing (outside the strike zone) swing rate to 30.8 percent. He also increased his contact percentage to 82.6 while raising his Z-Contact (in the strike zone) to a robust 91.4 percent. Less swings and misses, more contact overall and in the strike zone. Pretty, pretty good.
In fact, since joining the Yankees, Urshela's recorded a .310/.358/.523 slash line in 650 plate appearances spanning 175 games with 97 runs, 27 home runs and 104 RBI. Among third basemen with at least 600 plate appearances, his average ties him for first with Anthony Rendon along with placing fifth in weighted runs created (wRC+) and seventh in weighted on-base average (wOBA). Within his time in New York, he owns a 6.6 walk percentage with a 17.2 strikeout rate and .212 isolated power.
Switching to Statcast, Urshela registered 130 batted ball events last year with nine barrels (6.9 percent), a 91.4 MPH average exit velocity and 40.8 hard hit rate. His expected numbers shine through with a .311 expected batting average, .488 expected slugging and .381 expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA). He traded fly balls for line drives in 2020 and the results can be seen in his zone profile:
Delving into his discipline metrics on Statcast, Urshela reduced his zone swing percentage but upped his zone contact by 4.2 percent. Less aggressive but with better results. He also cut his swing percentage in the shortened season and his whiff rate. An improved approach after the breakout, illustrated by his swing and take chart:
Fueled by gains in average exit velocity from 2019 to last year, he may even hit for more power in 2021 if he continues to hit to the opposite field, which increased last year. If he hits two-to-three more home runs to the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium, it enhances his profile even further:
Taking into account his recent gains, the projection systems do not buy into Urshela's recent success:
At his present price point, Urshela does not need to hit 25 or more home runs or .300 to reach value. In fact, since he's an overlooked player at third base, he's a nice addition to a team needing batting average protection with counting statistics upside due to the team around him. If others let him drift in your league, pounce with confidence.
THE BAT and THE BAT X courtesy of Derek Carty
ATC courtesy of Ariel Cohen
ZiPS courtesy of Dan Szymborski