Gurriel with the Houston Astros in 2016
|Houston Astros - No. 10|
|Born: June 9, 1984|
Sancti Spíritus, Cuba
|NPB: June 8, 2014, for the Yokohama DeNA BayStars|
|MLB: August 21, 2016, for the Houston Astros|
|Runs batted in||30|
|MLB statistics |
(through 2019 season)
|Runs batted in||279|
|Career highlights and awards|
Yulieski Gourriel Castillo (born June 9, 1984), commonly known as Yuli Gurriel and nicknamed "La Piña", is a Cuban professional baseball first baseman for the Houston Astros of Major League Baseball (MLB). He previously played for Sancti Spiritus in the Cuban league and the Yokohama DeNA BayStars of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). A former member of Cuba's national team, Always a versatile infielder, Gurriel has played shortstop, second base, and third base, but has played mostly first base with the Astros.
The son of former Cuban player Lourdes Gurriel, Yulieski was regarded as the best player in Cuba in 2006. At the World Baseball Classic in 2006, Major League Baseball scouts projected that Gurriel would be a first-round draft pick if he were eligible for the draft. He defected from Cuba in 2016. Gurriel made his big league debut that year.
Gurriel had a solid season during the 2004-05 Cuban National Series, leading the league in hits and runs. However, he truly dominated in 2005-06, leading the series in RBIs, runs, and triples. His 27 home runs, which also led the league, were one short of the record of 28. Gurriel's batting average was .327, and his slugging percentage was .676. He played his Cuban career with Sancti Spíritus and Industriales of the Cuban National Series.
Gurriel's contributions helped the national team win a gold medal in the 2004 Summer Olympics and World Cup of Baseball championships in 2003 and 2005. During the 2005 World Cup, he led all batters with eight home runs.
Gurriel played second base for the Cuban national baseball team in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, making the final out for Cuba in their championship game loss to Japan. He batted .273 in the tournament, with a .342 on-base percentage and a .515 slugging percentage. Later in the finals of the 2008 Beijing Olympics tournament, he again made the final out, by grounding into a double play against South Korea.
Gurriel played for Cuba again in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, as their third baseman. He batted .333 in the tournament with two home runs and 6 RBIs.
In February 2016, Gurriel and his 22-year-old brother, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., defected after competing in the Caribbean World Series in the Dominican Republic. In June, Major League Baseball declared Gurriel eligible to be signed by a major league team as a free agent.
Nearly ten years prior, ESPN.com had erroneously reported that Gurriel and another Cuban national player, Eduardo Paret, had defected from Cuba and into Colombia. Gurriel refuted this claim on August 1, 2006, stating that he returned to his home in Cuba immediately after the conclusion of the tournament the Cuban national team had been playing in.
On July 16, 2016, Gurriel signed a five-year, $47.5 million contract with the Houston Astros. He made his American debut in July with the Gulf Coast Astros of the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, playing in two games. He was then promoted to the Lancaster JetHawks of the Class A-Advanced California League. After playing in four games for Lancaster, the Astros promoted Gurriel to the Corpus Christi Hooks of the Class AA Texas League. He batted 2-for-17 (.118) in five games for Corpus Christi, and was promoted to the Fresno Grizzlies of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League. He was recalled from Fresno to the major league roster on August 21. In his first 19 games with the Astros, he batted .344 with three home runs and eight runs batted in, playing mostly first and third base defensively. On May 1, he performed a dynamic "swim slide" into second base to help defeat the Texas Rangers.
In 2017 he batted .299/.332/.486. He had the lowest number of pitches per plate appearance in the major leagues (3.43).
In Game 3 of the 2017 World Series, Gurriel hit a home run off Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish, and upon returning to the dugout, made a racist gesture mocking the pitcher. Gurriel was caught on camera stretching the sides of his eyes and mouthing the Spanish word chinito, which translates to "little Chinese Boy". Gurriel apologized, and said that anyone from Asia is called a chino in Cuba, although he acknowledged that he knew the term was offensive from having played in Japan. Gurriel was suspended for the first five games of the 2018 season without pay, but not for the World Series. He was required to undergo sensitivity training in the offseason. The Astros said that they would donate Gurriel's salary lost during the suspension to a charity that supports diversity efforts.
In Game 5, Gurriel hit a three-run home run off Dodgers star pitcher Clayton Kershaw in the fourth inning to tie the game 4-4; the Astros would go on to win 13-12. In Game 7, Gurriel faced Darvish again, and tipped his helmet before his at bat as a respectful gesture. The Astros won the game 5-1, giving them their first world championship in franchise history.
After each hitting two home runs on September 21, 2018, Gurriel and brother Lourdes, Jr., became the first pair of brothers to hit multi-home run games in the major leagues on the same day; Lourdes' was as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. Yuli Gurriel was named AL Player of the Week for the first time on September 23, 2018, having batted .462, .923 SLG, eight runs scored, three home runs, and 10 RBI. For the 2018 season, he batted .291/.323/.428.
Gurriel became the first Astro with a run and RBI in seven consecutive games, and the fifth to homer in five consecutive games, on July 7, 2019, including a game-tying grand slam in doing so in an 11-10 win versus the Los Angeles Angels. He won the AL Player of the Week Award for the week ending July 8, his second weekly honor, after homering in all five of the Astros games for a total of six, among nine hits and an OPS of 1.812. He went on to win the AL Player of the Month Award for July, his first time, after batting .398, .427 OBP, .837 SLG, 18 runs scored, seven doubles, 12 home runs, 31 RBIs over 24 games. In a 14-3 romp over the Colorado Rockies on August 7, Gurriel homered and tied J. R. Towles with eight RBIs for the club record in one game.
In 2019, Gurriel batted .298/.343/.541 with 31 home runs and 104 RBIs (9th in the AL) in 564 at bats.
As a right-handed batter, Gurriel is unusual in the sense that he has a better batting average against right handed pitchers than left-handers, and is better at batting against breaking balls away from the bat, esp. sliders.
His brother, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. also played in Cuba before defecting, and later signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. His mother and his family, live in Miami, Florida. His son, Jayden, was born on June 30, 2018. Yuli and his brother Lourdes Gurriel Jr. made Major League Baseball history on September 21 when they both hit two home runs on the same day.