Lourdes is seven years younger than his brother Yulieski.
Their father had been a player himself and had managed Cuba’s national team. The Gurriel family is described as “baseball royalty in Cuba.”
In February 2016, Lourdes and Yulieski Gurriel defected from Cuba after the Caribbean Series in the Dominican Republic.
It had long been speculated that the Gurriels were off limits to Major League scouts given the loyalty of their father, Lourdes Sr., to the Cuban Communist party and his status as a baseball icon in Cuba. A little more than a year after defecting, Lourdes Jr. will begin his path to the Major Leagues in the Tampa Bay area where he hopes to join his brother, the starting first baseman for the Houston Astros.
Gurriel last played for Industriales in the Cuban National Series during the 2015-2016 season where he hit a robust 344/.407/.560 in 245 plate appearances. Over a six year career in CNS, which began with Sancti Spíritus when he was 16, he had a .277 career batting average in 305 games. He logged most of his innings at second base, but also played first base, shortstop and left field. Indeed it Gurriel’s ability to play multiple positions well that made him such an enticing player for major league teams when he hit the free agent market.
The scouting book on Gurriel is unanimous. He has the physical tools to play all over the field, with an above average arm and passable mobility. He struggled some against live pitching in scouting showcases, but was a high contact hitter with good strike zone judgement in Cuba. Some scouts also believe he has the potential to hit 20 home runs a year in the Big Leagues.
As with all Cuban defectors, the question is how his game will translate in the U.S. His path to the Major Leagues would be quicker as an outfielder, which is an easier position to acclimate to, but the Blue Jays appear intent on giving him a look at shortstop. Still only 23, Gurriel still has room to grow as a player, but his assignment to Dunedin should be viewed more as a chance for him to shake off the rust and get acclimated to playing in live games again before moving on to the Double A New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
With his experience playing professionally in Cuba and against top international competition with the Cuban National team, his stay in Dunedin will likely not be a long one and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him playing a reserve role with the big club in Toronto by September. (TB Reporter - April 4, 2017)
November 2016: The Blue Jays signed Lourdes Gurriel to a 7-year, $22 million pact, via scout Andrew Tinnish.
In 2018, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Gurriel as the 5th-best prospect in the Blue Jays organization.
April 20, 2018: First Major League game for Lourdes and he's already making headlines. Gurriel became the fourth player in Blue Jays history to record at least three RBI in his Major League debut. He finished 2-for-5 with a pair of singles and played a big role in the Blue Jays' 8-5 victory over the Yankees.
The 24-year-old hit a two-run single in the fourth inning and added another RBI single in the fifth to cap an impressive night at the plate. Add in a few effortless routine plays at second base and overall it was a game that Gurriel will not forget any time soon.
"I was just happy to get the call and be here, whatever the situation was," Gurriel said through a translator after the game. "But, of course, I was pretty happy to know that I was playing right away. They told me as soon as they called me that I was going to play. I'm just happy to be here and thank God everything went well." (Chisholm - mlb.com)
September 21, 2018: Lourdes and Yuli Gurriel took the field in two different countries, roughly 1,500 miles apart. But each of them did what they've done ever since they grew up together in Cuba: Hit with authority. Each of the Gurriel brothers knocked a pair of home runs, which according to the Elias Sports Bureau made them the first brothers in history with multi-homer performances on the same day. It was a special night for the Gurriels, who starred for the Cuban National team before defecting to the United States in February 2016.
The younger of the two, Lourdes Jr., kicked things off for the Blue Jays with a mammoth first-inning dinger off Rays opener Diego Castillo. Lourdes' second blast was another shot to center field in the 4th inning.
Not to be outdone, Yuli began his own assault on the fences shortly after Lourdes' second tater with a first-inning grand slam off Angels starter Andrew Heaney. Yuli's first blast could hardly have been more different than his brother's pair, tucking around the right-field foul pole at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros' first baseman followed up with a two-run homer to left off Heaney in the third, giving him a career-high six RBI. In the fifth, he added to that total with an RBI single.
"I'm very happy for us," Yuli said. "I didn't know we had made a record. And he's having a great season. It was great hearing the news. Sometimes I have good games, sometimes he has a good game, and for us to have a great game together, it was really special."
All told, the Gurriel brothers tallied four homers and nine RBI in their first six plate appearances of the night, surely making both their family and countrymen proud back in Cuba. Lourdes' teammate and fellow Cuban Kendrys Morales was first to let him know what his older brother was up to in Texas.
"He told me, 'Hey, congratulations,'" said Gurriel. "I just said, 'Thank you.' I thought it was because I hit two homers, but then he told me it was because my brother also hit two homers. I'm happy for him and I'm happy for me, as well."
The Astros made sure Yuli knew what was happening north of the border as well. "The players were telling me, every time he hit a home run, 'He hit one. You got to do it,'" Yuli said. "The second one happened: 'You got to do it.'"
The Gurriels' big night sets the stage for a three-game set between the Astros and Blue Jays beginning September 24 in Toronto. That will mark the first time the brothers will face each other on opposite sides of the field since the Blue Jays called up Lourdes in April 2018.
"I'm very happy," Lourdes said, "but I'm also curious, because it's going to be the first time that I'm going to play against him. That's never happened before. It's a little bit weird. I'll see how I'm going to feel that day." (Kelly - mlb.com)
DAD AND BROTHER STARS IN CUBA
Lourdes's father played for the Cuban national team for 15 years and won an Olympic gold medal, two batting titles, and an MVP Award in his home country. His older brother, Yunieski, spent 16 seasons in Serie Nacional and won a couple of MVP Awards.
January 5, 2019: Here's the way Lourdes Gurriel Sr. introduces himself: "I'm the father of three beautiful sons: Yunieski Gurriel, Yulieski Gurriel and Lourdes Gurriel Jr." This humility belies the exploits of a figure known in his homeland as El Hombre de los Grandes Momentos: "The Man of the Big Moments." Long before his two youngest sons broke into the Major Leagues, the patriarch of the Gurriel family established himself as a beloved baseball legend in his native Cuba. From the late 1970s through the early 1990s, Gurriel was a star in the Serie Nacional, Cuba's top league, winning two batting titles and an MVP award and hitting .323 with 2,026 hits, 247 home runs and 1,077 RBIs in more than 1,700 games.
It was on the world stage that Gurriel honed his reputation as a clutch player. At a time when Cuba was the juggernaut of amateur baseball, the slugging outfielder was a key cog on the national team for 15 years, delivering big hits in the Olympics, Baseball World Cup, the Pan American Games, and other tournaments.
One of Gurriel's most iconic moments came in the finale of the 1988 Baseball World Cup in Italy. He hit a game-tying, ninth-inning home run against Jim Abbott, a future big leaguer, that propelled Cuba to victory over Team USA. Four years later, at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, he slashed .400/.439/.692 with 10 RBIs in nine games to help his country capture gold.
After retiring as a player, Gurriel managed in the Serie Nacional, as well as the national team, and coached for Team Cuba in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Fidel Castro's communist government barred Gurriel and other elite Cuban players from testing their mettle in MLB. Since Castro rose to power in 1959, defection by abandoning the national team during a tournament or escaping the island has, until recently, been the only way for Cubans to make it to the Majors. Given the number of Cuban defectors who have transitioned successfully to the Big Leagues, it's hard to look at Lourdes Gurriel Senior's career stats and not wonder what might have been.
"The pride of every ballplayer is to play in the Major Leagues," Gurriel said during an interview in Spanish with LasMayores.com in October 2018. "If you do well, good for you. If you do poorly, you do poorly, but at least you had a chance to put yourself to the test."
Looking to curb the human trafficking element that defection often entails, MLB, the MLBPA, and the Cuban Baseball Federation announced an agreement that would create a legal path for Cuban players to join Major League clubs. It's the kind of deal that might have allowed Gurriel to play in the Majors, while charting a different course for his sons. The two youngest defected while in the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo in 2016.
While he declined to comment on the new agreement, Gurriel expressed satisfaction that two of his sons have achieved the dream that eluded him. "I'm very happy, very proud that they've been able to make it to the Major Leagues and get a taste of an experience I didn't have, and would have liked to have," he said. "I have every accolade, but I can't compare myself with anyone who has played in the Majors."
The Gurriels, who hail from the province of Sancti Spiritus in central Cuba, are the first family of Cuban baseball. Lourdes Sr.'s brother, uncle and cousin also played in the Serie Nacional. During his playing days, Lourdes Sr. would take his sons to practice to expose them to the game. "He would ask me, 'Do you want to play baseball?' and I'd say, 'Yes, Dad, yes; I want to be like you,'" recalled Yuli, an infielder who carries a .291 average with 34 home runs and 175 RBIs in 311 games with the Astros. "He'd say, 'Well, if you decide to play baseball, you have to love the sport from the beginning and play it like it's the last day of your career.'"
Lourdes Sr. admits to worrying that his sons would ultimately choose other paths. Nonetheless, coercion was never intended— nor necessary. "When we started [playing], a lot of people thought it was because our dad was forcing us, that we had to be ballplayers because he was a ballplayer, but it wasn't like that," said Lourdes Jr., 25. "It came to us naturally. It's true that we started watching baseball from the time we were very little, my brothers and especially me, because as far back as I can remember, my brothers were already playing.
"I watched too much baseball. I loved it. There were times when my dad and my brothers would get annoyed because they would take me to the games and I didn't like to watch baseball because what I wanted to do was play it." Lourdes Gurriel's sons didn't just embrace baseball, they became pretty darn good at it. The eldest, Yunieski, played 16 seasons in the Serie Nacional as an outfielder. Thanks to an agreement between the Cuban government and Canada's independent Can-Am League, he played two seasons with the Quebec Capitales.
Yuli became the face of Cuban baseball, widely regarded as the island's top player. Playing mostly third base, he slashed .337/.421/.582 across 15 seasons in the Serie Nacional. Like his dad, he was a fixture on the national team, helping his country win gold at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and appearing in the first three WBCs. With the blessing of the Cuban government, Yuli also played for the Yokohama DeNA BayStars in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball.
An infielder, Lourdes Jr., known as "Yunito," made his debut in the Serie Nacional at the age of 16 and hit .277 in 305 games over six seasons. For years, Major League teams coveted Yuli. But while the Gurriel brothers did not deny their desire to play in the Big Leagues, they maintained that they wanted to do so legally. By February 2016, however, their patience had run out. After the Caribbean Series in Santo Domingo, Yuli and Lourdes Jr. snuck out of the Cuban team's hotel, bound for Haiti, where they established residency and began the process of becoming MLB free agents. Their departure was a blow to Cuba's severely depleted baseball rosters.
In July 2016, Yuli landed a five-year, $47 million contract with Houston and was in the big leagues by August. A year later, he added a World Series ring to his resume. Lourdes Jr. signed with Toronto for seven years and $22 million prior to the 2017 season and made his Major League debut in April 2018. In 65 big league games in 2018, he hit .281 with 11 home runs and 35 RBIs. Leaving their close-knit family behind, says Lourdes Jr., was gut-wrenching. The entire Gurriel clan has since reunited in Miami.
"We decided at the time that that was the best option," he said. "No one, not even my dad, had anything to do with that. It was a choice we made. Everything worked out well, thank God." Despite not being involved in his sons' decision to defect, Lourdes Sr. was supportive.
"God gave me a gift by allowing them to become ballplayers," he said. "And to see them playing in the Major Leagues, that's something I never dreamed of."
2017 Season: Gurriel signed as an infielder and was playing mostly shortstop and second base when he made his US debut in 2017 with the Dunedin Blue Jays. He played 64 games combined between Advanced-A and Double-A and really showed his rust (not having played competitive games for over a year), hitting just .229/.268/.339. He did have a good showing in the Arizona Fall league, hitting .291/.309/.494 with three home runs in 21 games.
- 2018 Season: Gurriel played in New Hampshire and Buffalo, combining for a .301/.330/.466 slash line in 51 games and was promoted to Toronto to play 65 productive games with the Blue Jays, hitting .281/.309/.446 with eight doubles and 11 home runs.
Entering the Gurriel home in Houston involves walking on a doormat that reads "The Pineapple Family." In an open kitchen and dining area, more pineapple motifs—printed on a kitchen towel, in the form of ceramic accents—evoke the flashy hairstyle that has become Yuli and Lourdes Jr.'s trademark. The Gurriel brothers have style. The Man of the Big Moments is far more interested in their substance. For Lourdes Sr., it's not enough that his sons made it to the Majors. He wants them to excel, which is why he describes being the father of two big leaguers as "a wonderful experience, but also an agony.
"Having played baseball, you always want them to give their all and it's really tough," he said. "But you have to set the bar high so that they'll do a good job."
Lourdes Sr., who managed his three sons in the Serie Nacional, watches all of Yuli and Lourdes Jr.'s games. When they play at the same time, he turns on the Astros game on one screen and the Blue Jays game on a second. If he has access to only one screen, he follows one of the games on his phone. One way or another, he's always paying attention. "I can't miss a single detail," he said.
He was watching from Miami on September 21, when Yuli and Lourdes Jr. became the first set of brothers in MLB history to have multi-homer games on the same day. "That was a very difficult thing they did," said Lourdes Sr. "That was really exciting for all of us, because it was all over the place."
Whether they are coming off a good game or a bad game, ballplayers talk about turning the page quickly. Yuli and Lourdes Jr. can't move on until breaking down every game with their dad. Lourdes Sr. waits 45 minutes to an hour after the last out before calling his sons to dissect their performances.
"We discuss the game—everything they did right, everything they did wrong—to fix flaws," he said. "How they were pitched to, how they went after pitches. I do that with them every day."
His sons aren't quick to answer their phones after bad games, he noted. "We take a few minutes because we know we're about to get a full recap," Lourdes Jr. said, laughing. "I go, 'Ughhh,' but once we've settled down, we go, 'OK, let's get what we deserve.'" "It's every day," said Yuli about the postgame chats with his dad. "He's religious about it. He's very observant. When he played, he was a really smart player. He's helped me a lot. After every game, he tells me what I did wrong and what I can do to improve. It's almost like a ritual. I can't do without it."
Lourdes Sr. has been a devoted coach to his sons since they were kids. In Cuba, where training resources are limited, he resorted to unconventional methods, like having the boys practice their inside swing in front of a mirror, placed just beyond the proper bat trajectory.
"If they did it wrong, they'd break the mirror," Lourdes Sr. quipped.
During the offseason, the Gurriel brothers train in Miami, under the tutelage of their father and oldest brother. While they can now take advantage of all the technology available to a modern ballplayer, their most important source of feedback remains the same.
"My dad's tips practically never end," said Lourdes Jr. "It's really thanks to that that we are here." (N Alonso - MLB.com - January 5, 2019)
April 6, 2019: At one point or another, we all dream of playing on a Major League Baseball field. Such hopes are normally only realized by a select group of talented athletes, but if you're lucky enough, there are workarounds.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. used one loophole when he saw an eager young Blue Jays fan on the road at Progressive Field before the Blue Jays' game against the Indians. It would have been thrilling enough for Gurriel to play catch with the kid in the stands, as we've seen numerous times. Gurriel, however, took it to the next level. He brought the kid onto the field for the catch:
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. lifted a young #BlueJays fan out of the stands to play catch. It wasn't just a catch either, as Gurriel worked with the youngster on his grounder technique, too. Maybe the more appropriate term for this would be a mini-clinic.
Kudos to Gurriel for making this kid's road trip to Cleveland absolutely worth it.
January 20, 2019: R.B.I. Baseball 19 just got a fresh new hairstyle as Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was announced as the game's new Canadian cover athlete.
The conversations happen nearly every day, in different ballparks and across thousands of miles. Lourdes Gurriel Sr. talks to both of his big league sons almost daily and offers advice and support. Soon, Lourdes Jr. of the Blue Jays and Yuli of the Astros are talking with each other, too, and sharing notes on their swings and the opposing pitchers.
The result? The Gurriel brothers have emerged as a dynamic duo that have been two of the hottest hitters in baseball over June 24-July 24, 2019. Yuli is slashing .394/.430/.915 with 14 home runs over that period. Over that same span, Lourdes is batting .296/.333/.643 with nine home runs.
The brothers, who defected from Cuba in 2016, are living out their father’s dream of playing in the Major Leagues, and they’re playing at the same kind of level he did as a baseball legend in Cuba from the 1970s through the early 1990s.
“Every day and every night, we try to help each other and talk after each game,” Yuli said. “He tells me what I did wrong. I tell him what he did wrong and what we need to improve upon and all that. Every day we’re constantly trying to get better.”
The brotherly love is having terrific results. The hot streak has Yuli, on a 12-game hitting streak, up to .294/.328/.528 with 20 homers and 65 RBI for the Astros entering Wednesday, while Lourdes Jr. is now at .290/.336/.592 with 18 homers and 44 RBI for the Blue Jays.
“I watch him every day, but I knew all along that he was capable of what he’s doing right now, and I really hope that he continues this way,” Lourdes Jr. said.
The Gurriels are having the kind of season that few brother combinations have had in the big leagues. They’ve combined for 38 home runs and could threaten the record for most combined homers by brothers in a season of 61 by Jason (41) and Jeremy (20) Giambi in 2002. The last time a pair of brothers each had at least 20 homers in a season was Corey and Kyle Seager in 2016 and 2017. Before the Seager brothers, that feat had been accomplished seven previous times in Major League history.
“We don’t have goals, numbers-wise,” Lourdes Jr. said. “We’re just going to keep going out there and trying to put up the numbers and see what happens at the end of the year.”
Both brothers defected from Cuba following the Caribbean Series in February 2016. Eighteen months later, Yuli made his Major League debut with the Astros at 32 years old, and in his first full season in the big leagues in 2017, he helped the Astros win the World Series. Lourdes Jr. signed with Toronto prior to the 2017 season and made his Major League debut in April 2018. Although Yuli (35) is more than nine years older than Lourdes (25), the brothers are close. And there’s no denying they’re brothers. They both have similar physical features, from their batting stances to their hair: Yuli is known in Houston as La Pina—the Pineapple—for his spiked hair.
“In our conversations, we talk a lot of baseball, we talk about pitchers we’re going to face, teams we’re going to face, and kind of give each other a heads up on that,” Lourdes Jr. said. “But other than that, we also talk about little things, family things, and personal things.”
Yuli isn’t too proud to take advice from his little brother. “He’s always helping me,” he said. “Even though he’s younger, he’s got a mature vision and so he’s always giving me advice and giving me information to help me out.”
When asked who will have the better career, Lourdes Jr. said their father might have an idea. Lourdes Jr. figures to have a longer career in the Major Leagues because Yuli got a later start. He played 15 seasons in the Serie Nacional and was a fixture on the national team, helping his country win gold at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and appearing in the first three World Baseball Classics before coming to the U.S.
“My dad has a goal for us, but it’s a secret,” Lourdes Jr. said. “He knows who’s going to end up with better numbers, but of course he won’t tell us. I actually didn’t ask him, but right now I think my brother’s maybe going to be a little bit better, but we’ll see.” (McTaggart - mlb.com - 7/24/2019)
2019 Season: Gurriel started with Toronto, playing mostly second base, his defensive woes in throwing the baseball from second base had him sent down to the minors to work things out in Buffalo. When he returned to Toronto in late May, he was a left fielder and went on a tear, hitting in his first eight straight games, including a 4 for 4 game against San Diego on May 26. He continued to hit the rest of the year although he did miss significant time in August and September but was one of the Jays’ most productive hitters, hitting .277/.327/.541 with 19 doubles and 20 home runs.
Lourdes came into 2020 and hit .357 in the abbreviated spring training and came out of the gate hot, going 10 for 33 in his first nine games. He played 57 games for the Jays and hit a very solid .308/.348/.534 with 14 doubles and 11 home runs, posting 1.2 WAR on the shortened season.
According to Statcast, he was in the 91st percentile in Hard-Hit ball percentage while in the 80th percentile for exit velocity at 90.8 mph.
- November 2016: The Blue Jays signed Lourdes Gurriel to a 7-year, $22 million pact, via scout Andrew Tinnish.
|Birth City:||Sancti Spiritus, Cuba|
|Draft:||2016 - Blue Jays - Free agent - Out of Cuba|
Gurriel has impressive bat speed and a quality approach at the plate. and he power for around 20 dingers per season.
With Lourdes' impressive strike zone awareness, he should always have a nice on-base percentage. He is an intelligent hitter with a good approach.
While his long levers create length to his swing at times, he generally does a good job of keeping his hands inside the ball with a fluid stroke.
He can get fooled by slow breaking balls at times, but he has good strike-zone judgment, catches up to quality fastballs and has shown good plate coverage. Gurriel flashes above-average raw power with good leverage and loft in his swing, making him a potential 20 home run threat.
July 27, 2018: Lourdes homered twice and increased his multi-hit streak to nine games. The multi-homer game was the first of Gurriel's career, and he moved into a tie with Tony Fernandez for the longest multi-hit streak in franchise history. Fernandez accomplished the same feat in 1986, while the previous rookie record belonged to Al Woods (seven games) in 1977.
August 24, 2018: Lourdes concluded a streak of 11 consecutive games with multiple hits. It is the longest all-time by a rookie and the longest in franchise history. The streak also finished tied for the longest in AL history.
"It's disappointing he didn't get it tonight, but that is such a tough record," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He snuck that one hit in to keep his hitting streak going. I probably can't describe it right, because it's such a difficult thing to do.
"All it says is the kid can hit. It was getting to the point where you looked at the guys who have done what he has done—it just tells you how tough it is. Pretty impressive." Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby holds the all-time multi-hit streak at 13 games. Tony Fernandez was the previous record holder for Toronto with 9. (Chisholm - mlb.com)
- As of the start of the 2021 season, Lourdes's career Major League stats were a .287 batting average, 42 home runs and 221 hits with 118 RBI in 771 at-bats.
Lourdes can play second base, third base, and the outfield.
In 2014-2015, Gurriel spent time at third base and in left field but was primarily the starting shortstop for Industriales in Cuba. His brother Yulieski played next to him at third.
That year, he was the most error-prone shortstop in the league, some of which stemmed from poor decisions on throws, while his overall range was fringy for a Major League shortstop.
The next season, despite getting a step quicker, Gurriel primarily played left field. While he has the tools to be an above-average defender in left, it is more likely the Blue Jays will try to move Lourdes back to the infield, seeing if he can play shortstop or possibly third base. Third is a position where he has the attributes to develop into an above-average defender, but he didn’t have the opportunity to play there on his team in Cuba because of his older brother. Center field might be more of a challenge but could be another option for Gurriel.
- Gurriel's arm is strong enough to play anywhere. And Lourdes just may develop into a super-utility guy.
- From 2018 to 2020 with the Blue Jays, Gurriel played second base, shortstop, left field, and a few games at first base. No third base. (Baseball-Reference.com - Jan 2020)
- Lourdes ran a 6.65 in the 60-yard dash.
April-June 2017: Gurriel began the season on the DL, played one game on April 19, and re-aggravated the injury. He returned two months later.
July 15-22, 2018: Gurriel was on the DL with concussion.
July 31-24, 2018: Gurriel was on the DL with left ankle sprain.
September 24, 2018: Gurriel was shut down for the remainder of the season, after he sustained a Grade 2 strain in his left hamstring while running to first base.
August 9-September 14, 2019: Gurriel was on the IL with left quad strain.
September 25-November 4, 2019: Lourdes was on the IL following an appendectomy.
- April 10-11, 2021: Gurriel was on the IL.
- June 18, 2021: Gurriel exited the game in Baltimore early after feeling something in his back, and was kept out of the next day's lineup with back spasms. Manager Charlie Montoyo said it's not serious, and that Gurriel could even be available off the bench if his back loosens up, but this will be treated as a day to day issue for now.