Brewers: Is Luis Urias the Third Baseman of the Future?
By Josh Waldoch
After declining the team option on Jedd Gyorko, the only third baseman on the Brewers 40-man roster is Luis Urias. Was Urias solid enough to be trusted as the third baseman in 2021?
Luis Urias’ first season with the Brewers was not awful, but also was not the best. After breaking his hamate bone in Winter League ball, and then a COVID-19 bout, it wasn’t until August that Urias made his debut.
Urias slashed .239/.308/.294 while appearing in 30 games at third base, 10 at second, and eight at shortstop. Urias produced 0.0 fWAR, and had a wRC+ of 66. With no apparent third baseman on the roster, is Luis Urias the answer?
The Brewers acquired Urias in a trade with the Padres in 2019, sending another young talent, Trent Grisham to San Diego. Grisham flourished with the Padres, while Urias struggled, leading some to question if this was one of Stearns’ rare losses.
When Urias was acquired, the thought seemed to be that he profiled more as a second baseman than anything else. Urias’ 2019 FanGraphs’ prospect report gave him a 50 current grade for field and throwing, and a 55 potential for field.
In 2020, Urias spent 176 total innings at third base, he had a positive DRS of 2, he also recorded one Out Above Average at both second base and third base this season. According to Baseball Savant, his OAA put him in the 82nd percentile. In addition to his positive DRS, he posted a UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) of 1.6 at third base, which was cancelled out by his -0.8 UZR at both shortstop and at second base.
Luis Urias At Third Base?
While Urias does not profile as the stereotypical third baseman, given his limited power, he has proven to be a competent defender in his small sample size at third base. Given the payroll constraints that the Brewers appear to be working under, Urias may be the best option for the Brewers at third base for at least next season.
Throughout his time in the Minors, Urias was a hitting machine, slashing .308/.397/.433 in his seven career minor league seasons. He showed that talent at the beginning of his season, before falling into a slump in mid-September.
Orlando Arcia was brought back on a non-guaranteed one year, $2MM deal, and he does have one option remaining. However, he recorded his first negative DRS of his career at shortstop. Arcia has shown flashes of brilliance, muddled with struggles. However, he appears to factor into the 2021 plans at this moment in time.
Should Arcia improve and play well in 2021 and Urias plays well, it’s going to be difficult to keep either one out of the lineup going forward, which could pave the way for Urias to not only be the third baseman in 2021, but for the foreseeable future as well.
No other infielder on the Brewers’ 40-man roster has Major League experience at third base. There is the possibility the Brewers could bring back Jedd Gyorko who was the Brewers’ best hitter in 2020, or another free agent, but per David Stearns the Brewers are not “on the doorstep” with any free agents.
Lucas Erceg has appeared to be the heir apparent at this base for several seasons now, but he still has not been able to get his offense going in the Minor Leagues. Outside of Erceg, Jesus Parra is the only other player on the Top 30 prospects list listed as a third baseman. Zach Green agreed to a minor league deal, and he will get reps at Spring Training, however, he may be more organizational depth.
Perhaps trusting the hot corner to an unproven young player may not be the best solution in the midst of a team’s competitive window, however it appears that without a free agent signing, Brewer fans should prepare for a full season of Luis Urias.