Things are looking up for Brewers infielder Luis Urias. He had one of the best spring trainings on the team, he won the starting shortstop job that he deserved, ended on a hot streak, and is primed to finally receive regular playing time at the Major League Level. Is 2021 the year Urias takes a massive step forward and finishes 2021 with an OPS north of .800? Is that feasible?
The two components of OPS are On Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage, which means players with high OPS have a high OBP, a high SLG, or are Christian Yelich and have a high both. For Urias, who does not have exceptional power, he will have to focus on the On Base aspect of OPS, and take boosts to Slugging Percentage when it comes up.
Luis Urias has been a certified hitting machine in the minors and for the Brewers this spring. Is this the year he takes the step forward and has an OPS north of .800?
Throughout his ascension through the minor leagues, Urias was a hitting machine, slashing a composite (.308/.397/.433), good for an OPS of .830. However, when looking specifically at his time in AAA, he slashed (.305/.403/.511), with an eye popping OPS of .914.
When looking at the 2018 scouting report on MLB Pipeline, when he was ranked the 27th best prospect in baseball, Urias’ advanced hit tool was on display. On the 20 – 80 scale, Urias had a 70-grade hit tool, and a 45-grade power tool. 50 is league average, which would put him slightly below average there, however the report highlighted his ability to find gaps, which could produce extra base hits.
Last year was a tough year for Urias. He dealt with a broken hamate bone, and then a bout with COVID, that derailed his year as he slashed only (.239/.308/.294). That OPS of .612 was 36% below league average (the league average for OPS typically hovers around .740-.750, last season it was .740 on the dot).
Urias is looking forward to a normal year, and told the talented Sophia Minneart that he views shortstop as his main position, saying manning shortstop will “feel better.” Comfort cannot be quantified, and perhaps the position change will help him in all aspects of his game.
Throughout his career in the Minors, Urias had a very high BABIP. In the Majors, the average is typically .300, and extreme deviations in one direction tend to even out. However, last year for the Brewers, his BABIP was .338, which was inline with what his Minor League numbers, even as the results were not as good.
What his BABIP indicates is that he wasn’t particularly unlucky when he managed to put balls in play, he just struggled to do that. When looking at Baseball Savant’s batted ball profile for Urias, he topped balls much more in 2020 than in previous seasons, and barreled only 1.3% of all batted balls, down from 4.4% in 2019.
The projections on Urias this season have him with a slightly below league average OPS, with a composite of projections averaging out to .734. Urias has done quite well in Spring Training, slashing (.314/.429/.543), in an impressive, albeit small sample size, and not necessarily against the competition he will face in the majors.
Hopefully, the showing in Spring Training is an indication of things to come for Urias. Urias may never be a 20 home run guy, but he possesses an elite hit tool that, with enough playing time, we very well could see him finish 2021 with an OPS north of .800, anchoring the Brewers offense with solid, consistent, offensive production that has not been seen since J.J. Hardy was on the Crew.