Brewers: Is Luis Urias the Best Shortstop in the Division?

Apr 4, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Luis Urias (2) hits a double in the second inning against the Minnesota Twins at American Family Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 4, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Luis Urias (2) hits a double in the second inning against the Minnesota Twins at American Family Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

Hopes were high for Luis Urias when he was acquired by the Brewers from San Diego in 2019. The pressure was even higher after Trent Grisham flourished in San Diego in 2020 while Urias struggled, battling COVID and a positional change to third base.

Going into 2021, Urias seemed primed to go. He won the starting job out of Spring Training, and his path to playing time was cleared when Orlando Arcia was traded to Atlanta. Having been given the chance, Luis has made the most out of it, and is making a strong case to call him the best shortstop in the division.

After a slow start in 2021, Luis Urias is quickly establishing himself as a solid shortstop for the Brewers, and perhaps the best in the division.

Urias is currently slashing .149/.333/.340 for the Brewers. After a slow start, Urias has been riding a hot streak, slashing .250/.444/.640 over his last 8 games. Still, the most impressive thing about Urias is his ability to draw walks.

He is currently walking in 21.7% of his plate appearances, which is the most in the league for shortstops with a minimum of 50 plate appearances. His OBP is 4th highest, while his BABIP is the lowest.

All throughout Urias’ ascension to the Majors, his plate discipline was highly touted. He is very selective when he swings, and that has helped him to stay below league average on total whiffs, as well as chasing bad pitches. Which is the polar opposite of rival Javy Baez.

For Urias, perhaps more work with hitting coaches Andy Haines and Jacob Cruz will help to make the most of the pitches he does swing at, which would elevate his game even more. He currently has a BABIP of .161, which indicates he has been extremely unlucky on balls that are put into play as the league average tends to hover around .300.

The low BABIP is particularly odd when you consider his 12.1% barrel rate and Hard Hit rate of 45.5%, second highest among divisional shortstops.

Urias’ expected Batting Average is .223, which is not particularly high, but it also is considerably higher than his current average, lending plenty of room for improvement.

Hopefully an added benefit to recording more hits on balls in play, will be reducing his 23.3% K rate. That is a high percentage, but is also the 2nd lowest in the division. Only Kevin Newman has a much lower K% of 4.2%, but Urias’ rate is also considerably less than Baez’s 44.9%.

But overall, Urias is rising, and in doing so is becoming the best shortstop in the division.

When looking at the cumulative fWAR stat, Urias is currently in second, behind Baez with 0.3 fWAR. With the season about a 10th of the way through, that would track to be a 3.0-4.0 fWAR season, which is quite respectable. Eugenio Suarez is sitting at (-0.2) fWAR, and Kevin Newman is at (-0.3) fWAR.

Another metric that can measure production is to look at Offensive Runs above average (Off) and Defensive Runs above average (Def), both developed by FanGraphs.

In Off rankings, Urias is currently second at (-0.3), Baez is leading with at 2.3, then the gap comes with Suarez recording at (-3.8), and Newman clocking in at (-6.1). DeJong is also sitting at (-0.3)

Looking at Def, Urias is solely atop that standings clocking in at 1.4, Newman close behind at 1.3, Baez and 1.1, DeJong 0.2, and Suarez at (-1.0). Looking at Ultimate Zone Rating UZR, Urias leads 0.7 to Newman’s 0.5, but when extrapolating that over 150 games (UZR/150), Newman has the advantage because he has played less at this point.

Even looking at wRC+ (which takes all run creation and scales it where 100 is league average), Urias is third in the division at 87 to Baez’s 111 and DeJong’s 95.

Luis Urias often gets overlooked in the discussion of top shortstops in the game. Coming into action he had the 11th highest fWAR among all shortstops, just below Fernando Tatis Jr.

Legitimate stars like Francisco Lindor, Xander Bogarts, Trea Turner, Corey Seager, and Trevor Story, are rightfully getting lots of attention, but the Milwaukee shortstop is quietly putting together the start of a solid season, one that should establish himself as the Brewers long term solution at shortstop.

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It may not be this current moment, but Luis Urias is trending in the right direction towards solidifying himself as the top shortstop in the NL Central Division for years to come.

Stats were going into action on April 25