Yulieksi Gurriel was touted as one of the best international free agents prior to signing with the Astros, but the hype surrouding the 32-year-old from Cuba has not been a surprise to Class A Advanced Lancaster manager Ramon Vazquez.
"I kind of knew what the guy is like," Vazquez said. "He's a down-to-earth guy. He prepares every day like he's playing the big leagues. He takes care of his body and is just a player that I thought he was. The good at-bats, home runs and good defense, the professionalism in the clubhouse, everything about him, nothing shocked me there."
The Astros infielder hit a grand slam for his first Minor League homer and added an RBI in Lancaster's 12-10 loss to Modesto on Sunday at The Hangar. Gurriel was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning and reportedly will join Double-A Corpus Christi on Monday.
"I think this guy was big league-ready for a few years now, from when he was playing in Cuba still," Vazquez said. "Right now, it's just about getting him in form and and in shape because he hasn't played since February. It's just about getting his at-bats and getting his time until whenever the organization makes the call for his service."
Gurriel, who signed for five years and $47.5 million on July 16, gave the JetHawks the lead with a run-scoring double in the first inning. He grounded out in the third and fifth before connecting on an 0-2 pitch from reliever Marc Magliano in the sixth and hitting it off the left field foul pole.
"They were just trying to surprise him with a fastball in, like they have been all series long, but he put a pretty good swing on it and kept it fair," Vazquez said. "It was nice to see him turn on the ball like that. He was the perfect guy to have in that situation."
Prior to joining the Astros, Gurriel played 15 seasons in his native country, where he batted .335 with 250 homers and 1,018 RBIs. He defected in February and was declared a free agent in June.
Gurriel made his Minor League debut on July 30 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and went 2-for-7 in two games. In four games with Lancaster, he was 6-for-14 with a homer, two doubles and nine RBIs.
"He has a lot of baseball knowledge," Vazquez said. "At this point, it's just a matter of taking him through the process and have him go on a little routine of getting ready for games. And I think it's a great idea to have him go through the levels like that."
Gurriel, who played on the Cuban Olympic team in 2004 and 2008, likely will play third base with Corpus Christi.
"He plays solid defense all over the infield," said Vazquez, who spent nine years in the big leagues as an infielder. "He puts up good at-bats every time out there and drives the ball to all fields. I think it would've been exciting to see him if he left in 2006 when he was 22, 23, and see the number he would've put up in the big leagues, but he's going to be a guy who is going to help the Astros a lot in the future."
Osvaldo Duarte and Jason Martin also went deep for the JetHawks, but the Nuts got homers from Rockies No. 10 prospect Forrest Wall, No. 14 prospect Dom Nunez, Josh Fuentes and Troy Stein to win the slugfest.