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Young Urshela Working His Way Through The Farm System

Young Urshela Working His Way Through The Farm System

| On 19, Feb 2014

The Cleveland Indians open the 2014 season with new expectations despite many questions. The Indians’ 25-man roster will look different than the group that won 92 games and lost the American League Wild Card game to the Tampa Bay Rays. While the roster may change and the expectations grow, Cleveland will need to answer many questions this spring before opening the season in Oakland on March 31. Today, we look at one of the Indians’ young players who likely won’t make the roster but could impact the Tribe’s season before it ends.

Third base has proven to be a position of weakness for the Cleveland Indians.

Lonnie Chisenhall has not taken a firm grasp of the position in the last several years. Mark Reynolds, Jack Hannahan, Jose Lopez, Jhonny Peralta, Andy Marte, Mark DeRosa, and Jamey Carroll have all spent decent time there in the last five years with mixed results at best. The position is such a question mark for the Indians club that catcher/first baseman/designated hitter/man-without-a-role Carlos Santana even devoted time at the hot corner over the offseason.

Indians prospect Giovanny Urshela could one day become a factor in the mix at the third base position.

The Indians’ minor leaguer did not turn 22 until after the completion of his 2013 season in Akron with the then Aeros. It was his first year at the Double-A level.

Urshela suited up in 116 games during the season, batting .270 with a .292 on-base percentage and .384 slugging mark. He had eight home runs on the season with 43 runs batted in. He added 23 doubles and a pair of triples. He struck out a dozen fewer times compared to the previous season while playing in two more games.

He struggled against left-handed pitching throughout the year, batting just .189 while drawing no walks. Just five of his 25 hits off of lefties were for extra bases and all were doubles.

Against right-handed competition, Urshela saw the ball much better, hitting .304 on the season. All eight of his home runs, 18 of his 23 doubles, both triples, and 38 of his 43 RBI came against righties and contributed to a .450 slugging percentage.

Urshela began his career with the Indians in 2009 at the age of 17 after being signed as a non-drafted free agent on July 2nd, 2008. The Columbian-born third baseman has struggled at times with the glove, owning a minor league career fielding percentage of .941. However, his strong arm was ranked the Best Infield Arm in the Indians’ organization by Baseball America in 2012.

His defensive work has not taken away from his efforts at the plate.

Still young, his power has developed slightly over the last three years and especially over the course of his minor league exploits. The right-handed hitting Urshela hit one homer in 59 games of rookie ball in 2009, followed by three in 58 games with Mahoning Valley in 2010 while hitting .290. In 2011 while in Lake County, he logged 126 games and hit nine home runs and drove in 46, but the batting average fell to .238.

“I’m trying to change how I play the game,” shared Urshela at the Lake County Captains Hot Stove Dinner event on January 30th. “I’m working on it. I’m doing my workouts and preparing and doing all that stuff to get better. I’m working at it.”

The 2012 season set benchmarks for many offensive numbers for the then-20 year old. With the Carolina Mudcats of the Carolina League, he hit .278 with a .309 on-base percentage in 114 games. He hit 14 home runs, doubled 30 times, drove in 59 runs, and slugged .446 to set new personal bests.

Urshela was one of 15 players invited to Cleveland to participate in the Winter Development Program in January. The program, held every offseason for the last 19 years, provides the players with the opportunity to get acquainted with Progressive Field, its facilities, and the city of Cleveland. Seminars and guest speakers are provided to help tutor the young players.

“We learned a lot from the guys that spoke to us,” said Urshela. “I’m excited for the season to start. I’ve been working out to be ready for the season.”

Urshela spent his offseason doing much of that working out back in his native Columbia.

“I’m from Columbia, so I live there [in the offseason],” Urshela said. “I was doing my workouts and getting ready to go to Arizona.”

Urshela figures to be in the mix at the upper levels of the farm system in the 2014 season for Cleveland, either again in Akron with the RubberDucks or promoted to the AAA Columbus Clippers.

“I have no idea [where I will start the season]. I ended last year in Akron,” said Urshela, “so I don’t know where I’ll start this season.”

Urshela knows that he still has work to do to reach the Major Leagues, but he does not take the opportunity afforded him for granted.

“It feels great to reach my dreams that I had while I was a kid,” he said. “I’m playing the game that I love.”

Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer

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