Columbus Clippers third baseman Giovanny Urshela has always been known for his stellar defense and gun-slinging arm, but it’s his power numbers at the plate that are raising eyebrows this season.
As of June 12, the 22-year-old from Cartagena, Colombia leads the Cleveland Indians minor league organization with 61 runs batted in and ranks third in home runs with 13. Through 88 games split between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus this season, Urshela’s slugging percentage (.495) is more than 100 points higher than it was in 116 games with Akron last season (.384).
What’s to credit for Urshela’s added pop at the plate this season? For starters, extra time in the weight room this past offseason.
“I spent most of the offseason working out,” Urshela said. “I was in the gym, lifting weights, getting stronger, and working on my swing.”
Urshela’s hard work in the offseason isn’t just showing up in the stat sheet. Physically, you can see a difference in his figure this season. “When last season ended, I weighed 205. Now, I’m around 217 or 220.”
When asked what adjustments he made to his workout routine, Urshela said, “Lifting more in my legs. I focused really hard on my legs in the offseason.”
Anytime an infielder bulks up, there’s concern for how it may affect their glove. But that’s not the case for Urshela, who rated Best Infield Arm in the Cleveland Indians system following the 2010 and 2012 seasons. If anything, it’s made him more mobile at the hot corner.
“It has helped my agility and allows me to move quicker side to side,” Urshela said.
Urshela began the 2014 campaign in Akron. The hard work he put in over the offseason paid off fast. In just 24 games, he found himself hitting .300 with five home runs and 19 runs batted in. Those numbers earned him a promotion to Triple-A Columbus, where he has yet to cool off.
“I was surprised about the promotion, but when I started seeing the results I knew I was doing a great job in Akron,” Urshela said.
The adjustment from Double-A to Triple-A is never an easy one, but Urshela seems to be transitioning just fine. In 62 games, he is third on the team in home runs, runs batted in, and total bases. His .469 slugging percentage ties him for second on the team with power-hitting first baseman Jesus Aguilar.
With some experience at the next level under his belt, Urshela has noticed the biggest difference between Double-A and Triple-A pitching thus far.
“There are more veteran pitchers in Triple-A, so they know what kind of hitter they are facing,” Urshela said. “It’s hard, but I try to get better every day.”
While added strength is a big reason for Urshela’s increased production at the plate, he says his confidence has played a major role as well.
“The difference between this year and last is my confidence at home plate,” Urshela said. “If you have confidence in you’re hitting you’re going to have good results. I trust in my training and my talents. That’s what I’m doing.”
Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2008 at the ripe old age of 16, Urshela is still only 22. One can argue that he has grown more than any other player in the Indians organization over the last year. The speediest batters have always been cautious to lay down a bunt Urshela’s way. Now, he is making pitchers be extra cautious when he steps to the plate.
Photo: Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch