It's been a rough last 30 games or so offensively for Cleveland Indians third baseman Giovanny Urshela. Are these struggles enough to cost Urshela his starting job? What about for 2016?
Let's start by looking at some rather dismal numbers. Over the last 30 days, Urshela has just 15 hits in 81 at-bats, good for a .185 batting average. His OPS of .530 over that time span is 36 points worse than Mike Aviles' and 148 points worse than Jose Ramirez's. Not good. Urshela hit two home runs in August, but tallied only five RBI's for the entire month.
For the year, Urshela sports a .226/.277/.323 slash line and a wRC+ of 67. He ranks 17th out of 19 American League third baseman with at least 200 plate appearances in both offensive WAR and wRC+, ahead of noted mashers Gordon Beckham and the previously mentioned Aviles. It's not all lousy luck either for Urshela, as his .264 BABIP falls in line with what the projection systems (ZiPS, Steamer, etc.) had him at.
While his Major League numbers are very poor, he did hit well through most of his Minor League career. In 2014, Urshela slashed .276/.331/.473 in 430 plate appearances for Triple-A Columbus. He's never hit more than 18 home runs in a season in the minors, but maintained reasonable K rates and improved his BB% through the years.
So where does the Tribe go from here? His recent offensive numbers just won't cut it long-term for Urshela. Granted, he's plenty young, only 23 years old. Plenty of great Major League hitters weren't even in the bigs yet at 23.
Should the Indians keep trotting him out for the rest of September, even if they continue to play good baseball and stay within shouting distance of the second Wild Card spot? With his dazzling glove work, he's absolutely the Indians best option defensively at third base, but can the club absorb his offensive limitations? Just last night, the Terry Francona turned to Chris Johnson (who hadn't played in more than two weeks) to pinch hit for Urshela in a clutch spot in the ninth inning. A sign of more to come?
Then there's 2016, which is is a different animal. It's possible the Indians will go after a third baseman through free agency this winter, but it seems more reasonable to assume that Urshela and Chris Johnson will battle it out for playing time. While less likely, there's also a chance that Lonnie Chisenhall could return to the hot corner next year.
Urshela's offensive struggles are definitely an issue. Here's hoping the defensive wiz can get it going with the bat soon.