Over the course of a calendar year, Giovanny Urshela has gone from mostly-unknown prospect to incumbent third baseman, to guy who could not hit well enough to stay in the majors. When the Cleveland Indians signed veteran Juan Uribe to a one-year, $4.5 million dollar earlier this week, it was a clear signal that they believe Urshela needs more work in the minors. At the very least, he does not hit well enough to remain on a contending team. If you are a fan of Urshela, you may be wondering what happens next.
Unless something dramatic happens over the next month, Urshela will start the season playing in Triple-A for the Columbus Clippers. He did not bat well there last year, slashing .272/.298/.469 in 22 games, but his defense was enough to get him to the majors. When it was clear that Lonnie Chisenhall needed time in Columbus to work out some issues, Giovanny Urshela was arguably the only choice to take over for him, internally. He may not have that advantage this season.
His biggest competition in the minors will be Yandy Diaz. Urshela is a mere two months older than Diaz, and both players will be 24 when the season starts. Last season in Double-A, Diaz well outperformed the competition, slashing .315/.412/.408 (143 wRC+) with a 13.8 percent walk rate and a remarkable 11.5 strikeout rate. If Diaz outperforms in Double-A to start 2016, it will bring about an interesting scenario in the Tribe's minor league system: Do they hold Diaz back to let Urshela keep getting at-bats in Triple-A, or someone going to be on the bench in Columbus?
Diaz has the athletic ability to play several infield positions, (and unlike Urshela a lot of his value comes from his hit tool), but if the Indians want to look at him as the franchise's future third baseman, he may win out if a decision comes down to it. That leaves Urshela in the unfortunate position of potentially being good enough to play on a major league team, but third or fourth on the organizational depth chart at his position. Unfortunate for Urshela, but very fortunate for the Indians.
At best, assuming Diaz performs well, Urshela does not collapse, and Juan Uribe does not fall apart, third base is suddenly a position of depth for the Indians. If that is the case, I would not be surprised to see the Indians deal Urshela if there is a market for a fantastic defensive third baseman with an unproven bat (hint: there probably is).
Either way, as far as Urshela's standing with the Indians is concerned, it is a precarious situation to be in, where someone who is very talented could slip out of the organization simply out of neccesity.