When the Cleveland Indians signed veteran Juan Uribe to a one-year, $4 million deal this offseason, it more or less sealed the fate of Giovanny Urshela. The homegrown third baseman was spectacular on defense for the Indians in 2015, but his bat never found a rhythm. Whether that was because of an injury, or just lack of offense prowess is yet to be seen, but the Indians were not about to test it with their 2016 season on the line.
Here we are months later, and Giovanny Urshela is suddenly hitting like a god in Triple-A again. He started out slow -- 1-for-24 in his first seven games -- but when the Clippers went on an 11-game winning tear, Urshela came along with them. Since that abysmal start, he has 12 multi-hit games and two home runs, which has raised his batting average from .042 to .298 and slugging percentage from .042 to a respectable .415.
On the surface, Monstro's offense looks flawless right now. There is a catch, however: he is not drawing walks.
A lack of walks was a major issue for Urshela in his minor league career, and it carried over into his brief major-league stint last season. If his current 3.1 percent walk rate in 2016 was to hold up over an entire season, it would be the third-lowest of his career. All told, Urshela has drawn just three walks this season.
Arguably the easiest thing to do in the minors is slap base hits past poor defensive players, and that is pretty much all Urshela is doing right now. Only seven of his 28 hits have gone for extra bases, including the two home runs.
Then there is just the matter of small sample size. There is no reason Urshela could not suddenly revert back to hitting like he did in those first couple weeks of the season. And if the Indians promoted him, they would be stuck with that production while his multi-hit games remain distant memories in Triple-A.
Even if we assume that the Indians trust this recent streak -- it's not out of the question that a scout might recognize a positive change in Urshela's swing, after all -- there is just nowhere to put him in the majors. Love it or hate it, Juan Uribe probably is not going to be booted after a month-and-a-half. Uribe has been below average so far (73 wRC+), but he has not been terrible. Heck, like Urshela, he has had streaks of looking fantastic at the plate. But, either way, the Indians paid him to play third base for 2016, and that is probably where he will be for the duration of the season unless he complete goes off the rails or is injured. Even then, Jose Ramirez is probably next in line to take over third base.
This sounds like a whole bunch of Gio bashing, but I really do not mean it be. While I will be the first to admit to not being the biggest believer in Urshela, he has shown some progress in Triple-A this season. Whether or not he is drawing walks, he is making contact, which is something he really struggled with in the majors last season.
Who knows, maybe his poor production last season was caused by a shoulder injury? We'll find out in 2017.