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2017 IBI Preview Capsule: Giovanny Urshela

After making his major league debut in 2015, Giovanny Urshela spent all of last season back in Triple-A as Juan Uribe and Jose Ramirez occupied the hot corner in Cleveland for the entirety of the 2016 campaign. Can the slick-fielding third baseman crack this year's club?

The IBI Preview Capsules are back for 2017 as Jake Dungan takes an in-depth look at all the players who could impact the Tribe in the upcoming season from the established stars to the prospects on the verge of being called up to the majors to the non-roster invites to spring training.

Giovanny Urshela, 3B

Throws: Right -- Bats: Right -- Entering his age-25 season -- Contract: Pre-arbitration (Eligible for arbitration in 2020)

2016 In Review: When both Giovanny Urshela and Francisco Lindor were called up in June of 2015, the feeling was the two of them would solidify the left side of the Cleveland infield with both boasting impressive fielding ability. Well, that ended up being half right, at least for now, as Lindor went on to finish runner-up in the Rookie of the Year voting at season's end and secure his first of potentially many Gold Gloves and All-Star selections during last year's campaign. Urshela, on the other hand, after batting just .225 with eight homers and 21 RBI's in 81 games with the Tribe would be sent back to Triple-A for 2016 and not receive another call-up for the duration of the season. In Columbus, however, he did put up some respectable numbers batting .274 with eight homers and 57 RBI's in 117 games, although his OPS was only .674 as the Columbian native has thus far been unable to replicate the kind of production he had during his breakout 2014. So the question concerning Urshela entering 2017 is does he still have a future with the Tribe?

Versus Right-handers: Early on in his career up through his infamous 2014 campaign where he hit .280 with 18 homers and 84 RBI's between Akron and Columbus, Urshela was better suited facing right-handed pitching than lefties. Atypical for a right-handed hitter, but those platoon splits have since been reversed to the more traditional tendencies as the 25-year-old batted just .225 with a .633 OPS against right-handed hurlers between Triple-A and Cleveland in 2015. Last year, however, those numbers evened out as Urshela batted .271 with a .685 OPS against right-handers and .282 with a .635 OPS versus southpaws. The majority of his power came against righties, though, as they served up eight of his homers and 21 of his 25 other extra-base hits.

Versus Left-handers: After the major shift in his in 2015 to the opposite spectrum, things reverted back towards the mean last year to produce arguably Urshela's most balanced single-season splits of his career. While he hit for a better average and got on base more against left-handed pitching at .282 and .315, respectively, in 108 plate-appearances, almost all his power came against right-handers. In the majors in 2015, despite his meager numbers overall, the Tribe third baseman still hit southpaws particularly well batting .275 with a .677 OPS while posting .207 and .585 marks against right-handers. If his splits continue to remain more balanced, that could help his major league profile, whether it be in Cleveland or elsewhere.

Defense: While his offense ended up keeping him from establishing himself at the position, watching Urshela and Lindor on the left side of the infield for half a season in 2015 was quite a spectacle. In 682 innings at the hot corner, the Columbian native was at the breakeven mark for DRS and had a 4.1 UZR. Urshela is in some ways like Roberto Perez, although he has more offensive upside. Defense is and will likely always be his best asset and can make up for a lot of shortcomings at the plate. The drawback to that comparison for Urshela is he plays a position that traditionally belongs to players who can do more with the bat. Still, a vision of Urshela, Lindor, Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana making up the Indians' infield on defense is fun to think about.

Fantasy Impact: Unless Terry Francona opts to move Jose Ramirez back to a super-utility role, the third base position is already spoken for entering 2017. However, there is a chance Urshela could make the roster coming off the bench as a defensive replacement or if Ramirez is needed elsewhere on the field. Steamer and Depth Charts have the 25-year-old making his return to the majors for a short period of 16-17 games where he's expected to bat .250 with a home run or two, seven or eight RBI's and a .662 OPS. He has obvious value on defense. Offensively, he's capable of hitting for a high average with some pop, but he's not an on-base machine with a career .302 minor league OBP thanks to his low walk totals. However, he won't strike out a lot either, so his best chance at making an impact at the plate is when he puts the bat on the ball.

Summary: Urshela is in a bit of a precarious position with the Indians in 2017. After not seeing any big league time last year and with Jose Ramirez potentially finding a new home at the hot corner, the opportunity is not present like it once was for him. Plus, Yandy Diaz has worked his way up to the top prospect rankings and the verge of a major league call-up, which could close the door altogether for Urshela to get back to Cleveland. Right now, the best way for him to get that second big league look is to force the organization's hand. If he doesn't make the opening day roster, then try to rediscover the offensive success he had in 2014. Thanks to the versatility of the Tribe's roster, I'm sure Terry Francona will manage to find a spot for him if he shows he's deserving of another chance in the show. 

Check out our other 2017 Preview Capsules here:

Jake Dungan is the Managing Editor for IBI and a podcast host on the Smoke Signals Network. Email him at jdungan@indiansbaseballinsider.com or follow him on Twitter @JakeDBaseball.


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