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Urshela is focused on baseball and improving every day

Third baseman is looking to get stronger, improve pitch selection in first trip through Double-A

Urshela is focused on baseball and improving every day
Giovanny Urshela (Photo: Lianna Holub)
May 24, 2013
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When asked if he has any hobbies outside of baseball, Akron Aeros third baseman Giovanny Urshela said no.

The focus is all on baseball for Urshela.

The 21-year-old infielder is swinging the bat well, hitting .275 in his first 39 games at the Double-A level. Urshela's on-base percentage is lagging behind, however, as he tries to work on his pitch selection.

"I need to see more pitches when I'm hitting," Urshela said. "I need more walks. I'm working on that."

"Pitch selection," manager Edwin Rodriguez said of the biggest problem Urshela needs to work on. "It's not only making contact, we're talking hard contact. He needs to work and develop that. He's not a slap hitter, so he needs to take strong, balanced swings.

"Even if you know that it's a strike, but it's not his pitch, until he gets to two strikes, just take it until he gets his pitch and he can drive it."

Urshela joked that if he gets hits as he works on his pitch selection, then he will learn quicker.

"I've got to concentrate on making good contact to get a base hit," Urshela said. "If it works, it'll be easier [laughs]."

Urshela's hand-eye coordination is extremely good, which is both a blessing and a curse. The third baseman is able to make contact with pitches outside of the strike zone like Vladimir Guerrero, though he cannot really drive them.

Now, this should not come as a surprise; Guerrero's ability to hit balls off the top of his feet and a foot over his head was insane and basically one-of-a-kind. Urshela can get to those types of pitches, but he needs to learn to wait forhis pitch.

A byproduct of improving that approach will be seeing Urshela get on base more consistently. He rarely walks -- Urshela only has five so far this year -- but he pairs that with a relatively small amount of strikeouts (20). Rodriguez could stand a few more strikeouts, though, because Urshela needs to hit.

"We don't care if he strikes out more but improves his pitch selection," Rodriguez said. "He's not going to walk his way to the big leagues. He needs to hit, he's a third baseman."

Additionally, Urshela simply needs to get stronger. His manager noted that the third baseman is only 21 years old and has plenty of room to mature, though Urshela is not leaving that up to chance.

"I'm working in the weight room to be ready for the whole season," Urshela said. "Every year you've got to do something new to get better."

If getting stronger this year is Urshela's new addition to his game, last year was power. The third baseman jumped from nine home runs in 126 games at Lake County in 2011 to 14 at Carolina in 2012. Making the jump even more impressive is how offense-suppressing the Carolina League is.

Rodriguez managed Urshela last year in Carolina and thus has a deeper perspective on the third baseman's swing.

"His swing, by the start of last year at the beginning, he was pretty much the same," Rodriguez said. "He was struggling with power at the beginning of the year, but as soon as he got more comfortable he started showing his power, and hopefully that's what may happen this year.

"But at least he's making contact, and he always finds a way to make contact. As long as you do that, you have a chance."

Also giving Urshela a chance is his major league-class defense. Don't be fooled by Urshela's seven errors this year; that is not an accurate representation of how good he is on defense. For a better take, let's go to Rodriguez:

"I saw him last year and I think that he's one of the best third basemen that we have in the organization," Rodriguez said.

Of course, that does not mean that Urshela is perfect on defense just yet. He said he is working on moving side-to-side while his manager noted that Urshela's footwork still needs some refining.

"His hands are soft, sure hands," Rodriguez said. "Everything he gets he will make the out. But sometimes his footwork is a little bit too slow and fielding is 75 percent from the waist-down. He needs to work on that."

Sure, looking at Urshela's raw stats right now, you don't see a major leaguer. Looking a little deeper, though, you see someone making the move to Double-A and taking it well. He is still young and only 47 games into his career with the Akron Aeros; there are still nearly 100 games left in the season for him to keep improving.

If you want to follow Jim on Twitter, he’s @JimPiascik. If you want to e-mail him, you can do so at jpiasci1@gmail.com. If you want to read his Master's thesis on college athletes and Twitter, you can do so here.

User Comments

Joey
May 24, 2013 - 5:25 PM EDT
yeah .270 and 15-18 homers would be great but based on past years thats basically a top 10 thirdbaseman's average and top 10-15 in homeruns
Jwahoo
May 24, 2013 - 3:06 PM EDT
Nice write up.

I still believe Chisenhall is our 3B guy but its nice we have a little depth.

The thing with him is he already has a great glove at only 21. If he can improve his hitting to at least average he could be a quality starter because of his Gold Glove ability at 3B. If he can just hit around 270 with 15-18 homers he will be golden.

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