All eyes on Urshela in first big league camp after breakout '14

Francona impressed with prospect's glovework at third base

All eyes on Urshela in first big league camp after breakout '14

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- For the first few days of full-squad workouts, Indians manager Terry Francona has spent a lot of time on a practice field with a group of players who might be headed to Triple-A Columbus. Among them has been highly touted third-base prospect Giovanny Urshela.

Urshela is one of Cleveland's rising stars within its farm system and the young third baseman is experiencing his first Major League Spring Training. Urshela was only recently cleared for a full range of activities after suffering a left knee injury in winter ball, so Francona has kept a close eye on the prospect.

"He has a tremendous reputation of being a really good defender," Francona said. "I think I've been more wanting to watch his gait, just to make sure he's not favoring that leg. He promised us that, if he was, he'd let us know, but I also know he's a young kid in his first Major League camp."

So far, so good for Urshela, who has impressed Francona with his glovework at third base. Lonnie Chisenhall is currently Cleveland's starter at the hot corner, but the 23-year-old Urshela (ranked 12th by among the Tribe's Top 20 prospects) potentially represents the future at the position.

Last season, Urshela hit .280 with an .825 OPS in 128 games between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus, ranking first in the organization's Minor Leagues in runs (78), second in RBIs (84), third in hits (136) and fourth in home runs (18). Urshela saw his on-base percentage climb to .334 in '14 from .292 in '13 and he followed his Minor League season by hitting .398 in 27 games for Zulia in the Venezuela Winter League.

"For me, it was the confidence that I had last year at the plate," said Urshela, who was named the Minor League player of the year by the Indians for his work last season. "I trusted that I can hit and that was the most important thing to me. I was more aggressive."

In his final game in winter ball on Nov. 15, Urshela tweaked his left knee while sliding into third base for a triple. The third baseman rehabbed the injury in Goodyear, and was cleared for all baseball activities in time for the Indians' first full-squad workout.

"He's worked really hard to get himself to where he can go through a normal spring," said Carter Hawkins, the Indians' director of player development. "We're very excited about the spot he's in right now, given the possible outcomes of the injury."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.