End Of Season Grades: Second Basemen
Mike B. | On 03, Oct 2011
September 29 began a two week, end of season grade and breakdown by each position. Certainly after the wild ride the 2011 Cleveland Indians took fans on, grades, projections and areas of improvement are all sought for 2012, with the goal being a playoff team next season. Today, we examine the second basemen. Be sure to check out our previous features.
.272 AVG, 7 HR, 19 RBI
Jason Kipnis’ season resembled the 2011 Cleveland Indians season in many ways. In April he was someone few knew or took seriously, then exceeded expectations, suffered injuries and finished strong.
Kipnis was not supposed to reach the majors this year, but have a full season a AAA Columbus where he would continue to improve offensively, but most importantly defensively. The outfield convert is still below average on the infield.
However, the Indians first half success and offensive lull in the summer months, moved the timetable up to Kipnis’ debut. After a half season at AAA, where he was named to the All-Star team and the Future’s Game, Kipnis was called up to the big leagues on July 22 with the hopes of providing a spark. Kipnis did just that, moving from eighth to second in the batting order quickly and hitting a home run in four consecutive games from July 31 to August 3.
During his home run streak, his platoon partner Orlando Cabrera, was traded to the San Francisco Giants. In only a week, Kipnis had convinced the Tribe that he is the second baseman of now and the future.
An oblique injury sent Kipnis to the disabled list on August 13 and kept him there for nearly a month. In the same time the Indians struggled and began to fade in the Central Division race. However, returning to the lineup for most of September, Kipnis picked up where he left off, continuing to prove he is the second baseman for the Indians for 2012 and beyond.
While fans and the organization will count on Kipnis to be an Opening Day starter in 2012, everyone has to remember that he is still young and still a prospect. He wasn’t supposed to be in the big leagues in 2011and a 2012 setback is still possible. Kipnis appears to be a cornerstone of the franchise for seasons to come, but remember he has still only had 150 major league plate appearances and his defense is still below average.
Still, despite the small sample size, Kipnis looks to be a player who could provide quite an offensive pop in a lineup that needs one desperately. He appears to be a player that could realistically hit anywhere between second and sixth in the lineup, with the potential to hit 20 home runs and drive in 100 runs in a season very soon.
Kipnis, like the Indians, certainly exceeded expectations this season, and expectations for the future will rise for each, but youth is sometimes tough to predict..
.155 AVG, 1 HR, 6 RBI
Phelps had the chance, even before Kipnis, to take the second base job from Orlando Cabrera in early June when he was promoted from Columbus. However, Phelps could never really take grasp of the job struggling both offensively and defensively.
Despite a walkoff home run on June 19 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Phelps struggled at the plate in his summer stint. Likewise he made five errors at the major league level in only 155 innings on the field.
However, Phelps will only be 25 when Opening Day arrives in April and can play second base and shortstop in the infield. Considering he hit. 294 with 14 home runs and 63 runs batted in at Columbus, Phelps will certainly battle for a utility infielders spot in the spring.
Even though it appears Kipnis has taken control of the second base position, Phelps’ potential could make him a player the Indians consider trading in the offseason to help improve the ball club, or could hope his potential flourishes in 2012 if other players are injured or struggle.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images