End Of Season Grades: Third Basemen
Mike B. | On 04, Oct 2011
By Mike Brandyberry
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 third basemen. Be sure to check out our previous features.
.250 AVG, 8 HR, 40 RBI
Everyone knew entering 2011 that third base for the Indians was in a holding pattern until Lonnie Chisenhall was ready to take the position. What everyone didn’t know was that Jack Hannahan would be the one to hold it down, and hold it down so well.
Hannahan, who was signed to a minor league contract last winter, was not even the first choice to be the baby sitter at third base. That was reserved for Jason Donald, but a spring training injury opened the door for the slick fielding third baseman. In the circles he was known in, Hannahan was a glove only player. Since he had not played in the major leagues since 2009, the average fan was probably not familiar with his work.
However, Hannahan provided an immediate pop to the Indians lineup, beginning on Opening Day when he had a home run and three hits. His defense was slick all season and he filled the lineup better than anyone had expected until Chisenhall was brought to the big leagues in late June. When the heir apparent struggled through July, Hannahan quickly regained his spot in August while the Tribe battled in the divisional race. He had proven to be the better option down the stretch until he got hurt in early September and the Indians fell out of the race.
Hannahan proved to be a better stopgap at third base than the Indians probably ever thought he would be. This season would easily be considered his career year as a professional, but fans who hope he will return for 2012 have to remember that Jumpin Jack is still just a stopgap, and his .250 batting average was a career year. If the Indians have playoff hopes, it is going to be very tough to get there with Hannahan at third.
If Hannahan could play other infield positions, he could prove to be a solid utility infielder, but he isn’t fast enough to play the middle infield and doesn’t have the offensive production to log any serious time at first base. While he exceeded expectations this season, it will be tough for him to make the 2012 roster as a one dimensional player.
.255 AVG, 7 HR, 22 RBI
Good things come to those who wait. And while it may not seem like the Indians 2008 first round draft pick had to wait very long to reach his major league dreams, his 2011 season was full of accomplishments, followed by setbacks
Chisenhall had a fantastic spring training, and since the Indians had all but announced they would call him up in early June, many fans felt it would have been best to let the young third baseman grow and progress at the major league level, especially since 2011 was not expected to be a contending year for the Tribe. When the Indians broke camp though, The Chiz Kid was sent to AAA Columbus to continue to develop.
And after an outstanding couple months with the Clippers, and only a couple days from a big league call up, Chisenhall was hit in the head, suffering a concussion that caused him to miss 11 days. After a quick comeback and being named International League Player of the Week, Chisenhall was called to the big leagues on June 27 to try and help a struggling offense.
After providing a quick spark to the lineup, Chisenhall struggled through July, hitting only .217 and striking out 20 times in 68 plate appearances. Slowly, he lost playing time back to Hannahan in August, as he was the better immediate solution at third base and the Indians needed to win immediately. Had September 1, and expanded rosters not been around the corner, Chisenhall probably would have been optioned back to Columbus.
However, one man’s setback is another man’s opportunity and when Hannahan was injured on September 4, Chisenhall was left to start everyday for most of the remainder of the season. Getting the chance to play everyday, against both lefties and righties, Chisenhall flourished hitting .279, with four home runs and 18 runs batted in during the final month.
Heading to 2012, Chisenhall will be expected to be the starting third baseman. Despite Hannahan’s season, Chisenhall had nearly as productive a season at the plate, with his struggles, in 130 less plate appearances. He still needs to improve his defense at the hot corner and the Indians will want to see the September version of Chisenhall for the entire season.
Chisenhall will most likely be the Opening Day third baseman, but considering his streaky 2011, do not be surprised to see the Indians add a player who can play another position, but could be insurance at third if he were to have setbacks in 2012.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images