End Of Season Grades: Shortstops
Mike B. | On 05, 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.
.276 AVG, 25 HR, 92 RBI, 17 SB
In the summer we celebrated the Hall of Fame career of Roberto Alomar, Asdrubal Cabrera had a very Hall of Fame type season. Cabrera, just like Alomar, found his power stroke and was able to become a middle of the order presence that most middle infielders are not.
Cabrera, who had only hit 18 home runs in his career before 2011, took some advice from Orlando Cabrera in spring training. Orlando always noticed that Asdrubal drove the ball out of the ball park in batting practice, but didn’t take those powerful swings in the game. Orlando suggested that Asdrubal start trying to hit the ball out of the ballpark at least once a game.
Orlando’s advice paid off immediately because Asdrubal hit five home runs in both April and May to start the season. Each month equated for more than the three home runs he had hit in his injury-riddled 2010. Soon Cabrera, along with Carlos Santana, became the mainstays in the middle of the Indian offense while much of the team suffered the injury bug around them.
Defensively, Cabrera has always been a magician with the glove, but this year he should win his first Gold Glove. Cabrera had one of the best plays in all of baseball when he caught a ball barehanded and flipped behind his back to Adam Everett at second base, who completed a double play. All of Cabrera’s accomplishments made him an American League All-Star starter in the midsummer classic.
When the season ended, Cabrera had a historic season, one for Indians shortstop and for Venezuelans. He passed Lou Boudreau for the most home runs by an Indians shortstop and also passed Alex Gonzalez for the most home runs by a Venezuelan shortstop.
The question for Cabrera moving forward will be if this was a career year, or a breakout season with many more Roberto Alomar-type seasons to come. Cabrera was the best shortstop in the American League this season and has the potential to be for years to come with statistics like he had this season.
Meanwhile, the question for the Indians will be to see what their chances are of signing Cabrera to a long term contract this winter. Cabrera can not become a free agent until after the 2013 season, but if you believe this season is the start of more to come, the Indians do not want him to get any closer to the open market and the lucrative offers that would head his way.
.318 AVG, 1 HR, 8 RBI
Slated to be the Opening Day third baseman, Jason Donald was the first Indian to be hit by the injury bug all the way back on March 5. Donald was hit in the hand by Gavin Floyd, breaking the middle finger on his left hand.
By the time Donald had rehabbed and was ready to play, Jack Hannahan had taken his spot on the roster and solidified himself as the everyday third baseman. By midseason Lonnie Chisenhall would also stake claim to the hot corner and Donald would have to wait until July 31 before making his first major league appearance this season.
However, Donald did make the most of his appearances, filling in nicely when Jason Kipnis was injured in August and playing all three infield positions in the final two months of the year.
While some fans may feel Donald is worthy of a starting position, it will be tough for him to find a spot with the Indians. With Cabrara locked in at shortstop, Kipnis expected to play second base and Chisenhall slated to be the future at third, Donald may best be served as a scrappy player off the bench who can provide a spark to a lineup when players need a day off or have a minor injury.
He can be a short spark to a lineup, but counting on Donald to be a starter would not produce the .300 batting average he had during his limited role in 2011.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images