Hannahan Provides Tribe With Veteran Glove At Third Base
Each week through Spring Training the DTTWLN staff will profile and break down the players in camp for the Indians at Goodyear, Arizona and examine their potential roles for the season to come. This week, we continue our Goodyear coverage by breaking down the players who are battling for a chance to make the Opening Day roster.
By Craig Gifford
It’s no secret that the 2011 Cleveland Indians were not exactly an offensive juggernaut. Out of 14 teams in the American League, the Indians ranked ninth in runs scored (704), batting average (.250) and home runs (154). Those numbers are all bound to improve this year.
The Tribe should get a full season from second year second baseman Jason Kipnis. Catcher Carlos Santana, who provided fine power numbers in his first full major league season, is bound to improve as he becomes better accustomed to major league pitching. Shin-Soo Choo, who had his worst year in 2011 thanks to injuries and off the field matters, should be expected to return to his All-Star form of 2010 and 2011.
Add in a hoped for improvement from Asdrubal Cabrera, entering his prime and the Indians should put up a far better offensive showing this season. That’s not even to mention Grady Sizemore (currently injured) and Travis Hafner. If those two oft-hurt sluggers can have decent seasons, that’ll only increase the Tribe’s hope of more punch in the lineup.
All that being said, the Indians would be wise to go defense in the race for third base. The battle between veteran journeyman Jack Hannahan and 2011 rookie Lonnie Chisenhall should be interesting this spring. Both have merit strong looks and thoughts to break camp as the Tribe’s Opening Day starter. Only one will.
Hannahan has the glove and Chisenhall has the potential to be a power threat. With the bats Cleveland could have in the lineup, an extra strong fielder wouldn’t hurt. Hannahan provides that glove, better than almost anyone on the team and better than almost any other major league third baseman.
Last season, Hannahan’s first with the Indians and first in the majors since 2009, saw the slick fielder commit just five errors in 104 games at the hot corner. Chisenhall, meanwhile, had his issues in the field, with 10 gaffes in just 58 games. He could use some more time to refine his glove-work and at the major league level, on a team hoping to contend is 2012, is not the place to do it.
Not only is Hannahan a wiz with the glove, but he will not be damaging to the team at the plate, either. He showed last year he could produce offensively, with a .250 batting average, eight home runs and 40 RBI. Nothing sterling, but all you need from a guy with that kind of fielding and batting in the No. 9 hole.
Now, there is no question Chisenhall would likely be a better offensive option. He showed glimpses of what he can do last year, with 7 jacks and 22 RBI in 66 games. Before his June call to the big show, Chisenhall was raking in Columbus, to the tune of seven long balls and 45 RBI in 66 games on the farm. Add it up to 14 taters and 67 runs brought in and that’s a decent year for a third baseman.
However, provided the rest of the team hits as it should and could, the offense is not needed as much as Chisenhall needs to continue to grow as third baseman. He can do his best fine-tuning work in Columbus and perhaps be called up to the majors to stay in July or August.
The keys to the major league third base car should be handed to the veteran. Think about this: you have Hannahan at third, Cabrera, who was Gold Glove finalist last year, at shortstop, Casey Kotchman and his 2011 .998 (two errors) fielding percentage at first. Add Kipnis and what should be an improved-upon .963 field percentage for the former outfielder and the infield defense could be true strength.
It could certainly be better than the team the Indians are trying to chase down in the division, the Detroit Tigers. Detroit will be slow in their infield with Jhonny Peralta at short, Miguel Cabrera at third and Prince Fielder and first. Any leg up the Indians could get would be beneficial.
Add to that the Indians have ground ball pitchers in Derek Lowe, Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Roberto Hernandez (formerly Fausto Carmona) if and when he returns, and the Cleveland could sure use a strong infield defense.
Hannahan gives Cleveland a little more of what it needs than Chisenhall does. Chisenhall is without question the third baseman of the future and possible a future All-Star. Hannahan should be the third baseman of today and April 5, Opening Day.
Photo: Jordan Bastian/MLB.com