Kipnis Development A Key To Tribe Success
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 need to have a break out season if the Tribe is to make the playoffs.
By Craig Gifford
Jason Kipnis made quick work of rising through the ranks in the minor leagues. Now, he has made quick work of rising to the top with the Cleveland Indians. If Cleveland is to contend for an American League playoff spot this year, the second-year second baseman will have to be all he has been billed to be the last several years.
Not expected to contribute much last season, Kipnis made Indians management notice him as he pounded the ball at AAA-Columbus. He made many more notice him with a tip to the All-Star weekend Futures Game and a home run in the annual even. It was shortly after that, July 22, he made his debut with Cleveland.
He showed glimpses last year of what he can do. The converted outfielder hit a solid seven home runs, with 19 RBI and .272 batting average in just 36 games. He also showed he could be a threat on the bases with five steals.
So much more is expected of Kipnis this year on offense. With a full season the thoughts of 25 home runs, 90-plus RBI and .280 or better average are not out of question. He has the ability to be a middle-of-the-order hitter and nothing he has done in the minors or his brief time with the Tribe has done anything to disprove that.
Where Tribe brass was concerned was with his fielding. When Kipnis was drafted in the second round of 2008, it was as a center fielder. After a season in the Cleveland organization, the Indians decided his best way to get to the majors was in the middle infield, where Cleveland didn’t have much depth. Former second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera was converted to short stop and Cleveland hadn’t had a truly quality second baseman since Roberto Alomar left in the early 2000s.
With that the case, Cleveland saw a need at second and an athlete the ilk of Kipnis who could make the conversion more seamlessly than most. Kipnis is proving to not be a liability at second and his fielding average has gradually improved there the last couple years. In 2010, Kipnis’ first at second, he had mediocre fielding percentage of .962. Last year at AAA, it was up to .971. In his big league stint, Kipnis was much improved to .984. He should only improve.
A danger to opposing pitchers at the plate, a threat on the base paths and improvement in the field, has Kipnis as one of the top five most important players on the Indians. If he can continue to improve, it should go a long way to helping the Indians be a contender in the American League.
Photo: Jordan Bastian/MLB.com
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