Among the many faults that contributed to the Indians slow start to the season, defense was a big player in it. To centralize one of the most frustrating defensive positions, the left side of the infield was the hardest to watch. Lonnie Chisenhall and Jose Ramirez had started off manning the left side, but could not sustain any type of consistency in their respective decisions, and were eventually bumped from their spots. Once a change was made by removing them, the Indians season started to turn around.
This was not the season to be a shortstop not named Francisco Lindor. With the inevitable arrival of the highly touted prospect, anyone playing the position was bound to be bounced for him at some point during the season regardless of how they were playing. In regards to Ramriez, it was a blessing to finally have Lindor after the start of the season he was putting up.
Ramirez, 23, spent some time during the 2014 season in Cleveland after incumbent shortstop, Asdrubal Cabrera, was eventually traded to the Washington Nationals at the summer trade deadline. In his short time in Cleveland, he had made a huge defensive impression at the position. In 68 games in 2014, he had posted a DRS of 4, while also having a WAR of 1.8 in comparison to Cabrera who had a WAR of 1.1. He was an immediate upgrade on the field and at the plate.
With how well Ramirez handled his time in Cleveland in 2014, he was named the opening day shortstop for this season, allowing Lindor to work on a “litany” of issues in Triple-A Columbus to start of the season.
Unfortunately, Ramirez did not take off like they had hoped he would. Instead of taking the league by storm, he let the game get in his head. Ramirez never felt comfortable playing shortstop in 2015. As a natural second basemen, the Indians had hoped he could continue his stylish defense that he had showed in the previous season. Instead, he posted a DRS of -2 and was eventually sent back down to Columbus to clear his head. This inevitably allowed Lindor to be called up, which ended in Ramirez being supplemented into a utility role, which is where he really should stay.
Along with Ramirez, Chisenhall never quite fit in at third base, even prior to this season.
For the past two seasons, Chisenhall has been the primary third basemen. He was given the position to start off 2014 and his offense alone kept him there through the first half of the season. Even after his offense essentially dropped into the abyss, the Indians left him there. He had a DRS of -14, and wasn’t providing in any fashion either offensive or defensive. The Indians believed he could still contribute at third coming into 2015 and threw him out there for another season.
Chisenhall took his poor defense to heart this past winter and worked on becoming a better defensive third basemen. It certainly showed this year because he ended up posting a DRS of 7. Even with his improved defense, his bat never was able to wake up enough to become useful in the lineup. He was sent down to Columbus with Ramirez, and opened the path to Giovanny Urshela taking over the hot corner. While Chisenhall never provided at third base, he certainly found his groove when he was moved over to right field after the Indians got rid of incumbent right fielder Brandon Moss. Not only did he provide gold glove caliber defense, his bat also woke up for a short time.
His offense is never going to be anything pretty and as he gets older, it’s starting to seem like Chisenhall may not be an everyday player, but after how he manned right field this past year, he’s at least earned himself the right to get another shot out there come 2016.
What we know for certain though is that Chisenhall will probably never see another inning at third base. Well, not as long as Urshela is there to man it. Urshela made defense at third base look easy, while Chisenhall seemed nervous with every play he made there.
After Chisenhall and Ramirez were sent to Columbus, not only did the Indians’ season turn around, but so did the two of their performances. When they both returned, they seemed like brand new players. Ramirez seemed more comfortable at the plate, and Chisenhall had found himself in the outfield. While they never should have been starting in their respective positions in the first place, they at least know now where they stand with the Indians coming into 2016.
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