The Indians have had issues with the 2nd base position for the last several years. Ever since Roberto Alomar was traded the Indians have never really been able to fill the void consistently. I lost track a long time ago of how many different guys have played in that spot in recent years. It appears that the Indians may finally have the long term answer to the position. Jason Kipnis burst onto the major league scene last year and made a huge impact on the Tribe offense. Not only does this solidify a worriesome position, but it could be the beginning of a new star player.
The young Tribe second sacker is already a legend in Cleveland. He recently joined a very exclusive club, winning his 2nd Lou Boeudreau award for the Indians top minor league player. This club is now three men deep, Jim Thome and Victor Martinez being the other recipients. And we all know how great and loved they were in their respective times here in Cleveland. Kipnis has been very quick to adjust to big league pitching in his brief, injury shortened debut in 2010. He got his first career hit in dramatic fashion, with a game winning single.
Kipnis appears to be a fan favorite already as he is a very genuiune and hard working guy who fits in well with the fans and players on the team. He looks like he could be Travis Hafner’s little brother, which hopefully means he will carry a big bat and be a major threat in the lineup. He seemed to slot very well into the #2 hole behind Asdrubal Cabrera, and if AsCab keeps raking like last year it could put Kipnis into a lot of RBI situations.
One of the worries with Kipnis is his defense with the ground ball heavy pitching staff. He seemed to handle himself quite well dxefensively last season, and there is room to grow on that side. As long as he can make all of the routine plays and not become a liability, then there should be no problems there. I am not expecting a monstrous year from the JK Kid in 2012, but I would not be shocked to see him become a stallwort in the lineup and possibly contend for the ROY award if he still qualifies. If not, I think he will have a very successful first full big league season, and continue to grow with Santana, Cabrera and Chisenhall as the Indians young prospects become possible stars.
Lets look a little at the evidence of the type of player Kipnis is and can be. In his brief stint up in the bigs last year he batted .272 with an obp of .333, 7 homers and 19 RBI. He also had 9 doubles and a triple. 37 hits, 17 of which were for extra bases. That is no mistake, he is an etra bases machine. In his first full minor league season in 2010 he had 590 at bats between A and AA ball. He had .309/.386/.492 splits with 16 bombs, 8 triples and 32 doubles. He drove in 74 runs. In AA and AAA in 2011 he was equally as impressive. 400 at bats produced a line of .280/.362/.484 with 12 homers, 12 doubles, 9 triples and 12 steals. He drove in 55. Kipnis’ impact on the Indians in his debut last year was no fluke. The guy can flat out swing the bat and has been able to play at a high level through all levels of play thus far. He will be a legitimate 20/20 threat, likely as soon as this season. He might not have the power stroke of a guy like Dan Uggla but he could potentially be a force of equal impact on a lineup.
The Indians, the fans, and Kipnis all have very high expectations for his future. I see big things this season for him, and the pairing of him and Santana with Cabrera has me excited for the next several years