GOODYEAR, Ariz.–Jason Kipnis hasn't taken an official at-bat since early September, but he's already raised his prospect stock considerably in the last six months.
The Indians drafted Kipnis out of Arizona State in the second round last year, then put him in left field with short-season Mahoning Valley. The organization's intention on draft day wasn't to move him to the infield, but the Indians asked him to spend time playing second base during instructional league last fall.
After exciting club officials at instructs, Kipnis, who turns 23 on Saturday, has played second base exclusively in spring training.
Now, it seems likely that he's there to stay.
"He’s transitioned exceptionally well," Indians farm director Ross Atkins said. "It’s become apparent that it’s not going to be a matter of ‘if,’ it’s more a matter of ‘when’ he becomes a complete second baseman."
An average runner with a fringe-average arm, Kipnis lacks the skill set to play center field, while his overall offensive game might have been a little short to be a regular in left field despite an advanced approach. Considering that the average major league corner outfielder outhit the average second baseman by nearly 35 points of OPS in 2009, the unusual outfield-to-infield move gives his value a significant boost.
"He worked at it all offseason," Atkins said. "He came here and worked with (Arizona League hitting coach) Anthony Medrano three days a week for the bulk of the offseason. That made spring training and the idea of second base at the start of the season a lot more realistic."
Kipnis, who appears ticketed for high Class A Kinston, isn't a polished fielder yet, but he shows solid actions and aptitude at his new position.
"He has the right clock," Atkins said. "He has the rhythm for fielding the groundball. That’s the one thing you’re not going to be able to evaluate. You can evaluate hands and arm, but you can’t really evaluate their rhythm for fielding a ground ball until you see it. We knew he had the hands and arm to do it, and he had the athleticism to do it, so it’s been nice to see that he also has the right clock."
• Kelvin de la Cruz missed almost the entire 2009 season with a strained ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow, but the 6-foot-5 lefty is healthy again and should break camp in a club's starting rotation, possibly returning to Kinston after making two starts there in 2009.
• The Indians plan to increase Nick Hagadone's workload this season, putting him on a slightly lower pitch count than most other pitchers at the same level. Hagadone, who missed most of the 2008 season after having Tommy John surgery, touched 98 mph and flashed a well above-average slider at times in 2009, but was limited to mostly two- and three-inning stints.
• Righthander Jason Knapp, who had shoulder surgery after the 2009 season, appears ticketed for a midseason return.
• Righthander Jeanmar Gomez pitched at 87-90 mph against the Dodgers in a Double-A game yesterday. Gomez doesn't have a plus pitch, as his low-80s slider has improved but is average at best and his firm low-80s changeup is also still developing, but the 22-year-old has had success through Double-A with above-average control and his ability to mix his pitches and location to keep hitters off balance.
• Carlos Santana has excellent arm strength, with scouts grading his arm anywhere from 60 to 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale last year. Santana, now coming into his fourth full season of catching, is still refining his game behind the plate and has spent time working with coaches on his transfer and release.
• Assuming Santana reaches the big leagues by midseason and exhausts his prospect eligibility, odds are that third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall will supplant him as the system's top prospect. Chisenhall, the No. 31 prospect in baseball, has been working out with the Indians' Double-A club this spring after finishing the season with Double-A Eastern League champion Akron last year. Since Chisenhall signed as a first-round pick in 2008, scouts have been seemingly universal in their praise for the 22-year-old's swing, a compact stroke that gets to the ball quickly and stays in the hitting zone a long time.
Comments will be monitored prior to being added to the site. Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be rejected. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed.
We have chosen to open up commenting to everyone, so comment away! We want to hear from each and every one of you! Leave a comment.
About This Blog
Syndicate This Blog
Search This Blog