Just in case you weren’t already convinced that the Indians are trying to make the playoffs this year, the front office at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario decided today to call up uber-prospect Jason Kipnis from AAA Columbus. Luis Valbuena’s short stay on the North Shore is over as he is sent back to the Clippers, and Jared Goedert was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster to add Kipnis.
After a bit of a slow start to the season, Kipnis came on strong in May and June and was hitting .279/.361/.481 after yesterday’s loss in Columbus. He’s been struggling with the bat in the month of July, hitting just .154/.250/.231 but a hectic travel schedule might have had something to do with that. Kip appeared in Arizona for the MLB Futures Game as part of All Star Weekend (where he led off the bottom of the 1st with a HR) and followed that up with a trip to Salt Lake City for the AAA All Star Game. Prior to the all star break, Kipnis was hitting an impressive .297/.380/.506 with 11 of his 12 HR.
Let’s get this out of the way now …Jason Kipnis is not coming up here to play OF. He’s not coming up to be a utility INF, and he’s not coming up to play 3 days a week. He’s coming up to play 2B regularly, otherwise he wouldn’t have been brought up. Has Chris Antonetti personally assured me of this? No, but I think it is a pretty good guess. Orlando Cabrera will likely hang around in case Kipnis either fails spectacularly or gets hurt, but Kip will be the regular 2B for the foreseeable future.
Kipnis joins Alex White, Cord Phelps and Lonnie Chisenhall as a top-10 prospect called up to help the big league ballclub this year. White was excellent until he injured his finger, Phelps was overwhelmed at the plate and in the field, and Chiz has found some success but isn’t exactly setting the world on fire (.213/.260/.362). Kipnis was my #1 prospect going into this season, and (SPOILER ALERT!) he’s the #1 guy on my midseason list that will be published here on Sunday.
I think he’s proven everything he needs to prove in the minors with the bat, the only question will be the glove. The converted OF has taken quite well to 2B, but he’s only played the position for a year and a half. There are likely to be some growing pains in the field, similar to those we saw with Cord Phelps earlier this year. It’s tough enough moving up to the majors from AAA, but Kipnis is still learning the intricacies of his position in the field and will be playing extensively with a new doubleplay partner for the first time ever. One of the main things the Indians wanted him to work on in Columbus was turning two, so don’t be surprised if he’s not Robbie Alomar right away. Most scouts agree that he will be at least league-average defensively eventually, but I don’t think he’s going to be there right off the bat.
The cavalry continues to roll northward on I-71 from Columbus to try and keep the Indians in a tight AL Central playoff race. “Trading” Luis Valbuena for Jason Kipnis will probably end up being the biggest deadline deal the Indians make. Will it be enough? Time will tell, but I like the move and think that Kip (who will wear #22) will provide a solid bat in the bottom third of an order that has been struggling to produce of late. If he and Chiz get acclimated to major league pitching and are hitting well in August and September when Choo, White and Sizemore return…well, this could be a pretty potent lineup down the stretch.