The baseball post-season is now in round two, and soon the World Series will be here and gone. That means the only season a Cleveland Indians fan cares about will be here, the hot stove season.
After making a big leap in wins (69 to 80 in one year is a pretty significant jump), the Tribe front office now has pressure to get the Indians into the playoffs next season.
To do that, they have to be active in terms of player acquisition this winter.
On the offensive end, much of the focus will be on getting an outfielder and/or first baseman, and it would help if that player batted right-handed.
However, if they don’t find a good trade fit, they may have to look from within to fill some holes.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much help on the farm. Cleveland had two prospects in Baseball America’s top 20 list in the International League, but both are already with the big club: Jason Kipnis (#7) and Lonnie Chisenhall (#10).
You have to go all the way to short-season Mahoning Valley ( INF Tony Wolters (#7) and C/1B Jake Lowery (#17)) to find another Cleveland farm hand in a minor league’s top 20 list.
That means there is much help coming from the AA and A levels of the organization.
And that means, there isn’t much that other organizations will want either.
One place Cleveland has some depth in the system is at second base, where Kipnis is probably the incumbent on the big league team, with Cord Phelps, LuisValbuena, and Jason Donald, all being young players who can play the spot.
Phelps is considered the best prospect, despite his struggles in the majors because of his minor league track record (.288 batting average, 810 OPS in almost 1700 at bats).
He’s also a switch hitter.
It has been reported that the team is going to work with Donald in the outfield to make him a super-utility player.
This is weird because Kipnis played OF in college. Why not move him back to LF, and use Phelps or a combination of Phelps and Donald at the keystone?
Because the Indians are convinced Kipnis has more value as a 2B. Still, aren’t the Tribe in the business of winning games, not creating value for its players?
If Kipnis becomes a player who can hit .300 with 15-20 HR’s, wouldn’t that play nicely as a corner outfielder? Particularly if you have a shortstop who can hit 20 homers.
Especially if Phelps can hit the way his minor league numbers indicate he can.
And if Cord Phelps can be a productive major league hitter, aren’t the Indians better off with both of them in the starting lineup than if Kipnis played 2B, and let’s say Trevor Crowe in LF?
The point is why is the front office slotting Jason Kipnis as an infielder, outside of the time invested into making him one?
Isn’t the goal to put the best nine (or ten with the DH) on the field everyday?
If GM Chris Antonetti can acquire a player like Ryan Braun, then no problem, let Kipnis play 2B. But, if you can get more than a journeyman to play LF, then why not try Kipnis at the spot.
Here’s hoping the Indians consider all possibilities.