While the Cleveland Indians have been an up and down team so far this season, there have been some things that have worked out for them so far.
Many people (including us) seem to focus on the negative when it comes to this year’s Tribe, but there have been some positives to discuss as well.
First, would be the emerge of Lonnie Chisenhall as a major league player. The team’s former first round draft pick, Chisenhall hadn’t demonstrated the consistency needed to be a regular at the big league level. To be fair, he hadn’t really received a full chance.
Former manager Manny Acta was infatuated with marginal major leaguer Jack Hannahan’s glove, so the youngster, then 23 years old, didn’t get a full opportunity, despite hitting .268 with five home runs in just 43 games in 2012.
After two years as a semi-regular in Cleveland, Hannahan was a utility man for the Reds last season and is no longer playing professionally in the United States.
Last season, Terry Francona give him a share of the job in spring training, platooning him with Mike Aviles early, but when he didn’t hit in April and May, he found himself back in the minor leagues by the end of May.
While no one is saying that Chisenhall will end the season hitting at the .369 clip he’s currently at, he’s showed that the promise showed in the minors can translate to the bigs.
He’s made tremendous progress vs. lefties too, going 9 for 16 in a small sample size thus far, but his new approach at the plate has him spraying line drives all over the field. He’s not trying to pull everything anymore.
This is a surprise for many who wanted to deal Chisenhall last season, or were critical of his earning a spot on the Opening Day roster this season. By the way, even though right-hander Sonny Gray started the season lidlifter for Oakland, Chisenhall was not in the starting lineup, with Francona opting for Ryan Raburn as the DH.
We remember a radio interview conducted last season with former Tribe skipper Mike Hargrove, who was asked what players on the Indians’ roster had the potential to be perennial all-stars, like the ones he piloted in the 90’s. Hargrove mentioned Chisenhall as one of those players. That confirmed our belief that the left-handed hitter with the sweet swing could be a very good player.
So far this season, he’s demonstrating just that.
Now just 25 years old, he leads the Indians in doubles with 15, and has an on base percentage of .424 and a slugging average of .554, leading to a .977 OPS, an outstanding figure.
Yes, his average on balls put in play is extraordinarily high and it will come down, he still has all the look of a very good major league hitter, and a mainstay, along with Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, and Yan Gomes, with the Indians for many years to come.
His emergence may also lead to Carlos Santana moving to a 1B/DH role for the balance of the season. While Chisenhall isn’t Brooks Robinson or Mike Schmidt defensively, we feel that playing every day, he will provide a better glove than the converted catcher.
For a team with a recently struggling farm system, discovering a 25-year-old regular that they drafted is a great thing. With Francisco Lindor on the horizon, the Indians may have found the left side of their infield for many years.
Through hard work and determination, the emergence of Lonnie Chisenhall is one reason the struggles of the first third of the season have been a little easier to take.