This is the sixth in a series of posts looking back at the realities of the Indians 2010 season. We’ll look at what was hoped for, what actually happened, and what the expectations are going forward at the position in 2011.
For 2011, we know Who’s on first (LaPorta), and I Don’t Know is definitely on third, but what’s on second?
Mark Grudzielanek started at second on Opening Day 2010, but not much after and was cut loose before the All-Star break. Luis Valbuena got most of the early starts and we know how that went. Jason Donald then got a lot of playing time there when Asdrubal Cabrera came off the DL in July, showing little more than utility-man ability. Throw in Jayson Nix (who ended up playing more third than second) and, by the end of the year, some guy named Drew Sutton (picked up off waivers from the Reds), and it’s obvious that Manny Acta is clueless when it comes to who will be at the number four position on April 1, 2011.
Overall production from the position was unimpressive at best. Valbuena couldn’t even sniff the Mendoza line and Donald hit slightly better, but had issues with the glove (in his defense, it was his first year playing the position). Jayson Nix had surprising power after coming over from the White Sox, but he strikes out a lot and also has stone hands. Nix isn’t really an option at second going forward, though, as it seems that Acta wants him at third next year. All this being said, it looks like the answer at second may be coming from the farm, which for once actually looks promising.
Cord Phelps had a very promising year after being called up to Columbus, batting .316 with a .892 OPS. He’s not a threat to go deep (8 HR in 442 minor league AB last year), but that is not a concern from this position. His .975 fielding percentage isn’t spectacular, but he should help create more runs than he gives away, which is a lot more than you can say for anyone else at second last year.
Phelps may just be a stop-gap, however. Jason Kipnis tore up the minors last year (16 HR, .307 avg and .878 OPS between Kinston and Akron), and in only his second game at Columbus, he hit for the cycle. Pretty impressive. His fielding leaves a little to be desired (13 errors), but I didn’t hear anyone complaining about Jeff Kent’s defense when he was mashing the ball out west. I’m not saying Kipnis is the next Jeff Kent, I’m simply saying that you can live with below-average defense if the guy gets it done at the plate.
So, looking forward, it looks like Cord Phelps may get a chance next year, but he’s going to have to be damn impressive to hold off Jason Kipnis for 2012. If next season progresses similar to this past year, don’t be surprised to see Kipnis before 2012, either. Regardless, it would be pretty difficult for either to be worse than the revolving door we had in 2010.