Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

Weekly Wroundtable: How Should Indians' 2012 Lineup Look?


Spring training is a time for coaches and managers to assess their rosters and figure out how best to use players for the upcoming season. But Cleveland Indians manager Manny Acta has already made up his mind about his lineup: before the Indians had even played their first exhibition game, Acta revealed this week that, except for the two starting jobs that are still up for grabs, he had already figured out the Tribe’s batting order.

In the wake of this announcement, in this edition of the Weekly Wroundtable, we asked our participants: What should the Indians’ Opening Day lineup be? We gave our respondents license to make whatever assumptions they wanted about who would win the up-for-grabs jobs—the important part was the batting order.

Joining us this week is Indians Prospect Insider‘s Charlie Adams. Here’s what we all had to say:

Charlie Adams (Indians Prospect Insider): Now that we know Sizemore is doubtful for Opening Day, the Indians will have to shuffle a little. Manny Acta declared that six of his nine starting guys will go in this order:

  1. Michael Brantley
  2. Asdrubal Cabrera
  3. Shin-Soo Choo
  4. Carlos Santana
  5. Travis Hafner
  6. Casey Kotchman
  7. ????
  8. ????
  9. ????

Kipnis will play second base and hit in one of those last three spots, but he will (and should) hit seventh. That leaves third base and left field open. I am a fan of Duncan, and think that drawing a lefty (Ricky Romero) on Opening Day would be a good way to start him because Duncan eats up lefties, so put him on the board at No. 8. The final spot in the lineup belongs to Hannahan, who can’t hit no matter what hand the opposing pitcher throws with, but considering it’s a lefty (who kills Lonnie Chisenhall), and he plays great in the field, he hits ninth

While this is what I think will happen, it is by no means what I want to happen (further details here).

Lewie Pollis: I’d like to start with a caveat that this could change as the spring goes on and some of the questions—both in terms of who will start and how certain players will do—start to be answered. That said, my lineup is going to look quite different from everyone else’s:

  1. Shin-Soo Choo
  2. Asdrubal Cabrera
  3. Jason Kipnis
  4. Carlos Santana
  5. Travis Hafner
  6. Shelley Duncan
  7. Casey Kotchman
  8. Jack Hannahan
  9. Michael Brantley

I assumed that Duncan and Hannahan would win the left field and third base spots, respectively. I’d rather see some younger guys win those jobs if they show that they deserve them because they’d have higher ceilings (Russ Canzler or Matt LaPorta in left, Lonnie Chisenhall at third), but Duncan and Hannahan will probably prove to be the Tribe’s best options—at least, for now.

Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Seeing Choo in the leadoff spot might look inherently wrong to Indians fans who have already cast him as a middle-of-the-order guy. But think about it: he’s a good contact hitter with great plate discipline, solid speed, and plus power. What more do you want at the top of the lineup?

Kipnis hitting third might raise some eyebrows as well—especially since Manny Acta says he’ll hit seventh—but I think it makes perfect sense given his skill set. On-base percentage is less important for a No. 3 hitter than for anyone else in the middle of the order because he leads off so infrequently (think about who usually hits in the second inning). OBP isn’t a weakness for Kipnis, but it’s not a strength to the same degree that power is. So the No. 3 hole seems like a pretty good place for his bat.

My other unorthodox suggestion is hitting Brantley last—it’s just where he fits best. He showed great plate discipline in the minors in three partial MLB seasons he’s yet to translate that into a walk rate over 6.9 percent, and despite his vaunted contact ability he’s a .265 career hitter. He’s a good player and at 24 he definitely has time to improve his offensive skills, but a batter with no real on-base skills or power to speak of shouldn’t be hitting at the top of the lineup.

Steve Kinsella: I am not a believer that the lineup for a major league team is going to make a heck of a lot of difference in the overall performance of the offense. For the sake of argument, I do believe that there is merit in placing the best hitters (with best OBP) in the top positions in the lineup which gives them the most at-bats over the course of the season. I also like attempting to place hitters in lineup positions that help limit a hitter’s weaknesses. With that said, the lineup that I would most like to see on opening day is:

  1. Jason Kipnis
  2. Asdrubal Cabrera
  3. Shin-Soo Choo
  4. Carlos Santana
  5. Travis Hafner
  6. Russ Canzler
  7. Michael Brantley
  8. Casey Kotchman
  9. Jason Donald.

Some fans believe it is too early to thrust Kipnis into the leadoff role but I believe he has exhibited patience at the plate throughout his minor league career and his walk rate will increase from the 7.3 percent of 2011. Kipnis has never shown a sharp platoon disadvantage through his minor league career or during his brief time in Cleveland last year. Meanwhile, Brantley has a career OPS versus LHP of .572.

The other lineup design that I would like to see is having Brantley bat ahead of Kotchman, who is an extreme groundball hitter (53.7 percentage for his career) and is susceptible to hitting into double plays. One of his strengths is the ability to make contact, and if the Indians can have a runner (Brantley) in motion for Kotchman they can reduce the amount of GIDPs he hits into.

Brian Heise: My lineup for the Indians in the wake of the Sizemore news would be as follows:

  1. Michael Brantley
  2. Asdrubal Cabrera
  3. Shin-Soo Choo
  4. Carlos Santana
  5. Travis Hafner
  6. Matt LaPorta
  7. Jason Kipnis
  8. Casey Kotchman
  9. Lonnie Chisenhall

Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

It might be unpopular but I’m putting LaPorta out in left field assuming he shows us something this spring. The Indians have a lot of other options for left field but LaPorta potentially gives them what they need: power and a right-handed bat to break up all the lefties. If I’m LaPorta I’m grabbing my outfielder’s mitt and sprinting to the to left field as fast as humanly possible. Hopefully he sees the opportunity he has sitting in front of him.

As for the rest of the lineup, not much should really change from last year, especially in the top two thirds (it’s pretty self explanatory). As for the bottom third, I’m hitting Kipnis ahead of Kotchman. He showed last year that we can trust him in big spots. Kotchman is the new guy. He has to earn my trust before I move him up. As for Chisenhall, the ninth spot takes some pressure of of him and should give him a chance to really get comfortable in the big leagues.

Katie Hendershot:

  1. Michael Brantley
  2. Asdrubal Cabrera
  3. Jason Kipnis
  4. Carlos Santana
  5. Travis Hafner
  6. Shin-Soo Choo
  7. Casey Kotchman
  8. Shelley Duncan
  9. Lonnie Chisenhall

Brantley fits the leadoff role well by bringing speed to the base paths and consistency at the plate. Without the option of Grady Sizemore, he is the best option in center field. Cabrera had a career year in 2011. He showed significantly more power than in the past, but the numbers he put up last year may not be realistic to hope for in 2012. Kipnis has the potential to bring power to the plate and can fill the third spot in the lineup—at least until Choo proves that he has put the woes of last season behind him.

Santana and Hafner could follow up in the fourth and fifth spots with their power. Until Choo shows that he’s ready for the added pressure of the top of the lineup, I think it would be good to put him sixth to give him time to get back to where he was before last season.

I’m taking some liberties on the last two spots in the lineup given the uncertainty of left field and third base. Of the left field options, I like Duncan. I don’t see him as a long-term solution, but until Sizemore is healthy again, I think he would be a nice option for the eighth spot in the lineup. We have yet to see if Chisenhall has improved over the course of the offseason and is ready for the full-time third base job. However, for the future of the team, I would hope that Chisenhall wins the third base job. To relieve the pressure and let him grow at the plate, he would be in the No. 9 hole.

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Tags: Jason Kipnis Manny Acta Matt LaPorta Michael Brantley Shin Soo Choo