The Cleveland Indians currently find themselves with the enviable dilemma of having a surplus of capable third baseman. Jack Hannahan is known for his great glove and was hitting the ball quite well this year too before he got injured. Jose Lopez got the call to fill in in Hannahan’s absence . Meanwhile, top prospect Lonnie Chisenhall had been tearing the cover off the ball in Triple-A and slugged a homer in first at-bat back with the Indians Monday night.
In this edition of the Weekly Wroundtable, we asked our panelists: Assuming everyone is healthy, who is Cleveland’s best option at third base? Joining us this week is Indians Prospect Insider‘s Charlie Adams. Here’s what we all had to say:
Charlie Adams: Jack Hannahan is a wonderful defensive third baseman and has had a better than expected offensive performance (.276/.353/.419) so far this season, but this team needs more than Jack Hannahan. Lonnie Chisenhall may or may not end up providing that, but the Indians needs another Kipnis-esque type of breakout to really give this team a shot.
Yes, Jack Hannahan probably gives you more wins, but his ceiling is limited and Chisenhall’s is not. Keep Hannahan around for spot starts, an occasional go at first base and as a defensive replacement, but let Lonnie get the bulk of the starts and more importantly: plate appearances.
Lewie Pollis: Jack Hannahan for sure. Even if he hasn’t looked quite as sharp as he did last year he’s still a wizard in the field, and that’s invaluable for the third-worst strikeout staff in baseball. Not to mention he’s looked pretty good with the stick and seems to have a preternatural knack for coming through in the clutch. At worst, he’s a league-average hitter whose stellar defense helps our contact pitchers succeed. No way Jose Lopez beats that.
There’s a chance that Lonnie Chisenhall could emerge as the better choice while Hannahan is out, but that’s unlikely. The biggest flaw in Chisenhall’s game (and the reason he lost his job in spring training) is plate discipline, and he hasn’t made any strides in that respect. He has just four walks in 128 plate appearances this year (combined between Columbus and Cleveland) against 22 strikeouts, and while the sample size is so small as to be insignificant it’s telling that PITCHf/x says he’s chased a whopping 60 percent of pitches out of the zone since returning to the parent club.
If Chisenhall suddenly shows drastically improved pitch selectiveness or so dazzles at another aspect of the game that it makes up for his impatience, we can talk. But until then I’m sticking with Hannahan.
Geordy Boveroux: It’s hard to say who is the best third base option right now for the Tribe. Hannahan has been solid, but obviously isn’t 100 percent right now. When healthy, his defense is a big help for Cleveland’s pitching, something that is essential especially with Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez struggling.
Chisenhall was swinging a hot bat at Columbus, and hit a home run in his first game in the Majors this year. But as I wrote last week, Chisenhall’s hot hitting is unsustainable in my opinion. But while he’s hot, could his offense be more valuable than Hannahan’s defense? That’s the real question, and since Hannahan’s glove is more consistent than Chisenhall’s hot streak, I’ll go with the veteran on the hot corner.
Brian Heise: For the Indians’ third base situation, I feel like the best answer depends on the situation they find themselves in moving forward. If the Indians are going to he in the thick of things in the AL Central then the answer should be Hannahan. His defense is more valuable than people realize and he’s shown a knack for coming through in the clutch. Is he going to be confused with Alex Rodriguez in his prime? Certainly not, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have value to a playoff contender in the bottom third of the lineup.
If the Indians struggle, fall back to the pack and out of contention, then Chisenhall has to be the man. He needs to get valuable big league at bats if he’s going to be the third baseman of the future. The sooner the Indians can get him comfortable at the plate the better off they’ll be in the end. But, that’s if and only if the playoffs become a pipe dream. Until then, Hannahan’s the man.