Now that the 2013 season is complete, it’s time to take a look back at the team and how each player performed on the field. Yesterday, we started things off with Carlos Santana and Nick Swisher. Now we will take a look at one of the Indians two All-Star selections in 2013: Jason Kipnis.
2013 Projection: Big things were expected from Jason Kipnis in his second full season at the big league level. With his play during his brief stint in 2011 and how well he played in the first half of 2012, everyone thought that this year would serve as Kipnis’ coming out party. It wasn’t so much a question of would Kipnis continue to improve. Rather, it was a matter of how much. He finished 2012 with 3.7 bWAR or 3.1 fWAR depending on your preference of statistical measures and Bill James went so far as to project Kipnis would finish with 4.4 WAR in 2013. If Kipnis could find a way to improve that much, it stood to reason that the Indians would have an excellent chance of being a very good baseball team.
It goes without saying, but Kipnis was projected to be an offensive stud when you combined his ability to hit for a decent average with his power potential and ability to steal bases. His 31 steals in 2012 led the Indians and provided the Indians with a way to put extra pressure on opposing pitchers. The real question surrounding Kipnis, however, centered around his defense.
As a converted outfielder, Kipnis was still very much in a learning mode as a second baseman heading into 2013. He may not have been the most reliable second baseman from a defensive standpoint, but his commitment to getting better was an encouraging sign all round. Whether or not he could lift himself up into the upper echelon of second baseman would depend on his level of improvement defensively.
So what happened?: The 2013 season ended up being Jason Kipnis’ first legitimate steps toward super-stardom. After a rough start to the season, his bat came to life during the month of June. During that month, Kipnis his a mind-boggling .419/.517/.699 with 4 home runs, 25 RBI, and 17 runs scored. It seemed as if every time he came to bat in a critical situation, he delivered. His hot month helped turn the Indians season around and catapulted them back into playoff contention.
Overall, Kipnis’ numbers were fantastic, despite another second half swoon. He finished the year batting .284/.366/.452 with a career high 17 home runs and 84 RBI. He also finished the season with an impressive 130 wRC+ and team leading 4.5 fWAR. Not to be outdone, Kipnis was rewarded for his outstanding performance throughout the early parts of the season with a spot on the All-Star team and during the game he delivered an RBI double to left.
Defensively, Kipnis continued to make impressive strides. He committed only 12 errors in almost 1300 innings of work at second. More importantly, Kipnis made the routine plays more often than not and made them look easy. If you didn’t know any better, you would almost swear that Kipnis has been playing second base a lot longer than he really has. It was this defense, combined with his ever improving offensive repertoire, that catapulted him right on the door step of super stardom with the life of Dustin Pedroia and Robinson Cano.
Where do we go from here?: The goal with Kipnis should be helping improve his status as the face of the Cleveland Indians franchise. After all, Kipnis has both the skills on the field and the personality off of it to become one of the fresh new faces of the game today. And let’s be honest, the Indians could use a little bit of love from the national media. It has been far too long since a member of the Indians made an All-Star team viz fan vote, but Kipnis may have more than a few opportunities in the years to come. As he ages and begins to enter into his physical prime, don’t be surprised to see the power totals from Kipnis continue to climb. Making it to 20 home runs was the easy part. Now, finding a way to surpass that total on a yearly basis should become quite the challenge for the Tribe’s young super star in the making.
Key Moment: On May 17 against the Mariners, Kipnis delivered a three run, game winning home run in the bottom of the tenth inning. The homer, which sent the fans in attendance into near delirium, became one of the defining moments of 2013 and not likely to be one that any of us will forget anytime soon.