Lonnie Chisenhall Looking to Take Next Step
- DOB: 10/4/1988
- Bats/Throws: L/R
- Height/Weight: 6’2″/190 lbs.
- Position: 3B
- Contract: Pre-arbitration eligible (not eligible for arbitration until at least 2015)
Lonnie Chisenhall Career Stats:
|162 Game Avg.||162||544||513||58||125||29||1||18||59||26||105||.244||.284||.411||.694||94|
Lonnie Chisenhall 2013 Year in Review:
2013 was a tale of two seasons for young third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall. The 25-year old third baseman began the season on the major league roster, but early season struggles (and some pretty horrendous plate discipline) led to Chisenhall’s demotion to AAA Columbus in early May. While in Columbus, Chisenhall lit up International League pitching to the tune of a blistering .390/.456/.676 line. After drawing a total of 3 walks in 99 plate appearances with Cleveland, Chisenhall drew 12 in 125 plate appearances with the Clippers. Lonnie Baseball has always been known to tear it up in the minor leagues, but his impressive numbers in Columbus earned him a promotion back to Cleveland in mid-June.
After his promotion, Chisenhall wasn’t used frequently, but his numbers improved from where they had been before his demotion. He hit well (albeit with more plate discipline issues) in limited action during June, but caught fire in July — as evidenced by his .271/.338/.441 line in 65 plate appearances that month. However, he struggled mightily in August (.145/.185/.274), but hit well from September until the end of the season (.270/.325/.595).
All told, Lonnie Chisenhall finished the year with a .225/.270/.398 line in 308 plate appearances, adding 11 home runs and 36 RBI as well. Baseball-Reference grades him as 1.4 wins above replacement last season, while Fangraphs only pegged him at 0.5 WAR.
Looking Ahead to 2014:
Unless you’ve been living under a rock the entire offseason (I don’t mean to offend those who actually have been), you’ve probably heard about the potential transition of “former” catcher Carlos Santana to third base. It’s a move that hasn’t been without controversy (don’t expect Santana to win a Gold Glove anytime soon), but one that makes a certain amount of sense. I’m not really a huge fan of having a full-time DH, which is likely what Santana would be due to the emergence of Yan Gomes behind the plate. As a result, it shouldn’t hurt to at least try using Santana somewhere else on the diamond where he can be in the lineup every day.
Obviously, if Santana’s transition to third is a success, it would seriously cut into Chisenhall’s playing time (though he hasn’t necessarily gotten too much of it to date anyway). It doesn’t mean the Tribe would be giving up on Chiz, and it would be pretty foolish to anyway (he’s 25 and owns a career .282/.351/.470 line in the minor leagues). However, it seems apparent that the Indians may be getting a little frustrated with him. Nonetheless, nothing is guaranteed to Chisenhall this season. Keep in mind that the Indians also have Mike Aviles, and they signed David Adams to a major league contract in the offseason as well.
He’s shown that he can hit well with consistent playing time, which is another factor for the Indians to consider. However, it would be quite risky for the Indians to give sustained plate appearances to Chisenhall given their playoff aspirations, especially if he struggles this spring. But his future is closely tied to Santana’s, so be sure to monitor them both as spring goes on.
What You Should Expect:
Admittedly, Lonnie Chisenhall is a difficult player to project. He’s been a fairly popular pick to have a breakout season in 2014 (as he was last year), and there’s certainly a chance he could deliver this year. However, a lot is needed for that to happen. Chisenhall likely needs regular playing time to post the numbers that he’s truly capable of, which probably won’t happen if Santana (or even someone else) wins the third base job.
However, Chisenhall doesn’t seem to think that he won’t be the Indians’ third baseman.
— paul hoynes (@hoynsie) February 19, 2014
With that being said, Lonnie Chisenhall needs to be put in a position to succeed. The Indians haven’t really done that with him, and it looks like he’s been pressing at the plate with the threat of a demotion available at the first glimpse of struggle. Part of the reason he’s done so well in the minor leagues has been because he’s gotten consistent playing time, and he’s been given the chance to truly show what he’s capable of doing. If the Indians are going to reward Chisenhall with regular playing time, they’ll need a lot of patience. Struggles are to be expected with him. But if he’s given enough time to adjust his game and to iron out the wrinkles, the potential reward could be tremendous.
If Chisenhall loses out on a starting job this season, a repeat of last year seems like a very realistic scenario. He’s proven that he can handle minor league pitching, so he’ll likely continue to thrive there if he’s ticketed for Columbus. However, he needs more experience against major league pitchers, which is something he will certainly get this spring. If he impresses, there’s no reason to think that the third base job will be his (even if Santana hits well). But with a minor league option remaining on Chisenhall, the Indians could very well elect to send him back to Columbus again if he struggles (for better or for worse).
If Chisenhall gets regular playing time, he’s shown the ability that he can be a terrific player.
But the question is: will Lonnie Chisenhall get that opportunity?