Jason Kipnis Is Ready to Become a Star
• DOB: 4/3/1987
• Bats/Throws: L/R
• Height/Weight: 5’11”/190 lbs.
• Position: Second Base
• Contract: Pre-Arbitration Eligible, Arbitration Eligible 2015-2017, Free Agent 2018
Jason Kipnis Career Stats:
|162 Game Avg.||162||711||621||94||168||32||4||18||86||32||74||137||.270||.349||.424||.773||118|
2013 Year in Review:
The 2013 season was a coming out party of sorts for Jason Kipnis. Fresh off of a .257/.335/.379 performance in 2012 with 14 home runs, 76 RBI, and 31 stolen bases, he took his game to the next level. The end result was a .284/.366/.452 slash line with 17 homers, 86 RBI, and 30 stolen bases.
On top of that, Kipnis also earned his first ever all-star nod, making the team as a reserve and contributing with an RBI double in the game, as well as making the case to have his name mentioned in the same light as Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia as the best second baseman in the league. Not bad for a former outfielder turned second base project. The only question that remains to be answered is just how good can Jason Kipnis become?
In terms of wins above replacement, Kipnis was by far the Indians most valuable offensive weapon in 2013. After posting an impressive bWAR of 4.0 in 2012, Kipnis upped the ante with a 5.9 bWAR in 2013. Knowing that Kipnis is just beginning to enter his athletic prime that number figures to only get higher in coming years.
However, Jason Kipnis’ defensive prowess, or lack thereof continued to be a hindrance for the Indians. In 2013, his zone rating, per Fangraphs, came out to -9.5. His UZR/150, -4.2. When paired with Asdrubal Cabrera, that made up one of the worst defensive middle infield combinations in all of baseball in 2013. On the other hand, Kipnis has shown progress and is still learning the finer points of playing the position. When combined with his offensive prowess, his defensive misgiving could more easily be overlooked.
Looking Ahead to 2014:
The Indians are quickly approaching a breaking point with Jason Kipnis. 2014 will be his last season of pre-arbitration eligibility. What this means is that Jason Kipnis is about to become a very rich man. The Indians simply need to decide on how rich, exactly.
Many are expecting Kipnis to be even better in 2014 than he was in 2013. And with good reason. As Kipnis enters into his arbitration years he will be due for a significant salary increase based on his career numbers to date and the various accolades he has collected. Another year close to 6 bWAR and all-star recognition are only going to make this more costly.
If the Indians are uncomfortable with the year to year arbitration song and dance, they could also consider signing him to a long-term contract extension. As I have outlined several times prior, the Indians and Kipnis have been in talks with Kipnis about an extension. However, what was already looking like a $50-plus million contract is quite possibly escalating into the $80-$100 million range. Buckle up Tribe fans, this could get interesting.
What You Should Expect:
Most projection systems have Jason Kipnis regressing a bit in 2014. This is due mostly in part to his BAbip. In 2013, he had a .345 BAbip. Per the projections posted on Fangraphs, all of the major projection systems say he will regress back to the league average value of .300. The end result is a substantial his to his slash line, rather than .284/.366/.452, they see him closer to the .265/.350/.420 neighborhood. Those aren’t bad numbers, but they aren’t what we saw in 2013.
However, given Jason Kipnis’ age and importance to the Indians, there is no reason to believe that he can’t experience another break out year. Projection systems want to bring players closer to league average rather than making bold predictions. Sure, Kipnis could come back to Earth in a big way in 2014. He could also continue his ascension towards becoming the best second baseman in baseball.
Figure to see a lot of Jason Kipnis in 2014. He has already been featured heavily in the new Indians ad campaign. He will also be the focal point of the Indians offense, fitting in nicely in the three spot once again behind Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana. If he can continue to show improvement, and be the offensive force the Indians need in the center of the lineup, the Indians could experience big things once again in 2014.