Indians

Let’s Argue: Who Can Shoulder 2B Workload With Kipnis Out?

Jason Kipnis Preview
Welcome to Let’s Argue, your weekly opportunity to be #MadOnline. The premise is simple: WFNY’s Mike Hattery and Jeff Nomina will present arguments — maybe just a question or a deep stat dive or a good old fashioned hot take. Then, they will either argue with each other or invite you to come argue with us. This week, Mike and Jeff are starting the argument, but don’t let that stop you for joining in the comment section or coming at us 140 characters at a time on Twitter @SnarkyHatman &@SportsNom.

 

lets argue

With news breaking that Jason Kipnis will be on the disabled list to open the season, the incredible depth and versatility of the Tribe’s roster will instantly be tested. Kipnis has posted back-to-back seasons of more than four wins over replacement player, and no matter what option the Indians decide, his production will be sorely missed. But, no stranger to injuries, the Indians will follow the same path that led them to Game 7 of the World Series with a depleted roster: next man up.

Mike, let’s start with what the Indians SHOULD do. One idea would be to have Jose Ramirez move to his more natural position of second base and give Yandy Diaz a crack at third base. Or perhaps Gio Urshela? Could Lonnie Chisenhall make his return to third and the Indians tap into that outfield depth to fill his spot in right field?

Based on this comment from Terry Francona, these are all unlikely moves.

The other options are…not quite as exciting. Michael Martinez, a favorite of Indians fans, was already likely to make the roster out of camp. Does he get first shot at the starting gig? Or do they give it to Erik Gonzalez? Yandy Diaz has played five career games at second base, but they seem determined to play him all over the diamond, does he get a look at second base? Tito also mentioned looking outside the organization. Is there anyone not in camp you’d be interested in giving a look?

The Indians have options. How would you like to see them play this?

Jim Pete and Mike Hattery also discussed this on the latest EHC podcast.

 

Mike Hattery: This appears to be my weekly opportunity to mention the historic incompetence of Michael Martinez. By wRC+ with more than 500 plate appearances, Michael Martinez has been better than five hitters in MLB history.

As Mr. Todd Dery has said ABM (“Anything but Martinez”). I am afraid I cannot get past this. This is organizational negligence or intentional infliction of emotional distress upon Indians fans.  The Indians could pull John McDonald out of retirement and upgrade on Michael Martinez. I certainly do not know which direction the Indians will choose but I can tell you that everyday Michael Martinez absorbs a spot on the Indians bench is an unquestionable failure. So, without answering your question, who should get the job Nom?

Jeff: Like most Tribe fans, I’ve become infatuated with Yandy Diaz. His bat would be a great fit on this roster and he’s versatile enough to bounce around third base, second base, and the outfield. Tito has mentioned defense as an area of concern, but considering the team has played Carlos Santana and Chris Johnson at third base in recent years, it’s hard not to roll your eyes at those comments. I also worry about the message is sends if Yandy is once again passed over. He spent 158 games in AA and 99 in AAA. When the team needed a utility player able to cover both the infield and outfield last season, they brought in Michael Martinez and Coco Crisp. He wasn’t part of the September call-ups and saw Michael Martinez, the player you just described, take the final at bat of Game 7, knowing it could’ve been him. If Yandy is again passed over at age 25 when there is an obvious need, it would be hard to blame any frustrations he might have with the team.

That being said, Yandy needs to get healthy soon if he hopes to crack the roster. He’s been out since March 4 with a groin injury and it’s going to be difficult to force his way onto the roster if he doesn’t return soon. The team would also have to make a move on the 40-man roster if it wants to add Yandy. While this isn’t a significant hurdle, it may be enough to keep him in AAA if Kipnis is only supposed to miss a few games.

I don’t think they’ll put Michael Martinez as the everyday second baseman with Kipnis out. While there are too many moving parts with both Kipnis and Brantley’s health in the air, I think the most obvious choice is Erik Gonzalez. He is a good defender, on the 40-man, has been in the system a long time, and was a call-up last September with appearances in 21 games. He’s not overly exciting as a prospect, but could slot in and second base and play solid defense until Kipnis returns. He’s more or less Michael Martinez but at least with options and a tiny bit of upside. He was climbing up prospect rankings after posting a .780 OPS in 2014 before a disastrous 2015 (.666 OPS) made a lot of people write him off. But he bounced back last year with a .779 OPS at AAA. He’s good defensively, can steal some bases, and might be passable with the bat (relative to Martinez, that is). Is he my favorite option? No. But I’m not as down on him as others seem to be.

Mike: Diaz faces a few more days of rehab on his groin and we are quickly approaching the point in spring training where the team escalates to more regular season type lineups and positioning.  Ronny Rodriguez has been a swing-and-miss disaster this spring so his name can be crossed off the list. With Ramirez staying put at third the options are very narrow, Diaz or Gonzalez. With Francona’s commentary on Diaz defensively, I would be surprised to see him deployed at second base. Finally, while Diaz is super athletic his body simply profiles better at third or in the outfield. We are left with Erik Gonzalez. Gonzalez is an above average defender, and an upgrade on Martinez offensively. Gonzalez hits righties pretty well, added power in 2016 and adds some speed. Gonzalez has some pedigree and certainly won’t hurt the Indians. One thing is for sure, Gonzalez is likely a 30-40 wRC+ upgrade over Michael Martinez. Gonzalez won’t hurt the Indians covering a few weeks for Kipnis and that is enough.

So what do you think? Should it be Gonzalez, Diaz or an outside option?

Yell at us in the comments and reply in our twitter poll.

  • Chris
  • Chris

    Since we’re opening the season against Odor and the Rangers, I propose we stick Yandy out at 2B for a few games.

  • mgbode

    Hattery doesn’t mince words on Martinez. While I don’t agree that he is useless (defensive replacement and pinch running have value), I do agree he should never hold a bat in his hand unless he is handing it to someone else. I don’t think he has enough value to be on the 25-man roster with such a role.

    The team looks strong and deep until baseball happens. Because baseball.

  • jpftribe

    There is the what do I want them to do vs what they are going to do.

    Want: Ursula or Diaz at third and JRam at 2nd.

    Will do: Martinez and Gonzalez will split time. Like it or not, Martinez is the best defensive option at 2nd. The only way they consider moving JRam is if Kip is is out for an extended period of time. Wait and see guarantees Martinez a roster spot.

    The only other realistic scenario is if they keep Robertson as a utility guy for his bat. He has been working out at second.

  • Steve

    Gonzalez better be getting the vast majority of reps. The only reason to keep him in AAA is to have him able to play everyday, despite the fact that hes only ever going to be a utility player for us. If he comes up here and sits, then hes good enough to sit on the bench all season.

  • Steve

    Hattery doesn’t go far enough on Martinez. And with both Gonzalez and Diaz ready to slide in, I’d say we still look deep enough. We could have needed to sign an Orlando Cabrera and Jack Hannahan just to fill out the infield like previous iterations of the team.

  • jpftribe

    He has and I think he is the favorite for a utility spot. It still leaves a spot open with Kipnis on DL, and that would go to Martinez, or longshot Robertson, IMHO.

  • Steve

    Sure, since Martinez apparently needs to be on the roster, he can play once a week all over the roster, as is his norm, with Gonzalez as the regular 2B.

  • jpftribe

    Diaz hasn’t played a game yet this spring, and has yet to work out with the starting squad. I’m not sure he has enough time left to convince them to bring him up.

  • JNeids

    Is that Bo Burnham?

  • Natedawg86

    Why did we have Martinez on 40 man roster and not Anthony Santander?

  • Natedawg86
  • Steve

    While he only has 9 PAs, he does have some, including some with a mostly regular lineup.

    His injury may keep him out for Opening Day, but this isnt a long-term concern, and my point was regarding overall depth. He provides depth this season by being done with AAA pitching.

  • mgbode

    this isnt a long-term concern

    Are we talking about Brantley, Kipnis, or Yandy? I mean, I know it shouldn’t be… but I have this reflexive action anytime I see those words regarding Indian injuries now.

  • jpftribe

    Hey I’m with you on MM but unfortunately they are not asking my opinion.

    I bring up Robertson because someone inside the organization is desperate enough to workout a career journeyman outfielder there. And that was the day Kipnis was a complete ghost in Goodyear, one day before they announced him not being ready for opening day.

  • Steve

    Diaz, and thats absolutely the right response considering this org’s history. But he supposedly is back running and taking BP already.

  • mgbode

    It absolutely kills me that Meisel wrote an apologist article defending the injury stuff. They have been competely disingenious about hurt players at all turns and have created an atmosphere of distrust.

    Amazing that an organization that is so good at so many things can completely whiff on an essential item such as injury announcements and status.

  • jpftribe
  • mgbode

    What kills me is that such is readily obvious to fans there such as yourself. But, the beat writers assigned to cover the team and figure such things out don’t report anything like that out.

    I hate being so harsh on these guys, but man. Like the Indians each of those guys does many things well, but the injury stuff is a gigantic hole in coverage. It doesn’t even have to be speculation. It could be “after taking live BP yesterday, Kipnis has not been here today. The team will not confirm if it is a scheduled day off or not.”

    anyways…

  • mgbode

    Urshela at 3B, Lindor at SS, J-Ram at 2B, and Santana at 1B is our best infield defensive pairing. Would be fun watching those guys work (wish Gio had a better bat but, man, that’d be a fun watch).

  • Natedawg86

    When is USA out…#FREEMILLER

  • Steve

    I get why it happens, theres no advantage to telling people how badly a guy is hurt. But, coupled with their approach so far that has attempted to bring almost every guy back before he’s healed, it doesn’t look like subterfuge as much as Brownsiness.

  • jpftribe

    There were 3 reporters interviewing Francona on the field after the game yesterday. Bastian, Hoynes and an AP guy. Bastian was still in Ohio last week.

  • jpftribe

    I wish I had more upticks for this.

  • mgbode

    That actually makes me feel much better, thanks.

    Bastian – he works for MLB.com. Understandably you are getting the sunnyside up version of everything from him.

    Hoynes – he retired years ago and is just collecting vacations (this incenses me that the better beat guys are not there instead but separate issue).

    AP – doesn’t care about depth, just needs some vanilla content to pass along.

  • mgbode

    Yan Gomes wasn’t subterfuge?

    Ball hits him on the thumb in Akron. Team says it is just a bruise but they “sent him home early to rest” so he wasn’t there for postgame interviews. Next day, broken bone, out weeks.

  • Steve

    It probably was, but when we throw that in with bringing Salazar, Brantley, Bourn, and Swisher back too soon, it looks a helluva lot more like they just dont know what theyre talking about.

  • mgbode

    I suppose I’m the optimist hoping they are being disingenuous rather than dumb.

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