Indians

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

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?

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