While much of the Cleveland Indians‘ offseason discussion was characterized by new acquisitions Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn and manager Terry Francona, the Indians’ room for optimism lies in the infield.
These players are considered crucial to any team’s success, and the Indians are no exception. Though catcher Carlos Santana has been excellent, 2B Jason Kipnis and SS Asdrubal Cabrera have been the most volatile contributors.
After Kipnis’s big weekend against division rival Minnesota Twins, he is hitting .217/.277/.391 on the season. Sure, these numbers are underwhelming, but they’re accompanied by his .262 BABIP — indicating that average luck will lead to modest improvement. Kipnis’ defense and speed, including his 31 stolen bases, contributed highly to his 3.1 WAR last season.
Though Kipnis is not likely to match that number this year due to regression in both baserunning and defense, he can still be highly productive for the Indians team if he can match his 101 wRC+ of last season.
Kipnis’ double player partner Cabrera is also getting unlucky in the early season. With a .233/.307/.437 line, Cabrera should improve as his .274 BABIP improves towards his .318 career average. The concern with Cabrera is his sub-par defense. His UZR/150, which is surely overstating his early season struggles, is -24.8.
While small sample defensive metrics are the most flawed of all, this extrapolation is the perfect representation of the Indians’ fear with Cabrera.
Though no one is particularly nervous about the Indians’ bats as we enter the summer, their mediocre pitching, paired with this questionable middle infield defense, could spell even more trouble for the Indians’ run prevention efforts.
Gabe Isaacson is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter: @gabeisaacson.