When the 2014 season began for the Cleveland Indians, many felt that infielder Lonnie Chisenhall was nothing more than an afterthought. A bench player that was going to have trouble getting playing time with Carlos Santana now playing third and backup Mike Aviles vying for playing time in the infield as well.
What a difference 55 games can make. Chisenhall has grown as a player about as quickly as anyone could have imagined, and he entered Sunday hitting .369 (48-for-130) with three homers and 15 RBIs. The stat that has Chisenhall supporters most excited is the one of what he’s done against lefties, going 9-for-16 against them with a solid .563 average.
Chisenhall entered the 2014 season as a player most Indians fans had been nothing but frustrated with. He was the club’s first-round pick in 2008 (29th overall), yet in 2013 he spent time in the minors after getting the third base job out of spring training. He hit just .225 on the season, hitting 11 homers and 36 RBIs in 94 games for the Indians.
He took a tough 2013 and has impressed everyone in the Indians organization, including manager Terry Francona. “Lonnie is hitting right-handers and left-handers,” said Francona. “He’s just doing everything. He’s playing the game really well.” He’s also now expanding his defensive play, not only playing at third base, but also working on playing at first, which he did with a start at the spot on Sunday with Mike Aviles starting at third.
There’s no question that Chisenhall is the most improved Indians player in 2014, but now the question is can he maintain the pace that he’s on? He’s still only 25 years old, and last season was his most exposure at the Major League level. He will get plenty of chances to play and play at lot this season, and with as well as he’s playing, he’s forcing Francona to play him nearly every day.
The Indians will have plenty of options with Chisenhall should he keep playing well, using him at third, first and there’s a chance he could make it to playing a few games in the outfield this season if need be. It’s a great problem to have, and for the Indians and their fans it’s one that has been welcome for some time with their former first-round pick.