Bats: Left Throws: Right
Acquired: 1st round pick in 2008
2014 salary: ~$500,000 (last year of pre-arbitration)
Lonnie Chisenhall moved fairly quickly though the minor leagues after the Indians made him their 1st round pick in 2008. He never dominated a level, but his numbers were always solid, and when he was given a shot in Cleveland during the second half of 2011 (at the age of 22), he performed reasonably well. He had 20 extra-base hits in 223 plate appearances, which works out to ~60 for a full season. He only walked 9 times though, or 3.6% of the time, which was the third-lowest rate in the American League for players with 200+ PA.
2013 in Review Hub: Your destination for Let's Go Tribe's look at key prospects and players from the Indians in 2013
Chisenhall began 2012 back in Columbus, where he hit for a strong average (.314) and good power (.517 SLG), but continued to walk almost not at all (4 times in 126 PA). He was called up near the end of May, and for five weeks, he did the same things he'd been doing in Triple-A. Then he fractured his right forearm, causing him to miss more than two months. He came back in time to start 17 games near the end of the season, wrapping up a disappointing year.
In 2013 Chisenhall was given the 3B out of camp, but six weeks into the season, with his OPS a tepid .604, he was sent back to Columbus for some retooling. All he did there was post a batting line of .390/.456/.676, all while Mark Reynolds' production nose-dived in Cleveland, leading me to implore the Indians to Free Lonnie Chisenhall! Shortly after that, they did in need set him loose upon the American League again, but while his production improved (a .699 OPS over the rest of the season), it wasn't going to make anyone forget the good old days of Casey Blake (would you believe the last time any player started even 110 games at 3B for the Indians was 2007?).
Chisenhall been given few opportunities against lefties, but when given the chance, he's done horribly. In 129 career PA against southpaws, Chisenhall's line is .194/.225/.387, good for a wRC+ of 66. Only two players with as many PA have done worse than that .225 OBP over the last three years. Given that he's been almost entirely protected from lefties, you'd like to see his offensive numbers look better than they do, after all, we're basically seeing him in a platoon role, yet he's been below average at a position that usually features better than average hitting.
Chisenhall rates as an average defender, or a mildly below average one, depending on the metrics you're looking at. He's certainly not a great one, which means either his bat improves, or he isn't going to cut it. It's possible those things will improve though. He's still only 25 years old, and while phenoms like Mike Trout have thrown off our sense of what a player can accomplish at a very young age, there are plenty of successful MLB players who didn't really get it going until they were 25 or 26.
Chisenhall is too young to be written off as a AAAA player (a term often used to describe one who can put up strong numbers on the farm, but not in the show), and he'll almost certainly be given the starting job again come Opening Day next year (unless Juan Uribe wins the heart of Chris Antonetti), with Mike Aviles in place to cover for him if needed (though that's not the world's greatest solution either, for more than one or two games a week against the right pitchers).
In addition to his relative youth, it should also be noted that Chisenhall's BABIP this year was .243, a sign that he was unlucky. That should rebound on its own. His isolated power (SLG minus BA) is good, which means once his batting average goes up, his power numbers should be solid (11 HR and 17 doubles in 308 PA are good figures). The missing piece is his strike zone awareness. Chisenhall swung at 37% of the pitches thrown outside the zone in 2013, worst on the team. Even with better luck on balls in play, his command of the zone has got to improve if he's to become a productive player. Not only so he can draw more walks, but to make better contact as well, by swinging at better pitches. Chisenhall is young, but he won't be for long. 2014 might be the last season the Indians view him as a solution.