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Lonnie Chisenhall had a monster first half, but what is real?

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After making the club out of Spring Training, Lonnie Chisenhall locked up third base with a white-hot start to the 2014 campaign.

Lonnie Chisenhall
Lonnie Chisenhall
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

We've been running through the 2014 season for each member of the Indians and key prospects from their farm system. (You can find every entry in the series here.) Now we've reached a countdown of the top ten players on the team, as voted by the Let's Go Tribe staff.

#6 Lonnie Chisenhall

  • Position: Third Baseman
  • Age: 26
  • Acquired: 1st Round (29th overall), 2008 Draft
  • Contract Status: 1st-Year Arbitration (3.027 Service Time)
Do you remember when Carlos Santana was going to be the everyday third baseman? Even now, less than a year after the experiment, it seems hard to believe that that actually was the case. Carlos Santana was the Opening Day starter at third base, with Lonnie Chisenhall on the bench poised to play some third base, some first base, and perhaps be the Designated Hitter from time to time. Chisenhall was probably going to make the club no matter how he looked in Spring Training, as he was out of options, but he made the decision easy by hitting well in the Cactus League.

Still, as the season began, it looked as though Lonnie wouldn't get regular playing time. But when he played, he hit, and eventually Terry Francona had to give him a regular spot in the lineup. Carlos Santana's days as a third baseman were over. The apex to Lonnie's season came on June 9, when he went 5-for-5 with three home runs and a double in a game against Texas. His OPS after the game was 1.044. It would climb to 1.057 a couple games later, but after it began a steady decline throughout the rest of the season. For Chisenhall would hit just .218/.277/315 in the second half. He certainly wasn't the only Cleveland player to struggle at the plate following the All-Star Break, but he does have the starkest difference between his first and second half.

Lonnie's overall stat line looks pretty good: he hit .280/.343/427, which in today's pitching-friendly game was good for a 120 OPS+, a very respectable line even for a corner position.


Grade: B

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2015 Outlook

But the second-half swoon is concerning. Chisenhall's SO:BB walk rate jumped in the second half of the season as AL pitchers made their adjustments. Lonnie's overall right-left splits (.782 OPS vs RHP, .729 OPS vs LHP), which in the past were very dramatic, were actually pretty even, so I don't think it's a case where he was overexposed to southpaws as he started to play every day.

Still, there's very little chance that Chisenhall won't be the 2015 Opening Day starter at third base. He is going to get a significant bump in salary due to arbitration, but he'll still be making much less than a comparable free agent would demand. Giovanny Urshela, who has the glove to play third, probably is a year away from credibly challenging Chisenhall.