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Will Jason Kipnis return to form in 2015?

An ode to the breadbasket. May the croquet wickets realign.

Jason Kipnis in the best uniform top this season
Jason Kipnis in the best uniform top this season
Kyle Rivas

Every day you'll find a look back at the 2014 season for one of the Indians or their key prospects, as we sort out what happened and what it means for the franchise going forward.

Jason Kipnis

  • Position: Second Base
  • Age: 27
  • Acquired: 2nd round, 2009 Amateur Draft

At the conclusion of 2013 season, Jason Kipnis had finished his second full season in the bigs and had generated 10.9 bWAR and 8.2 fWAR in his young career. He wasn't eligible for arbitration until the 2015 season. For the Indians, he was definitely an underpaid asset (and a draft pick that came to fruition).

Midway through spring training this year, he signed for $0.5549M. But he and the front office kept on negotiating, and on April 4, they announced an extension to keep him in Cleveland though 2019. It was a six year deal worth $52.5M for Kipnis and the Tribe also received a team option in 2020 worth another $16.5M or a $2.5M buyout. The deal essentially allowed Cleveland to buy off his first three years of free agency.

The deal was lauded as a win-win for both Kipnis and for Cleveland. With Kipnis' power and speed, he looked like he would be a fixture at the top of the lineup for years to come. He had an awesome spring, 357/446/554 and drove in 12. Although he had had his breakout in 2013, this was his "Age 27" season, so an increase to his All-Star numbers from 2013 was certainly possible.

His hotness from Arizona didn't quite go north in April, but he was passable by hitting 234/354/394, with 3 homers, 4 steals, 17 walks and 16 strikeouts in 27 games. But April 29 would prove to be the signature moment of Kipnis' season. In the fourth inning, after a Lonnie Chisenhall single, Kipnis would ground into a 6-4-3 double play off Jeff Weaver. But Jason would have to leave the game with an abdominal strain.

He was placed on the disabled list the next day, and wouldn't be activated again until May 28. He may have been healthy enough to play, but Kipnis never appeared to be 100% the rest of the season. In May/June, his hit 254/302/331, had no homers, four steals, only 8 walks and 29 strikeouts. July was his best month, but still was a far cry from 2012 or 2013, slashing 238/314/352 hitting his last three homers of the year, seven steals and 11 walks versus 19 strikeouts. From August 1 onward, he either got tired, or perhaps reinjured the abdomen, as he finished on a 235/289/284 decline, seven steals, 14 walks and 36 strikeouts.

And although he finished with just three errors, compared to eight the season before, it seemed like Kipnis was worse in the field this year, again most likely due to the injury. His dWAR went from 0.4 to -0.7 on BRef and from -4.2 to -6.6 on Fangraphs.

2014 Grade: C-

I almost thought about giving him a D+, but that would have been mainly based on his decline from 2013 and the contract he recently signed. He still finished with a 0.9 bWAR and a 1.0 fWAR overall for the season.

2015 Outlook

I thoroughly believe this season was a lost season due to the injury. He looked tentative at the plate and in the field. He still stole 22 bases and was caught just three times. Will he reach the 2013 threshold next season? I think he will and even slightly surpass it.  I am calling for a 20 HR, 30 SB season and a pleasant 280/370/450 year with just under a 100 driven in as he once again becomes a main cog at the top of the lineup.

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB Pos Awards
2011 24 CLE AL 36 150 136 24 37 9 1 7 19 5 0 11 34 .272 .333 .507 .841 133 69 0 2 0 1 0 4
2012 25 CLE AL 152 672 591 86 152 22 4 14 76 31 7 67 109 .257 .335 .379 .714 102 224 12 5 3 6 2 *4/D
2013 26 CLE AL 149 658 564 86 160 36 4 17 84 30 7 76 143 .284 .366 .452 .818 130 255 10 3 5 10 3 *4/D AS,MVP-11
2014 27 CLE AL 129 555 500 61 120 25 1 6 41 22 3 50 100 .240 .310 .330 .640 85 165 15 2 1 2 2 *4/D
4 Yrs 466 2035 1791 257 469 92 10 44 220 88 17 204 386 .262 .338 .398 .736 109 713 37 12 9 19 7
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/2/2014.