Jason Kipnis, 2B Cleveland Indians
Height: 5’10” Weight: 180
Drafted in 2009 by the Indians in the 2nd round, Jason Kipnis was the PAC-10 Player of the Year as an OF. He signed for $575,000 and immediately made his presence felt by hitting .306 in his NY-Penn debut. In 2010, the Indians, who had a lack of depth in the middle infield, decided to give the athletic Kipnis a shot at 2B and a clearer path to the majors. The transition from OF to 2B is never easy and should have taken a few years to complete, but Kipnis made the transition smoothly and blew through High-A and Double-A, never hitting below .300 at either level.
We ranked Kipnis in our Top 100 at #43.
Well in 2011, Kipnis kept on hitting and forced the Indians hand in calling him up. So let’s take a look at the player that is slated to be the Indians 2B of the future.
Kipnis has a short left-handed stroke which allows him to utilize the whole field. He doesn’t have plus raw power but for his size his power is more than it should be. He’s grown his IsoP at every level so far, topping .200 this season in Triple-A over 343 AB. Most impressive is that while his power has grown his walk rate has stayed above 10% and his K rate is sub 20%. Both are very good rates and give his .350+ OBP validation. His AVG has dipped below .300 for the first time in his career as Kipnis finished his Triple-A season at .280 before being called up. His BABIP was .324 so the AVG is probably a pretty true number if not a touch low. So his numbers show a hitter with excellent hand eye coordination and an idea of what he needs to do AB to AB.
For a converted OF, Kipnis looks like he’s always been a 2B. He doesn’t have true middle infield actions but he gets the job done and doesn’t look out of his element. His work ethic should allow him to continue to develop there and working with a Gold Glove caliber SS like Asdrubal Cabrera should only be a positive. Kipnis’ arm is average at best, but it’s more than enough to handle 2B and probably CF/LF as well in the future if it’s needed. Although I don’t think that will be a test that will need to be proven.
Jason Kipnis is enough of a ball player that his transition to 2B is a long term one and no longer an experiment. He’s the 2B of the future for the Indians and the Double Play partner for Asdrubal Cabrera, the SS who makes all of his 2B look good. Kipnis speed is average as well and when he’s on base he knows how to use his speed. He won’t be a game changer on the bases but he’ll hold his own there as well.
What makes Kipnis an elite prospect is no doubt his bat. He’s a line drive machine with enough power and pitch recognition to make opposing pitchers pay for their mistakes. He’s going to be a fringe .300 hitter probably sitting closer to the .280 range long term and his power will be league average. Overall he has a high floor and there is very little downside in his unorthodox stance yet simple swing. Some .300/15/65 seasons while kicking in 10 SB are possible in his prime. They aren’t All Star numbers, but this is the kind of player that makes a good team a contender. Well worth the 2nd round pick the Indians used to acquire him in 2009.
Check back soon as we profile some additional Top MLB Prospects and also get our baseball geek on and take a look at some of the later draft picks from the 2011 draft that we think could be big names on the prospect radars in the near future. Anyone can tell you that Mike Trout is going to be a stud now, but who told you that when he was drafted? Thanks for checking Baseball Instinct. We’re working hard to bring you the best of the minor leagues and make the site the best experience it can be. So don’t hesitate to tell us what you would like to read about. Email me now at Tom@baseballinstinct.com.