1) On Nov. 20, 2009, Kevin Goldstein (God rest his fedora-covered head) published a ranking of Cleveland Indians prospects that ranked Carlos Santana No. 1. On Jan. 15, 2016—more than six years later, Chris Crawford’s Indians top 10 listed Bradley Zimmer as the Indians’ top prospect. Every BP prospect ranking between those had either Jason Kipnis or Francisco Lindor as Cleveland’s No. 1 prospect.
2) KG’s 2009-10 list was so long ago Kipnis was listed as an outfielder.
3) Even though he’s an officially a second baseman now, sometimes Kipnis ventures into the outfield anyway.
4) Kipnis, according to Baseball Reference, has two of the top 25 seasons by an Indians second baseman ever, including last year, when he had an extremely quiet .302/.371/.452 line. Of the other 23 seasons, 15 were by Hall of Famers, including 10 by Nap Lajoie, after whom they briefly renamed the franchise. One of them belonged to Ronnie Belliard, which is a phenomenon for which I have no explanation.
5) Kipnis was born on the same day as Jay Bruce. Bruce has 11.4 career WARP more than Kipnis, but Bruce played his 163rd major-league game the night Kipnis was drafted, so he’s had to make up some ground.
6) Francisco Lindor is not a power hitter. Baseball Prospectus’s prospect lists—despite being consistently bullish on Lindor—tell me so.
· 2015: “Bat is likely to be a bit on the empty side; contact can be soft; tends to slap when going the other way … well below-average power”
· 2014: “Hit tool might lack impact; could play below projection and play to (only) solid-average; contact can be soft and slappy; well below-average power”
· 2013: “controls the bat well, but often makes weak contact; needs to add strength … power potential is limited; will be defense-first player with gravy offense”
· 2012: “He shocked officials by pounding balls out of Safeco Field, and projects to have as much as average power down the road (15-18 home runs annually).” Which actually turned out to be spot-on, but “as much as average power” feels a little like damning with faint praise.
7) Lindor hit 12 home runs in 438 PA last year as a 21-year-old rookie. Among rookie shortstops aged 21 or younger, since the 1994 strike, only Carlos Correa has hit as many home runs. Among rookie shortstops aged 21 or younger, Lindor’s 12 home runs is tied for the fourth-highest total ever. His .482 SLG is the second-highest ever among rookie shortstops of that age (minimum 200 PA), trailing only Correa.
7) He can, however turn on a tailing fastball on the outer half and pull it out to right field.
8) Lindor is listed at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, Kipnis at 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, though you wouldn’t think they were so close in size looking at them.
9) Francisco Lindor is, to my knowledge, no relation to the delicious Lindor truffles, though that’s no excuse for him not to have a truffle-related nickname.
11) It’s truly incredible how much damage Lindor did last year despite not coming up until mid-June. He was fifth among shortstops and third among rookies in WARP last year, despite playing in fewer games and receiving fewer plate appearances than anyone ahead of him.
12) Despite his limited playing time, Lindor led the majors with 13 sacrifice bunts last year. Everyone has a weakness.
13) Sometimes Lindor uses his bunting powers for good—for instance, to break up no-hitters.
To hell with your unwritten rules.
14) Kipnis is an even 80-percent basestealer for his career, which puts him 47th on the all-time list of most efficient basestealers (min. 100 attempts). This despite a brutal 12-for-20 campaign in 2015, which dropped him out of the 14th-place position he’d held after 2014.
15) After doing something exceptional, like, say, turning a 95-mph fastball on the corner into a three-run homer, Kipnis isn’t afraid to stick around and admire his handiwork.
16) In 2015, Lindor tied for the team lead (with Michael Brantley) with three bases-loaded walks. Lindor doesn’t walk much—he accounted for 7.2 percent of Cleveland’s plate appearances and 5.1 percent of Cleveland’s walks last year, but 15.8 percent of Cleveland’s bases-loaded walks. This likely has no predictive value whatsoever, but it is interesting.
17) Also of interest is the adorable level of alacrity with which Lindor removes his ankle guard on bases-loaded walks before taking his base.
Sometimes that comes with a bat toss …
… while sometimes he tries to eat his necklace.
18) One more Lindor video, just for fun.
19) Bill James once wrote that well-rounded players tend to get underrated compared to players of equivalent value who do one or two things especially well. Perhaps it’s for that reason that Kipnis feels massively underrated, or maybe it’s because he has kind of an oddly-shaped head.
Here’s where he’s ranked among second basemen in WARP in the past three years:
· 2015: Third
· 2014: 12th (in which he was plagued by injuries)
· 2013: Fourth
20) Cleveland has the middle infield pretty much covered for the foreseeable future: Kipnis is signed through 2020, while Lindor will be under team control through 2021.
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