Around this time each season, spoiled franchises with deep pockets and championship dreams pick over rosters of the meek, foraging for useful players that will carry them well into October. As trade rumors about possible rent-a-bats Carlos Beltran(notes) and just about every veteran Cub are beginning to heat up, the surprising Indians, interestingly enough, may follow the Rays' unconventional model of achieving postseason success — relying on youth.
Three weeks ago, Lonnie Chisenhall(notes) was summoned from Triple-A Columbus to reheat Cleveland's cool production at the hot corner. Now with Orlando Cabrera's(notes) average in a free-fall, Jason Kipnis(notes), quite possibly the crown jewel of the Indians farm system, is on the verge of joining The Show.
Once recalled, expect him to pay a royal dividend.
As fanalysts across the industry continue to wax poetically about Toronto top prospect Brett Lawrie(notes), Kipnis might be the virtual game's true MiLB hero in disguise. In the pitcher-friendly International League, the second baseman has accumulated a very balanced .297-11-51-61-11 output over 310 at-bats. Unknown to many casual fantasy players just a handful of days ago, his leadoff blast against Julio Teheran(notes) in the Futures Game commanded viewers' attention and proved he's not only knocking at the door, he's about to ram through it.
The Tribe's No. 2 ranked prospect entering the season according to Baseball America, Kipnis is an infielder who, similar to Dan Uggla(notes) (most years), plays much bigger than his smallish size — at 5-foot-10, 180-pounds, even Bono wouldn't find him intimidating. Still, deceptively strong (.210 ISO) and terrifically disciplined (0.63 BB/K), he is a wonderfully skilled hitter with nothing left to prove at the minor league level. Prospect guru John Sickels agrees:
Kipnis is a left-handed hitter, born April 3rd, 1987. He's not a big guy, but he's quite strong and has plenty of bat speed. His feel for the strike zone is impressive, and he has no problem generating power. He seems to handle both fastballs and breaking stuff well, makes adjustments, and can handle left-handed pitching just fine. His running speed is average but he is an aggressive and effective baserunner.
Suspect defense was the only obstacle holding Kipnis back earlier this season. Though his transition from outfield to the pivot hasn't been seamless, he's shown substantial improvement with the glove. With the offensively inept Cabrera better suited for a super-utility role — the veteran is batting a mere .179 in July — the youngster's time is now.
If promoted in short order, it wouldn't be a shock if the Kipster outproduces fellow 2B wunderkind Dustin Ackley(notes) over the rest of the season. He might also perform at or slightly outpace established middle infielders Ryan Roberts(notes), Howie Kendrick(notes) and Yunel Escobar(notes) down the stretch, especially if Manny Acta slots him in the sixth spot. Available in 99-percent of Yahoo! leagues, don't hesitate to grab him in challenging formats.
For deep-thinking owners, and Indians fans with champagne dreams, Kipnis will be key.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 211 at-bats, .281 BA, 5 HR, 25 RBI, 25 R, 6 SB
For stream conscious owners who want to push the innings-pitched envelope this is the list for you. Run support, ballpark factors, historical and recent trends, opposing offenses, opposing SPs, managerial tendencies and meteorological influences are painstakingly taken into account to give you the top double dippers of each week.
Other AL Double Dippers: None
Other NL Double Dippers: Derek Lowe(notes), Atl (at Col, at Cin), Jason Hammel(notes), Col (Atl, at Ari), James McDonald(notes), Pit (Cin, StL), Zach Duke(notes), Ari (Mil, Col), Clay Hensley(notes), Fla (at NYM, NYM), Rodrigo Lopez(notes), ChC (Phi, Hou), Dontrelle Willis(notes), Cin (at Pit, Atl)