Prospect Review – Jason Kipnis


The next prospect up for review made quite a splash in 2010, as he climbed way up on many prospect rankings. I am referring to the Indians’ top 2B prospect, Jason Kipnis.

The Basics
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
How Acquired: Drafted by the Cleveland Indians out of Arizona State University in the 2nd round of the 2009 amateur draft
Age as of 4/1/11: 24

Scouting Reports and Statistics
The Baseball Cube

Tm          Lg Lev  G  R HR RBI SB BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG
Kinston   CARL  A+ 54 33  6  31  2 24 46 .300 .387 .478
Akron       EL  AA 79 63 10  43  7 31 61 .311 .385 .502

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/15/2011.

Prospect Ranks

Hardball Times: #5 (CLE – 2011)
Deep Leagues: #50 (Overall – 2011), #3 (2B – 2011)
Project Prospect: #4 (2B – 8/2010)
Bullpen Banter: #3 (2B – 9/2010)
Baseball America: #3 (CLE – 2011), #9 (Eastern League – 8/2010)
John Sickels: #3 (CLE – 2011), B+
Baseball Prospectus: #1 (CLE – 2011), 5 star
Scouting Book: #2 (2B – 2011), #94 (Overall – 2011)
Top Prospect Alert: #4 (CLE – 2011)

Analysis

Kipnis spent one season at the University of Kentucky prior to transferring to Arizona State.  He continued to hit extremely well at ASU, posting a batting average over .371 in both seasons, hitting 30 home runs, and stealing 51 bases in his time in Tempe. Taken in the second round of the 2009 draft, Kipnis ended up signing with the Indians for a $575K bonus in early July. This allowed him to play in 29 games for the Indians’ Low-A affiliate in Mahoning Valley, where he hit .306/.388/.459 with a home run and a stolen base.

The Indians moved him from the outfield to second base for the 2010 season, and he really thrived with the bat. Between High-A and AA, Kipnis hit .307/.386/.492 with 16 home runs, 74 runs batted in, 94 runs scored, and 9 stolen bases. Here’s some video of his at bats, both from the Arizona Fall League and last year as well.

I liked what I saw out of him with regard to plate discipline when he was in college (120 walks to 95 strikeouts), but that hasn’t quite translated yet as well in the pros (70 walks to 125 strikeouts). I do like the rate, even though it wasn’t as good as his college numbers. His numbers in the AFL I think were actually a bit of an improvement, as he walked 6% of the time and struck out 11.5% of the time. Overall, his plate discipline should continue to improve in my opinion. He also showed very good power for his position, with 56 extra base hits in 2010 across both levels.

As to his fielding, the Indians Prospect Insider Scouting Report had this to say prior to the 2010 season:

The Indians are confident he has the footwork, hands, and comfort level with turning double plays.  He doesn’t have the natural actions of an infielder and he certainly needs lots of work with coaching and reps at second base, but the feeling is he can be at least an average defender there.

Overall, he’s rapidly become one of the better prospects at 2B, and a comparison that sticks out to me is Dan Uggla. The way I see Kipnis is this: he’s going to be a higher end bat than fielder, but he will be at least serviceable at the position. I’m not necessarily of the opinion that he will hit for as much power as Uggla does, but I think he could be a 15 homer, 15 stolen base type in the Majors. For fantasy players, he’s definitely one of the up-and-comers for the 2B position, and should be owned in nearly all dynasty leagues.

Outlook

I think the Indians may try to push him and send him to AAA to start the 2011 season, and hopefully he will continue to hit as he did last year. If the team decides his defense needs more work, we could see him return to AA instead. Realistically, the Indians probably need to see him reach the Majors by the end of 2012 for him to be considered a success.

Prediction for 2011

.290/.370/.480, 15 home runs, 12 stolen bases (AAA)

Expected ETA

2012 seems most likely, as the Indians are unlikely to compete in 2011 and will not have a lot of reason to rush Kipnis. I could see him being the Opening Day starter in 2012 though.

Additional Readings and Reports

Baseball Beginnings’ Q&A with Jason Kipnis (5/26/2009)
Indians Prospects Insiders Scouting Report (3/6/2010)

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