Posts in this series:
|Catcher||First Base||Second Base|
|Shortstop||Third Base||Designated Hitter|
|Left Field||Center Field||Right Field|
|Starting Pitching||Relief Pitching|
Part I: Review
The Indians started the season with Luis Valbuena and Mark Grudzielanek sharing time at the position. Grudzielanek was released on June 10th. Just four days later, the Indians claimed Jayson Nix off waivers from Chicago, and a hot start at the plate by Nix won him an everyday job at the position. Asdrubal Cabrera came off the DL on July 20th, so for a short time Jason Donald and Nix shared the position. But then Jhonny Peralta was dealt, and Nix played much of the rest of the season at third, with Valbuena getting playing time in September after Donald injured a finger.
Like with the shortstops and third basemen, there were several players accruing at least 200 innings at the position. Luis Valbuena led with 581.2 innings at second, not even close to qualifying for comparative fielding categories (about 900 innings). So to lead things off, here's the team positional defensive numbers compared to their AL peers:
Seattle's low rating was a one-man show (Chone Figgins, who was playing the position after three years as a full-time 3B). The Indians were rated second-to-last, though quite a bit above Seattle, and it was a team effort. Six players manned the position, with four logging 200 innings or more. With most of these guys not having much of a fielding history to draw upon, it's tough to make individual pronouncements, but I feel safe in saying that the defense needs to improve no matter who is playing the position in 2010.
I guess the one guy on this list I'm most confident about making a judgment on is Luis Valbuena, who I didn't like at second last year and really didn't like at second this year. I'd place Nix and Donald above Valbuena, and I didn't see much difference defensively between the first two.
Thanks to the Valbuena/Grudzielanek combo at the beginning of the season, the Indians finished dead last in second base hitting:
The breakdown of that team number into individual player statistics:
There were some nice individual performances in here, particularly Nix's, so unlike the defensive numbers, the low batting team totals was not indicative of how all the players did.
Valbuena just had a terrible season: posting a 48 OPS+ was quite a difficult feat considering how down the offense was league-wide. Donald did pretty well for his first major-league. Grudzielanek (probably) finished his major-league career with a gigantic thud.
Part II: Looking Towards 2011
Not Coming Back
Anderson Hernanez (Claimed off Waivers, 7-21-2010)
Mark Grudizelanek (Released 6-10-2010)
Gruzielanek was the one free agent dud in Mark Shapiro's last off-season. He was supposed to provide some baseline production in case Valbuena crashed and burned, but he was almost as bad, so the Indians had to look for other options.
Jayson Nix (Pre-Arbitration) - No Option Years Remaining
Nix for a time was carrying the offense, and playing a decent second base. Then he moved to third, looked really uncomfortable there, and his hitting dropped off towards the end of the season. I think the best thing for Nix would be for the Indians to sign or trade for a starting third baseman, leaving Nix at second base, where he'd most likely share playing time with Jason Donald.
Jason Donald (Pre-Arbitration) - 1 Option Year Remaining
Donald spent the first couple months of his major-league career as a shortstop, which was his position throughout the minors, but I think he looked better at second base. He even held his own at the plate, ending the season with a .253/.312/.378 batting line, which translates to a 94 OPS+. That's definitely acceptable for a major-league second baseman, but he'll have some competition next season, most notably Jayson Nix.
Luis Valbuena (Pre-Arbitration) - 1 Option Year
There's no way the Indians give Valbuena another shot in the majors without a major showing in AAA first. Luis had an awful season at the plate, and didn't look much better in the field.
Drew Sutton (Pre-Arbitration) - No Options Remaining
I think Drew will stick on the roster through the winter, and might have an opportunity to make next year's club as a utility infielder.
In the Minors
Jason Kipnis (Not on 40-Man Roster)
Kipnis had a fantastic season with Akron, and then went off with Columbus in the playoffs. I think the Indians will have him start the season in Columbus, but I don't think there's much keeping him from the majors.