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Prospect Retrospective: Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Cleveland Indians

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Lonnie Chisenhall
Lonnie Chisenhall
Jason Miller

Cleveland Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall got off to an outstanding start in 2014, posting a .901 OPS in March/April, 1.020 in May, and .919 in June. July and August have been much different: he's been in a deep slump recently, hitting just .209/.313/.256 in July and .172/.200/.414 this month. He's 1-for-16 in his last four games heading into Saturday night.

Despite the recent trouble his overall slash line of .296/.360/.466, wRC+135 is quite respectable. Indeed, his wRC+ ranks second among major league third baseman this year, although his defense has been troublesome enough to lower his fWAR value, which at 1.9 is just 13th among hot corner regulars.

Chisenhall was drafted by the Indians in the first round in 2008, 29th overall, from Pitt Community College in North Carolina. As a freshman with the University of South Carolina in 2007, he was charged with burglary and was kicked out of the program, landing at the junior college level, where he dominated. He served six months probation in 2008, and the Indians were comfortable enough with his makeup to invest a first round pick.

He hit .290/.355/.438 in the New York-Penn League after in 2008, then .258/.325/.472 with 22 homers combined between High-A and Double-A in '09. 2010 resulted a .278/.351/.450 mark in Double-A; his wRC+ of 119 was decent but not outstanding. 2011 was similar: .267/.353/.431, wRC+116 in Triple-A.

He spent half of '11 in the majors, hitting .255/.284/.415, wRC+91, less than expected but not far off of what his MLEs said he would hit. As you know, he split both '12 and '13 between the majors and Triple-A, performing well for Columbus (wRC+ marks of 134 and 212) but unable to translate this into major league production. His .225/.270/.398 mark for the Indians last year was particularly disappointing, but as noted this year has been much better.

For much of his career, there was a dichotomy between the stats and the scouting reports. Chisenhall always excited scouts with his bat speed and his swing. Most anticipated that he would hit for both power and average. His plate discipline wasn't spectacular, but it wasn't bad in the minors, and his swing drew plaudits for mechanical soundness. On defense, he featured a solid third base arm and enough range for the position, not a gold glove type but not a liability either.

Photo by Jason Miller, Getty Images

So what do we make of 2014? On the one hand, Chisenhall's .296/.360/.466 line in 2014 is what scouts expected out of him to begin with. Perhaps he has made the necessary adjustments and is finally playing up to his ability. On the other hand, Chisenhall's overall career line now stands at .262/.311/.429 in 1059 plate appearances, wRC+107.

The overall career line is exactly what should be sabermetrically expected based on his minor league performance.

Looked at from the broader career perspective, his improved numbers this year are a correction to his poor numbers last year, everything balancing out in an overall career line that is not out of context with his minor league numbers, even if is not as good as what scouts expected.

There's still two months to go in the season and we'll have to see if he pulls out of the current slump. If I had to make a projection, I would guestimate that he will pull out of it eventually and finish with something like a .285/.350/.450 slash this year. He'll bounce around in that neighborhood through his late 20s, gradually fade in his 30s, and finish with a career mark in .270/.325/.440 territory.

What's your projection?

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