How Important Is Jason Kipnis’ Success?

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The Cleveland Indians had their share of surprises, both good and bad, in 2014. On the positive side of things, Corey Kluber developed into a Cy Young Award Winner, and Michael Brantley turned in an MVP-caliber year. However, players like Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, Zach McAllister, and others all had down years, which seemed to put a dent in our playoff chances. But arguably the most disappointing player last season was second baseman Jason Kipnis. Kipnis had a breakout year in 2013, but failed to keep it going last year. The Indians know Kipnis is capable of much more than what he showed last year, and the question is: How critical is it that Kipnis returns to form in 2015?

Many Tribe fans believed that 2013 was the beginning of something special for Kipnis, and there was definitely a reason to believe it. Coming off of a solid 2012 season, Kipnis batted .284 with 17 HR and 84 RBI in 149 games. It was a pleasant surprise to see Kipnis putting up All-Star numbers so early in his career and we could only hope for more of the same. Kipnis, along with former pitcher Justin Masterson, went to the 2013 All-Star Game. Cleveland fans all around believed the second base position was a lock for the long term future. Unfortunately for Kipnis, 2014 was not so kind to him. He hit .240 with only 6 HR and 41 RBI in 129 games. Kipnis battled an oblique injury all season, which had to have been the reason for his low numbers, especially the 6 home runs. Guys like Brantley and Yan Gomes made up for Kipnis’ struggles, but in the end it wasn’t enough for the Tribe to make a second straight playoff appearance.

Kipnis has shown how good of a player he is when healthy, and his return could be the difference between a spot in the playoffs, or a spot on the couch come October. Combine Kipnis’ ability with that of Brantley, Santana, Brandon Moss, and Yan Gomes, and the Indians can become one of baseball’s elite teams. Kipnis also suffered an injury to his hand this past offseason lifting weights, but he will more than likely be 100% healthy for Opening Day. After injuries limited Kipnis last year, he will finally be fully healthy, which can be nothing but good news for the Tribe. Kipnis has a long career ahead of him for sure, and now that he is healthy, he can finally develop into one of baseball’s top second basemen, something we all know he has the capability of doing.

Everyone was frustrated with Kipnis’ 2014, but expectations are still high for 2015. If Kipnis can return to form and put up numbers like he did in 2012 and 2013, then the Indians, along with some other contributions, could possibly secure the AL Central crown. Of course, Kipnis playing well isn’t going to guarantee a division title for the Tribe. For starters, they will have to hope that the pitching staff can pitch half as good as they did in the second half of 2014, and that Brantley, Gomes, and Carlos Santana can all have seasons similar to last year.

Also, the Indians will be hoping for bounce back years from not only Kipnis, but also Bourn and Swisher. As we all know, it is very unlikely that everything will work out the way we want it to. There will always be some bumps along the way, but manager Terry Francona isn’t one to back down from a challenge, and he will surely find a way to get October baseball back in Cleveland.

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