Spring Training is in full swing and with it an interesting development is taking place for the Indians over at third base. All winter long we heard about how the Indians would award the starting third base job to either Jason Donald or Jayson Nix with blue chip prospect Lonnie Chisenhall slated for a trip to AAA Columbus. As it turns out, Chisenhall has no intent of making this an easy decision for the Tribe’s front office.
So far this spring Chisenhall is batting a mind boggling .550 with a slugging percentage of 1.050 and OBP of .609. In the process he has accumulated 5 runs, 2 doubles, a triple and 2 home runs. To sum things up, Chisenhall is knocking the cover off of the ball right now. Meanwhile, Jason Donald and Jayson Nix have been less than impressive in their auditions. Donald has shown flashes here and there, but Nix has looked absolutely lost up to this point batting a whopping .063.
The problem of course is that the Indians feel like Chisenhall needs more time to develop in the minors. He has never played in a game above the AA level and needs to see upper tier pitching. It almost makes sense, at least until you realize that Jason Donald has play zero games at third and Nix has played about 30 or so. You mean to tell me those are better options over someone who has been groomed to be a future all-star third baseman?
The common denominator, as with all decisions involving the Indians comes down to money. By keeping Chisenhall in the minors and calling him up “when he’s ready” the Indians will avoid starting his countdown to arbitration and a major payday by another year. Once again the almighty dollar and pinching pennies is potentially being put ahead of winning baseball games, but that’s something we’ve come to learn to live with during the Dolan regime. I swear, communist Russia under Stalin was looser with money than the Dolans.
There is, however, a model for the situation the Indians find themselves in. A few years back the Tampa Bay Rays had a top-level prospect who was tearing up minor league pitching and making a case for promotion to the big league club. That player… Evan Longoria. Tell me how that’s worked out? All he’s done is become the face of their franchise, an all-star, and mega-star in the baseball world. You’d think the Indians would be pining for a player of that caliber who could bring in millions in extra revenue because people will want to see him play. The Indians would rather wait and see.
So don’t be surprised come Opening Day when Jason Donald is penciled in at the third base with Jayson Nix on the bench as the utility infielder. Meanwhile, Chisenhall will continue to tear up minor league pitching while he “refines his game.” Along with it will come cries from the fans and the media and even national pundits alike that the kid deserves to be in Cleveland. I hope I’m wrong. I hope they surprise me. I hope Chisenhall keeps up this pace and plays so well the rest of the spring that there is no way they can justify not calling him up for Opening Day. So stay tuned, this situation is going to get a lot more interesting before it’s ever resolved.