I don’t know if you saw Christina Kahrl’s ESPN.com article the other day on the decline of spring training battles. At first I read it and thought, “Wait, you’re missing a few battles over in the Indians clubhouse, like the one for third base between Jack Hannahan and Lonnie Chisenhall.” Much has been made about the battle for third base. Going into Spring Training, it seemed like third base was Hannhan’s job to lose as opposed to Chisenhall’s job to win.
When we brought up Chisenhall last June, it seemed a bit too soon, but he was still one of the best prospects we had or have. When he came up, he was SB Nation’s Prospect of the Day. He was only 22, but handled himself respectably, batting .255 with .284 OBP/.415 SLG/.699 OPS in 212 at-bats. He also had 7 home runs, 13 doubles, and 22 RBI. On the defensive side, well, Lonnie had a little trouble. He committed 10 errors for a .940 fielding percentage in 58 games. Still, all signs have been pointing to Lonnie Chisenhall being the third baseman of the future. It’s just that I don’t think the future is now. Standing in the way is Jack Hannahan, who was the best defensive third baseman in the AL last season.
Hannahan’s glove is exactly what you want at the hot corner. At the plate, however, he’s pretty average, with a .250 batting average/.331 OBP/.388 SLG/.719 OPS. He also had 8 homers, 16 doubles, 2 triples and 40 RBI, but it took him 320 at-bats to do it. Chisenhall definitely has the potential for more power over the long run, but do you want to sacrifice runs he might allow on errors in exchange for potential runs he might be able to drive in? I don’t see it.
Oddly enough, Chisenhall has played 37 innings so far during Spring Training with no errors and a range factor of 2.43. In some bizarro world twist, Hannahan has 2 errors and a range factor of 1.80 over just 31 innings played. Weird.
My gut says Hannahan is our every day third baseman this season, while Chisenhall gets one more season (or half a season) of AAA ball to smooth out any rough edges. I’d rather not waste him on the bench platooning in and out. He’s not really a utility infielder. (Speaking of which, let’s go, Jose Lopez! I like that guy more every day.)