Originally written on Baseball Professor  |  Last updated 2/26/13
Any look at Jason Kipnis‘ 2012 season would be incomplete without mentioning how split his first- and second-half production was. After batting .277 with 53 R, 11 HR, 49 RBI, and 20 SB in the first half (370 PA), he slumped all the way to a .233 average with 33 R, 3 HR, 27 RBI, and 11 SB in the second half (302 PA).What happened?I’ve had many discussions surrounding Kipnis over the past few weeks, and most of the people I talk to think we overvalue him. “He was terrible in the second half. Pitchers finally started figuring him out!” OK, I’m sure that’s true to a degree. “He stole 31 bases last year, 20 of which came before the All-Star Break. He’d never done anything like that in the minors!” Yes, that’s also true.But did you know Kipnis actually posted a higher walk rate in the second half last year, 11.3% to 8.9%, and his K:BB ratio improved as well, down to 1.54 from 1.72? His .233 average after the break wasn’t the result of bad contact — his 21.9% line drive rate and 7.0% infield fly rate were both inferior to his first-half marks but point to a lot of bad luck. And to those out there who point to how Kipnis never displayed that kind of speed in the minors, how about the fact that he also displayed a little more power in the minors? You don’t think a few extra homers might help offset the a potential drop in stolen base output?In spite of his second-half slide, I love Kipnis in 2013.At a GlanceStrengths: SB, net SBNeutral: R, HR, RBI, BA, OBP, SLG, OPSWeaknesses: nonePlayer ComparisonsBest-case scenario: Dustin Pedroia (BOS)Likely scenario: Ben Zobrist (TB), Brandon Phillips (CIN), Starlin Castro (CHC),Worst-case scenario: Dustin Ackley (SEA)Jason Kipnis 2013 Fantasy ProjectionThe intro does a pretty good job of explaining why we project the kind of season we do from Kipnis. He hits a lot of line drives, keep the infield flies to a minimum, and has a solid K:BB ratio. That should yield a pretty good average. Honestly, I’m a little worried we didn’t go bullish enough with Kipnis’ projected .271 BA. I think a .285 season is almost just as likely, and I’d be shocked if he turns in another sub-.265 season.While he’s definitely not a fly ball hitter, I do think we could see him approach 20 homers this year. Cleveland’s lineup changes have moved Kipnis to third in the order, and that means we should be adding a lot more RBI to the 71 we project here. That probably means he attempts a couple fewer steals than we project, but I think low-20s in steals is a pretty good estimate.Overall, Kipnis could deliver top-50 production. With a current ADP of 64.1 you’re not getting a great value by drafting Kipnis, but you are ensuring you get a potential five-category producer at second base. After Kipnis, Brandon Phillips, and Ben Zobrist, who are all getting drafted in the sixth, seventh, or eighth rounds on average, you have to hope you get lucky and land Martin Prado or be faced with any of a number of options that could spell category death (Rickie Weeks‘ BA, Dan Uggla‘s BA, Jose Altuve‘s HR/RBI).
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