Tribe calls up touted prospect Kipnis
Up-and-coming second baseman could see time in the outfield
CLEVELAND -- Jason Kipnis suited up for the United States in the All-Star Weekend Futures Game last week. The future has officially arrived for the highly touted Indians prospect.
On Thursday, Cleveland promoted Kipnis from Triple-A Columbus in a move that shows the club's desire to inject more life into its offense as it fights to capture the American League Central crown. Kipnis could not contain his excitement, taking to Twitter to announce his arrival.
"ITS TIME!!!!" Kipnis wrote under the handle of @TheJK_Kid. "I'm Coming Cleveland!!"
Indians general manager Chris Antonetti and manager Manny Acta were not available for comment on Thursday, which was a scheduled off-day for Cleveland, though the team sent an official release. Kipnis played in an afternoon game for Triple-A Columbus before receiving the news.
The only unanswered question is where Kipnis will play for the Tribe.
With the Clippers, the 24-year-old Kipnis manned second base on a regular basis in his second season at the position. Kipnis was selected in the second round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft as an outfielder, but began a transition to second base last year.
Cleveland is currently in need of outfield help. Both right fielder Shin-Soo Choo and center fielder Grady Sizemore are likely out until late August or early September. Choo is sidelined with a broken left thumb, while Sizemore is battling a right knee issue and underwent sports hernia surgery on Thursday.
When asked if Kipnis was an option for the Indians' outfield, Ross Atkins, the team's director of player development, deferred comment to Antonetti and Acta.
As things currently stand, veteran Orlando Cabrera is serving as the Tribe's starting second baseman. Outfielders Michael Brantley and Travis Buck -- both out Wednesday with health woes -- are expected to be available for Friday's home game against the White Sox. Kipnis will likely share time with Cabrera at second, but he could play outfield in an emergency.
In order to add Kipnis to the active roster, the Indians optioned utility man Luis Valbuena to Triple-A Columbus. To vacate a spot on the organization's 40-man roster, Cleveland designated Triple-A first baseman Jared Goedert for assignment. The Tribe has 10 days to either trade or release Goedert, or re-assign him if he clears waivers.
One thing is certain: the Indians are adding a talented bat to their lineup.
Over 91 games at Triple-A, the left-handed-hitting Kipnis posted a .279 average with a .361 on-base percentage and a .481 slugging percentage. The second baseman piled up 12 home runs, 15 doubles, nine triples and 35 RBIs with 12 stolen bases. He was named an International League midseason All-Star to go along with his Futures Game selection.
Entering Thursday, Kipnis led the International League in triples and was second with 64 runs scored. He had also posted a .316 (30-for-95) average with runners in scoring position.
Last season, Kipnis was named Cleveland's Minor League Player of the Year. He was an All-America selection while playing outfield for Arizona State prior to turning pro. In 252 Minor League games, dating back to 2009, Kipnis has hit at a .298 clip with an .865 on-base plus slugging percentage.
Kipnis is the latest in a string of prospects to get the call to Cleveland this season.
Rookie reliever Vinnie Pestano opened the season in the Tribe's bullpen and has worked his way into a setup role. Right-hander Alex White (currently on the 60-day disabled list with a right middle finger issue) got the call in April. Infield prospects Cord Phelps and Lonnie Chisenhall have also spent time with the Tribe.
Reliever Josh Judy and outfielder Ezequiel Carrera also made their Major League debuts with the Indians this season.