Ian Kinsler | Second Base| #3
2014 salary: $16 million
2013 statistics: .277/.344/.413, 13 HR, 31 2B, 2 3B, 15 SB, 51 BB, 59 K (with Texas)
Projected role: Starting second baseman
There are lots of reasons to like Ian Kinsler as Detroit’s second baseman. There are also a good number of reasons to be wary of a second baseman who turns 32 in June.
Kinsler is another key part of Detroit’s new focus on speed and defense – particularly given the context of who he was swapped for. Ian Kinsler is pretty much everything Prince Fielder is not: fast, a decent defender, more of a line drive hitter – a trait that suits Comerica Park much better than Fielder’s slugging style that resulted in a lot of fly ball outs.
But hey, this article isn’t about that trade. (We’ve done that.) This is about Ian Kinsler and what to expect from him in 2014. Well, he’s excited to be in Detroit (s0 he says) and dropped 20 pounds in the offseason. His rationale, he says, is to get faster and hit more line drives. Kinsler did steal 15 bases last year for Texas – a number which easily would have led the Tigers, but he was also caught 11 times, so it makes sense that he wants to regain some of his speed. He did, after all, steal 21 in 2012 and 30 in 2011, getting caught only 9 and 4 times in those two years.
At the plate, Kinsler brings with him a solid OBP and a good avoidance of strikeouts. He’s hit at least 30 doubles every year but one since 2008, and the one year he didn’t was a year in which he was limited to 103 games due to injuries. (One of those injuries took place in spring training when he sprained ligaments above his ankle after slipping on a patch of wet grass. Be vigilant, Ian.) As long as he stays healthy, it’s likely he’ll crack that tally again, particularly if his line drive approach pays off. (He’ll also hit a lot of infield popups. Just get used to it.)
Much has been made of Kinsler’s power but his home run tally has decreased every year since he hit 30 in 2011, dropping to 19 in 2012 and 13 last year. I don’t think this is a huge concern – the Tigers don’t really need (or expect, I would think) Kinsler to hit 30 home runs, or even 20. 10 to 15 would do just fine.
Kinsler is also a decent defender. He won’t win any Gold Gloves (or Fielding Bible awards!) but he’ll hold his own.
The big concern with Kinsler, though, his the signs of a potential decline. First, he’s a middle infielder, and history tells us that they don’t exactly age well generally. His 2012 and 2013 seasons have seen his wOBA – which regularly sat at .350 or higher – drop to .327 and .334, respectively. Blip in the radar or start of a trend? There’s no way of knowing for sure, but I wouldn’t expect a huge uptick. I suspect his 2014 numbers will end up looking a lot like 2013′s. That’s not a bad thing at all, mind you, but if they get worse, the Tigers will have a bit of an issue on their hands. That said, if Ian Kinsler remains Ian Kinsler, the Tigers will have themselves a pretty solid second baseman. I’d expect him to hit near the top of the order – either first or second, with Austin Jackson or Torii Hunter dropping down.