Cleveland Indians outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall spent much of his first five years with the organization trying to settle into a rhythm, both at the plate and at third base.
But a change in position from third base to right field seemingly gave Chisenhall confidence, and he has shown quite the development, according to Indians manager Terry Francona.
“When you talk to him, I think he’s maturing,” Francona said. “He’s got some service time under his belt. He’s been through a lot, but I agree. I think that’s a really good way to say it. I don’t think there’s any big revelation, but I think he’s a little more sure of himself.”
A first-round pick of the Indians in the 2008 amateur draft out of Pitt Community College (Winterville, North Carolina), Chisenhall has spent six seasons with Cleveland, and smacked 483 hits over 1,839 at-bats in 1,995 plate appearances.
A lifetime .263 hitter at the Major League level, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound 28-year old native of Morehead, North Carolina has hit 109 doubles, eight triples and 51 home runs over 577 regular-season games. He has scored 216 runs, driven in 234 and drawn 117 walks against 370 strikeouts.
Once a third baseman, Chisenhall made the switch to outfield during the 2015 season, and has been formidable in right, making 273 put outs with 12 assists against just three errors over 1,249.1 innings of play. He has a .986 fielding percentage since making the switch from infield to outfield.
In the 2016 postseason, Chisenhall had nine hits in 42 at-bats, including a three-run home run in a Game 2 win over the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series. He had one RBI, one hit-by-pitch and a sacrifice fly against the Chicago Cubs in the World Series.
“You see him on the field going first to third,” Francona said. “Even the other day in Oakland, backing up that play in the first inning where I don’t know if anybody but me and Millsie (bench coach Brad Mills) noticed it, but he was standing right behind second base on a ball hit down the left-field line.
“Those are things that are meaningful to us because at some point, it’s going to save us a run that’s going to save us a game, and I’m not sure he would’ve always done that.”
With Chisenhall’s increased confidence leading to a higher level of productivity, Francona and the Indians have the “good problem” of finding ways to keep him and fellow outfielder Brandon Guyer on the field and in the batter’s box on a consistent basis.
“Lonnie’s another guy that I don’t think it’s a given that he’s a platoon player,” Francona said. “The hard part is, where he’s at right now, there’s a certain style of lefties that he’s actually pretty good against, but then, how do you not play Guyer? If Guyer’s your other option, it’s hard because you’ve got a guy with a .970 OPS. Those are parts of what your team is made up of. A lot of that depends on how much guys play too.”
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