Hard Work Paying Off For Kipnis
"It's going well so far, but it's still a work in progress," Kipnis remarked in a recent interview for the IPI. "It's going to be an everyday thing and something I am going to keep having to put the time in for everyday and getting the repetition. It will eventually come. I'm just kind of getting in front of balls right now just using athleticism and the feel for it and kind of winging it, but it is coming along."
Through 61 games so far this season, Kipnis has committed 15 errors, which gives him a .952 fielding percentage. Of course, fielding percentage is often a poor way to judge how a player is doing defensively, particularly when a player is transitioning to a new position. According to many scouts, he has looked good and has shown the potential to be at worst an adequate defensive Major League second baseman or even better.
"I'm still trying to get a feel at second base," said Kipnis. "I'm working on where I need to be at all times, where I need to go on the field in certain situations, and working with my hands and movement. It's something to build upon, and you can already see progress from where I started to where I am now."
The thing that has always stood out for Kipnis is his bat, which is why many scouts thought if he could successfully make the transition to second base it would instantly make him an elite prospect at the position in the Indians organization. Baseball America even rated him the tenth best prospect in the Indians organization heading into this season.
After signing last July, it didn't take long for Kipnis to impress spectators as he made his professional debut at short-season Single-A Mahoning Valley last year and hit .306 with 1 HR, 19 RBI, and an .847 OPS in 29 games. He followed that up with a monster spring training where it seemed like he hit a home run in nearly every game and hit .395 (17-for-43) with 4 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR and 7 RBI.
"I put in a lot of time in the off-season working to shorten my swing," explained Kipnis. "[When I struggle], we always refer back to spring training and how short my swing was then and what was working for me. I'm even using a larger and heavier bat, which I also made the transition to over the winter."
Kipnis gained about ten pounds last offseason and worked out hard to come into camp bigger and stronger than ever. He shortened up his swing, and along with that his increased strength to go along with a bigger bat he is using has given him a little extra thump when he makes contact.
"You could tell last year in college I got a bad rap with a real loopy swing," said Kipnis. "So in the offseason and spring training what I focused on was coming down on the ball and the results were there. It is something I got instant results and I know that it can work so it is something I just need to stay after. I am very happy with what I did in the offseason as I came in stronger, I am using a bigger bat, and I have a shorter swing."
Kipnis has moved swiftly through the system this year as he made it to the Double-A level in Akron well before the All Star break. Through his quick rise in the system, his bat hasn't slowed down.
At 23 years of age, Kipnis began the year in Class-A Advanced Kinston and in 54 games there hit .300 with 6 HR, 31 RBI and an .865 OPS. Since joining Akron he is hitting .317 with 4 HR, 8 RBI and a .950 OPS in 16 games. Overall between the two stops he has combined to hit an impressive .305 this season, with 15 doubles, 3 triples, 10 home runs, 39 RBI, and an .885 OPS.
In fact, Kipnis has been one of the best overall hitters statistically in the Indians organization, ranking tied for second in hits (four behind Bo Greenwell), tied for third in home runs (five behind Jared Goedert), tied for fourth in RBI (13 behind Carlos Santana), and fifth in on-base percentage (.054 behind Carlos Santana).
And in his first full season as a professional baseball player, Kipnis has already learned quite a lot.
"You find ways to work smarter now," Kipnis explained. "You're going to have to conserve your body a little bit and going to have to conserve your mind a lot. Your mind will get a lot more tired than your body sometimes. It's more about being professional about yourself and being smarter about what you do each day that really makes a difference."
Kipnis is also a big fan of other sports and even learns from watching them.
"You learn how they go about their business, how they approach things in a competitive nature, so really, you can learn stuff from everywhere," said Kipnis.
One of Kipnis' goals entering the season was to be promoted to Akron by season's end, which obviously took less than half a season to accomplish. At this rate, it won't be long before he accomplishes another goal of his: playing in the Major Leagues.
"There are all kinds of goals as every player has them," said Kipnis. "Every player wants to go up, and of course [I wanted] to be in Akron by the end of the year. I would love to play in the Arizona Fall League in the fall. They are all goals I would love to achieve, but there is no way I am going to achieve them if I focus on them everyday. I gotta focus on the game at hand, and I really just gotta put my head down and play and that's probably the best way that they will happen."