Ian Kinsler has long been considered one of the elite second baseman in the game, though unfortunately an inconsistent one. Some years he brings power, some years average, but seemingly never both in the same season.
This season we have seen Jason Kipnis, a player most thought would be good, far exceed expectations. Would anyone have really predicted him to hit 11 HR with 20 SB at this point?
The question now facing fantasy owners is which player is the better option? Is it the already established Kinsler or the breakout superstar Kipnis? Let’s take a look:
Kinsler is an unpredictable option in this department, isn’t he? In the years where he posted an elevated fly ball rate (54.0% in ’09, 47.1% in ’11), he does provide more power but his average suffers. In those years he hit .253 and .255, numbers that hurt you in that department. Of course, he does make good contact (12.2% strikeout rate for his career) and always has the potential to post a .280+ average. However, it is impossible to depend on him because we just don’t know from year-to-year.
We don’t have a track record for Kipnis, though he has been extremely consistent between his first 465 AB in the Major Leagues (.275) and his minor league career (.297). He’s done a much better job of making contact this season (17.5%), has avoided swinging for the fences (32.5% fly ball rate), continues to hit the ball on the screws (23.6%) and has room to grow in the BABIP department (.303).
If I had to pick which player I thought I could depend on to hit .280+, I’d be taking Kipnis every time. That said, Kinsler has the ability to be the better average hitter if he is not swinging for the fences.
Advantage – Kipnis, but it is only slightly
As I said in the batting average department, Kinsler appears to have to be trying to hit for power in order to generate a significant number of home runs. He’s surpassed 30 HR twice (the only times he’s hit over 20), but he needed a fly ball rate over 47% each time to do so as he has never posted a HR/FB better than 12.5% for an entire season.
With Kipnis, we don’t have much of a track record and his 20.6% HR/FB from 2011 can likely be thrown out the window. However, he’s posted a 12.5% mark in 2012 helping him to his 11 HR. He has shown that 18-23 HR power in his minor league career, meaning he has just continued to be the player he’s shown since being drafted in the second round in 2009.
If I needed to pick one player who could hit 30 HR in a season, it’s obviously Kinsler (though at the expense elsewhere). However, as they will likely be in 2012, I would expect the two to be very similar most years.
Advantage – Kinsler by a hair, though in most years it’ll be a draw
Kinsler plays in the better lineup and has posted as many as 86 RBI in a season. However, it doesn’t matter how talented the overall lineup is, if you are hitting leadoff you just aren’t going to get as many opportunities. Kipnis has settled into the third spot of the Indians lineup and, with 49 RBI already, could easily reach the 90-100 plateau routinely. He should continue to be a middle of the order bat in Cleveland, making him the far better option in this category.
Advantage – Kipnis
As the leadoff hitter in Texas, Kinsler has the potential to score 110+ runs in any given season. He’s surpassed 100 runs three times, including 121 last season. With 63 already in 2012 he’s well on his way there once again. Kipnis, meanwhile, should be able to score plenty of runs out of the third spot in the order. He has 53 runs scored and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him reach 100 routinely. Clearly, he’s going to help you there, but he doesn’t have the same upside as a Kinsler.
Advantage – Kinsler
Neither are true burners and aren’t going to be 40+ SB options. However, Kinsler has posted a pair of 30+ SB seasons and Kipnis could be on his way there this season. I would go into any year expecting either to steal between 20-35, and either one could outdo the other from year-to-year.
Advantage – Draw
Fantasy owners would be lucky to own either of these two players. Kipnis is 5 years Kinsler’s junior (he’s 25-years old vs. Kinsler’s 30), so that does weigh slightly in the decision. However, it’s not like Kinsler couldn’t have 5+ more great years ahead of him.
The truth of the matter is that, while he does have more experience, Kinsler has proven to be a little bit unpredictable and incapable of posting a good average and big-time power in the same season. Kipnis, meanwhile, is quickly proving that he can produce above-average numbers across all five categories in any season. The two are extremely similar, but give me Kipnis every time. The only statistic that you can say, for sure, that Kinsler is going to have the advantage in is runs scored. Outside of that, Kipnis is either his equal or better.
What are your thoughts? Which of these second basemen would you prefer? Why?