Lonnie Chisenhall has had a remarkable start to 2017. After coming off the disabled list to begin his campaign on April 13, Lonnie has been hitting the absolute crap out of the ball. Want to see what I mean?
That's him crushing his 6th home run on Saturday night in Houston. Crushing to dead center! Chisenhall has 6 homers already this year. He had 8 in total in 2016, and 7 in total in 2015. His career-high is 13 back in 2014, when he had 533 plate appearances. I'm going to go out on a limb and predict Lonnie smashes that number, setting a new career-high in the process. He is currently sporting a .283 ISO (Isolated Power) which is almost double what he has produced in previous years. It's only late May so obviously too early to use that number as a predictive measure of his power output for the rest of 2017. But we'll keep a close eye on him to see if he can maintain this extra-base hit rate into the summer and beyond. I'm quietly confident he can keep this up.
At the time of writing he's slashing .261/.333/.543 (AVG/OBP/SLG) over 33 games, for a .877 OPS and a 130 WRC+. And he's done most of this playing in center field, filling in admirably in the absence of Tyler Naquin, Austin Jackson and Abraham Almonte. Since Bradley Zimmer's promotion I thought Chisenhall would go back to his usual spot in right field, but he featured in center again last night against the Reds. Lonnie's versatility is an added bonus that I think many fans don't fully appreciate. Let's be clear though: he's not winning a gold glove any time soon, but the fact he can at least hold his own in that great expanse between the corners is a blessing for the Indians, especially now the injuries have started to pile up.
Lonnie's Achilles' heel has always been his inability to hit left-handed pitchers (career .240 BA), which lead to his platoon player status in recent years, albeit a very effective one, particularly with Brandon Guyer in 2016. However this season has seen him hit lefties very well, when given the opportunity. In 12 games he's batting .308, and even though this is a super small sample size, it's encouraging, especially given Guyer's absence from the lineup recently. Put it this way: he hasn't been a black hole at the plate against lefties, so there is some comfort to be taken from his performance against them thus far.
I think the odds of Chisenhall fulfilling the expectations that came with his first round pick selection back in 2008 are now very slim. The good news is that he doesn't necessarily have to reach those heights in order to contribute to this Indians team. What he's doing right now is working and as long as he's having a positive impact in the lineup, then as far as I'm concerned he's meeting all of my expectations. This recent power surge is just an added bonus, and a very welcome one. Keep it up Lonnie.