Friday 5: Biggest Questions Facing the Cleveland Indians During Spring Training

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Can Jason Kipnis return to pre-injury form?

Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps the most important name heading into the 2015 campaign, however, is former All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis.

After an impressive 2014 season that saw him finish the season hitting .284 and leading the team in seemingly every meaningful offensive statistic, Kipnis regressed dramatically last season. A nagging oblique injury is at least partly to blame, but the Tribe watched as their 27-year-old middle infielder tallied steep declines in homeruns (17 in 2014, 6 in 2015) and RBI (84 in 2014, 41 in 2015). They kept waiting for Kipnis to find his stroke, similar to the way he did the season prior, but it never happened.

And, as a result, the Tribe totaled seven fewer wins and missed the playoffs despite a late surge.

If the Tribe is going to excel this season, they need their most prolific offensive player to progress the way he had prior to the team signing him to a long-term deal last April. When healthy, Kipnis brings a unique combination of average, power and speed to the top of Terry Francona’s lineup. Before last season, he was a career .270 hitter who posted double-digit homeruns and over 30 stolen bases per year since he took over at second base in 2012.

Almost 28 years old, Kipnis has just entered the prime of his career and should be a viable contender to return to the All-Star Game in Cincinnati. If he can shake the oblique injury – and this offseason’s finger injury – he is a legitimate candidate to produce over 100 RBI, 20+ homeruns and 30+ stolen bases out of the No. 2 spot in the Tribe’s lineup.

While Kluber, Brantley, Swisher and Moss are certainly important to the Tribe’s success in 2015, there is no player more important than Kipnis.

Next: Who's on First, What's on Second, Urshela at Third?

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