When ESPN's Keith Law ranked baseball's top prospects earlier this year, only two players placed ahead of Indians catcher Carlos Santana: Jason Heyward and Stephen Strasburg. So far in 2010, Santana, who is currently day-to-day with a knee bruise, has done nothing to dissuade the notion that he's a future star. The 24-year-old has posted a ridiculous .364/.451/.727 slash line, homering four times in 51 Triple-A plate appearances. So when will we see him in an Indians' uniform?
Cleveland's catching duo of Lou Marson and Mike Redmond has been unproductive thus far, to say the least. With only two singles and two walks in 28 plate appearances, Marson's numbers coming into today sit at .080/.148/.080, and Redmond's (.190/.227/.238) aren't much better. Even if Santana takes some time to adjust to playing at the Major League level, he should still be an immediate upgrade.
The Indians have already postponed Santana's free agency for a year by keeping him in the minors until now, and will have to decide how much longer they'll delay his big-league debut. In an article for ESPN.com, Baseball Prospectus' Christina Kahrl suggests that in the AL Central, the Indians are "contenders by default" and that they're "minimizing their already slim playoff chances" as long as Santana remains at Triple-A Columbus. As one of the more cost-conscious teams in baseball though, Cleveland could save millions by putting off a Santana promotion until June, preventing the catcher from eventually qualifying as a Super Two player.
For a team with deeper pockets and more serious postseason aspirations, calling Santana up now would be a no-brainer. At 24, he appears ready to contribute in the bigs, and he'd replace a black hole of production behind the plate in Cleveland. However, even in the AL Central, it's unlikely that the Indians have the talent to make a playoff run this season, meaning we shouldn't expect to see Santana called up for at least a few more weeks. It may test the patience of Indians fans, but for an organization frequently forced to trade away their pricier stars, looking to the future and delaying Santana's service time clock is the right move.