Carlos Santana Expects To Play Third For Indians

MONDAY: In the "Around the Horn" section of his latest column, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes that despite Santana's comments, club officials will wait until Spring Training to make a definitive call on his position. The team still hasn't ruled out using Chisenhall at third base, according to Rosenthal.

FRIDAY: Carlos Santana has served as the club's primary backstop for the last three seasons, but says he is preparing to play at the hot corner in 2014, according to ESPNDeportes.com's Enrique Rojas (Spanish language link). Though Santana was known to be trying his hand at a return to third — where he spent some time early in his professional career — this report indicates a much more serious likelihood of a position shift.

As Santana explains (all translation errors mine), he is only preparing to play third at this point in time. "Those are the plans of the team at this moment," Santana said. Indicating that the club asked him to give third a try, Santana said he "took a month thinking about it before accepting."

Santana seemed destined to spend less time at the catcher position anyway next season, for several reasons. To begin with, the 27-year-old's bat is good enough to play anywhere on the diamond. Last year, he posted a .268/.377/.455 triple-slash, including twenty home runs, in 642 plate appearances. That was good for a 137 OPS+, a particularly impressive mark given that Santana labored behind the dish for 84 games.

And while any player can theoretically be more valuable while playing a defense-first position like catcher, Santana had increasingly struggled at the spot. Defensive Runs Saved panned Santana's work in 2013, and recent pitch framing metrics (e.g., here and here) have viewed him as a poor framer. There were good reasons for Cleveland to limit Santana's defensive impact, though of course third is hardly the easiest position. (And UZR has not looked kindly on Santana's 942 2/3 career innings at first, though he told Rojas that he never felt comfortable there.) 

Most importantly, perhaps, is the emergence of Yan Gomes, who was picked up from the Blue Jays in a deal that has strongly favored the Indians to date. The 26-year-old's emergence last year played a big role in fueling the club's Wild Card run. He hit .294/.345/.481 in 322 plate appearances, splitting time at catcher with Santana. In just 88 games, Gomes was worth 3.7 fWAR and 4.0 rWAR, drawing positive reviews for his defensive work.

The news on Santana could have hot stove implications. For one, it may explain why the club has done little to push Lonnie Chisenhall outside of inking David Adams, who has just 152 big league plate appearances under his belt despite the fact that he will turn 27 in May. For what it is worth, Santana is a better hitter from the right side (.855 OPS vs. .794 OPS hitting lefty), though he'd surely find his bat at another position in the lineup if he were to platoon at third.

Of course, if Cleveland no longer plans to give Chisenhall regular at-bats, it raises the question why the team was so hesitant to part with him in a prospective Matt Garza trade deadline deal. And if Santana were to spend significant time at third, it could make the 25-year-old a candidate to be dealt. He was once a top-25 prospect, and his career .694 OPS has come in only 682 plate appearances over three MLB seasons.

If Santana is able to play a passable third, moreover, it could impact the fate of both he and Gomes. Spending less energy behind the dish, and more time in the lineup, could lead to bigger offensive numbers for Santana. He would make for quite an interesting multi-position player, given his outstanding bat, and would increase his stock as a trade piece or eventual free agent. (He is signed through 2016, plus the Indians hold an option for the following season.) 

As for Gomes, the shifting of the club's prized young catcher off of the catching position would open up a world of opportunity. Gomes would presumably be looked upon as the catcher of the future in Cleveland. The Oliver and Steamer projection systems (via Fangraphs) both project him to keep hitting at better than league average, and view him as a three or four win player in a full-time role. Eligible for arbitration after the 2015 season, Gomes would have a chance to build real value through arbitration or as an extension candidate.

Steve Adams contributed to this post.


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28 Comments on "Carlos Santana Expects To Play Third For Indians"


Joe Goodin
1 year 7 months ago

I realize that Santana is a bad catcher, but wouldn’t Yan Gomes be the one to move as he was basically a utility player in Toronto?

ice_hawk10
1 year 7 months ago

Gomes only debuted with the Jays very briefly so it’s hard to make a call on how they used him really. However, he was never viewed as a serious catching prospect. Other than having raw power he wasn’t a great offensive prospect and everyone expected him to be moved off catcher, where his bat wouldn’t play. Obviously had a great year, but I’d be very wary of predicting a repeat. It was only .300+ PA’s with a .342 BABIP and mediocre walk and strikeout numbers, plus UZR may overrate his defensive game.

Derick Hoskin
1 year 7 months ago

Gomes is to good behind the plate for them too be him. They need both of them on field at the same time.

edwing
1 year 7 months ago

Gotta hand it to Gomes. Considering the guys got a bigger leg kick than I do when I’m wackin taters in my softball league, I never thought his bat would play in the majors. Bully for that dude I guess

kungfucampby
1 year 7 months ago

With so many catchers switching to other positions I respect Yadier Molina more and more.

Jason
1 year 7 months ago

-Gulp-

JaysFan1996
1 year 7 months ago

sigh

Lucas Kschischang
1 year 7 months ago

Could be dangerous relying on Gomes to keep it up; he’s due for a big regression.

KeithK
1 year 7 months ago

If Gomes can continue the defense he supplied last year, I’m okay with an offensive regression.

Max Forstag
1 year 7 months ago

How so? Based on your subjective opinion? Gotta try a little harder than that…

Lucas Kschischang
1 year 7 months ago

Based on his ridiculously high LD rate and his BABIP.

Max Forstag
1 year 7 months ago

Hmm. I don’t know what those advanced sabermetric stats mean, but if you claim to, I”ll believe you. I suppose they mean ‘line drive rate’ and ‘batting average per balls in play’?

All I know is that I watched damn near every Tribe game last season, and Gomes looks like a very solid major leaguer. He’s got a nice compact swing, good opposite field power and patience. He’s an absolute rock behind the plate calling games, managing pitchers and controlling the bases. Runners won’t be inclined to run on him the more he plays. I think he’s good for 16-18 HR and 50-70 RBI if if he catches 130-140 games.

Jason
1 year 7 months ago

That “ridiculously high LD rate” ranked 254th among the 276 batters who had a min. 300 PAs in 2013. Now the BABIP was rather high, I definitely agree on that, but at the same time, his minor league BABIPs tend to be rather high too, which might indicate him to have a higher general BABIP too. We’ll have to see.

KeithK
1 year 7 months ago

To me, it’s not a big deal whose idea this was. All the stories up until now had Santana offering to play 3rd for the Indians because he did not want to become a full-time DH. This story is the only I’ve seen where it says it was the Indians’ idea.
The story also says “presumably” this opens the door for Gomes to be catcher of the future. Not presumably. He’s already heading into the season as the starting catcher. At this point, his performance will dictate whether or not he is still the starting catcher.

Greg Penko
1 year 7 months ago

Am I the only one that caught the Cleveland. Steamer thing? That HAD to be on purpose…

Zoe
1 year 7 months ago

where

Zoe
1 year 7 months ago

He is a bad catcher defensively this is gonna go badly

kipnis4040
1 year 7 months ago

I assume mega sarcasim? Lol other wise, can i have your autograph mr. Wonder?

DCTribeFan
1 year 7 months ago

Except that CLE DID sign a RH hitting 3B..David Adams, who played for the Yankees last season. And on a major league contract.

gson
1 year 7 months ago

The move from C to 3B gives the Indians what they wanted from Mark Reynolds before the calendar turned to May and he began to suck. Having the ability to play C, 3B and DH gives Tito the best possible solution to the “how do the Indians maximize their performance against LHP’s” again. In years prior to 2013, the Indians were terrible against LHP’s. Last year.. not the same.
In the long ML season, this move makes at least a three man rotation at 3B/C/DH. Add in Big G against certain RHP’s, coughscherzverlandercough, on occasion., and everybody’s chance to succeed in enhanced.
..Regardless of who’s idea it is or was, this is just a smart move..

Sufferfortribe
1 year 7 months ago

Geez. Santana wasn’t that good of a catcher, scared me when playing 1B, and now says he’s gonna play 3B?
Hey, Carlos. Get a clue. Take a hint from David Ortiz and stick to DH. Your bat is your game, not your glove. If you want to spell Yan at C, we could probably live with that. It won’t be easy, but we’ll try.

raymondrobertkoenig
1 year 7 months ago

Santana might be a good pick up in fantasy baseball. Dual eligibility.

brian310
1 year 7 months ago

McCann will be solid too. More time in lineup on small park

GrilledCheese39
1 year 7 months ago

There has to be a corresponding move for a DH, because why wouldn’t you just leave Santana at DH? Well I guess they could just be making room for Giambi to be the full time DH. They could make sense for Kendrys Morales.

Jason
1 year 7 months ago

I don’t think so. There’s no protected draft pick and I think Francona wants DH to be a flexible position that can be used to keep a regular in the line up while giving him some rest.

XxMadDogxX
1 year 7 months ago

Maybe he should stick to playing the guitar…

FamousGrouse
1 year 7 months ago

Enrique Rojas is a national treasure. The guy gets some of the best scoops in baseball.

Max Forstag
1 year 7 months ago

Yeah, I was trying to commend you, but up yours pal.