The Cleveland Indian’s catcher Carlos Santana has been seeing some time at third base while in the Winter League in the Dominican Republic. Is the possible position change due to injury risk or loss of job?
In the 2013 season, Carlos Santana had just 277 at-bats at Catcher, while racking up 170 as the designated hitter and 94 as the first-basemen. After the season, it was obvious that Yan Gomes had overtaken Santana as the everyday catcher, so that lead Santana to ask for playing time at third base in the Dominican Winter League. The last time Santana played innings at third base was in the minor leagues with the Dodgers in 2006 until he was traded to Cleveland for Casey Blake.
In 2013, the 27-year old had trouble behind the plate only throwing out 11 of the 62 base stealers and notching a -12.0 DRS (defensive runs saved). They would want to keep his bat in the lineup due to his middle of the lineup production over his career. Last season, Santana hit .268/.377/.455 while launching 20 home runs and driving in 74 runs. He has been to known to have a great eye, walking an average of 93 times in his first three full seasons. His overall WAR (wins above replacement) was at a career best 4.4 while having a dismal -1.1 DWAR (defensive wins above replacement) at first base and catcher.
Cleveland was not going to just let Carlos workout at third base without help from inside the organization. Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports that the Indians have sent infield coach Mike Sarbaugh to the Dominican Republic to help Santana become familiar with third base. Five games into the season; the GM of the Indians is pleased with Santana’s progress.
“It’s still very early in the process,” said GM Chris Antonetti. “Sarbie has been down there for a few days with Carlos. He’s made a couple errors, but so far the reports have been encouraging.”
Santana has indeed committed three errors in his first five games, but GM Antonetti was quick to respond, “He made two errors in one game, but he also made a nice diving play.”
GM Antonetti expects Santana to play 25-30 games in Winter Ball and wants to see what he can do in the spring. As Paul Hoynes reports, “It’s not like the regular season starts when winter ball ends and we have to figure out if he’s at third base or not,” said Antonetti. “We can continue the process in spring training. We really don’t have to make a decision until we start putting the club together later in camp.”
With the breakout season from Yan Gomes at catcher, and Nick Swisher holding down first-base, the Indians are comfortable with Santana taking over as their full time DH if third base does not work.
Other than the emergence from Gomes as the catcher, Santana has also had problems with injuries. Due to this, a full-time position change would most likely improve the chances of him staying healthy as he enters into his ‘prime’.
Unfortunately Santana’s season was shorted in 2010 when he injured his leg in a home-plate collision. He missed over 100 games after having surgery on his left leg, but was ready to go in 2011 playing over 150 games.
In 2013, Santana missed seven games due to a concussion. He was placed on the 7-day Disabled List and ended up playing 154 games that season. Over the course of his four years in the Majors, he has had multiple DL stints, but lucky for him, they have not been too serious.
This position change has helped other teams in recent years with Pablo Sandoval of the San Francisco Giants switching from catcher to third base. Pablo was a full-time catcher in the minor leagues, but due to a combination of injury scares and Bengie Molina as the catcher, he moved to third base to increase his chances of being in the lineup everyday. Even though Pablo’s defense is not Gold Glove caliber, it still ‘gets the job done’. Altogether, the move has been a successful one due to Buster Posey’s emergence as the everyday catcher and Pablo’s presence in the middle of San Francisco’s lineup.
If Santana and Cleveland’s experiment is effective and can play there as an everyday third basemen, Cleveland will have a much more threatening lineup.
Check out his Blog at mlbnews.sportsblog.com