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Carlos Madness at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario

Santana at third, Carrasco in the fifth, and some AL Central Ponderings

Carlos Madness at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario
March 26, 2014
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With winter refusing to release its stranglehold on the North Coast and my NCAA tournament bracket left in tatters, I’ve been pondering the term “March Madness” and how apropos a phrase it truly is.

It’s hard not to consider the irony in the expression when considering Cleveland sports in general, and the Cleveland Indians’ specifically. This is a city that has seen its football team get a new owner, front office and coach, only to have the new owner fire his new coach and front office less than a year later, so he could hire another new coach and front office. This is a city that welcomed back a new head basketball coach three years after firing that same coach in an attempt to keep a certain star player. They will make a run for that same star player this offseason, with that coach running the team.

Confused yet?

What’s less “mad” and more “glad” is that your Cleveland Indians made an improbable run to the #1 wildcard spot last year, in a well documented 24-game improvement from the 2012 season. What’s more “mad” and less “glad” is that the #1 wildcard slot meant a one-game playoff against the #2 wildcard team, in the first year of the new wildcard process. Now, I like the new wildcard process, but only in Cleveland would its premiere edition keep our hometown heroes from getting a shot at a five-game series. While that certainly wouldn’t have locked the Indians into a run for the World Series, I would have to believe that the Indians’ 2013 rotation would have likely given the team a chance to move forward, and the Madness could have continued.

Such is life, I suppose. Like a callous hardened after continued blistering, Cleveland sports fans trudge on, and this March has been no different, especially pondering the Indians’ chances at becoming Cinderella in the seven-month journey to the 2014 World Series.

Let’s dive into the Mayhem with the big news story of the week:  Carlos Santana has been named the starter at third base, and will continue to be the back-up catcher. Before you get into the logistics of that statement, just sit back for a second and think about that in the context of being a baseball fan. Carlos Santana, who has never played third base in a big league baseball game, is now the Indians’ starting third baseman.

Carlos Santana, who was at-best, an average defensive catcher, is now manning third base full-time. If we’re to be honest, you could make a solid case that “average” behind the plate would be an overstatement. He certainly had his moments, but over time, it was clear that he wasn’t wowing anyone as a backstop.

Now, I do realize that there really isn’t much correlation in the catcher position and the third base position in a general sense. If you look at the history of catchers, athleticism wasn’t always a good indicator for how outstanding a catcher you could be. As my Dad once told me, “Most Major League catchers in my day resembled most of the guys that played on my softball team and cozied up to the bar for hours afterward.” While that is surely a generalization, I think you’ll find that there are as many station wagons playing catcher as there are Corvette’s.

That was a rather long-winded way to say that Santana’s ability behind the plate should have no correlation whatsoever to his athletic ability. I’ve heard a great many people that I trust a whole lot say that what they’ve seen from Santana in Goodyear is tremendous athletic ability, and a desire to re-learn the position at a high level.

While you can be a bad athletes and a decent third baseman, I think that correlation is far rarer than bad athletes and decent catchers. Santana has the athletic acumen to field the position, the only question for me is if he either has some instinct to do well in the field, or the drive to “create instinct.” It appears as though he may have a little bit of both.

What does all this mean for Santana?

I honestly believe that Terry Francona said it best when he said, “I'm not exactly sure how that's going to play itself out. I don't know if anybody really is. I'd rather not commit to something [that could change]. I think Carlos has done an outstanding job of not only showing us that he can play third, but having the ability to catch a Major League ballgame at the same time. I think that's a phenomenal skill-set."

As I’ve said from the start, this is going to be a fairly fluid situation, and should be. Remember, Carlos Santana was a catcher and a first baseman and a designated hitter at the end of 2013. This whole idea didn’t really come to be until December of last year. Three months later, Carlos Santana is your catcher.

Madness, right?

I’ve always considered Carlos Santana to be an offensive player first, who just happened to have the distraction of putting on a glove in between at bats. My subconscious mind never considered him at third base simply because good sense dictates that you can’t just pick up a glove one day and say, “Yeah, I’m going to play third base at the major league level today.” I don’t care if you did it eight years ago in the minors. I don’t care if you’re a good athlete. I don’t care if you already are a major leaguer.

Position change as a whole at the big league level is often a testament to folly.

Santana never seemed to me to be the type of player that could make such a transition easily or willingly. This isn’t to bash his mentality or make-up, just a general impression of a guy who struggled defensively behind the plate, and really did nothing as a first baseman that made me think he could do anything anywhere else.

Of course, Santana willingly made the move to third. Perhaps it was selfishly motivated because he didn’t want to DH. Perhaps he knew that if he sat around in the dugout all game long that his disinterest would overcome his talent. Perhaps he’s just a gamer, and he really wants to compete at the highest level. Perhaps he wants to be better than Beltre, or maybe his Dad played third base for the neighborhood team in Santo Domingo.

Maybe the Indians really did give him a buzz and say, “Yo Carlos, give this a try,” and he said, “OK.”

I suppose none of that matters in the grand scheme of things. What does matter though is the larger question of whether or not Santana truly has the ability to compete at the highest level at a fairly difficult position on the fly, and while doing it, continue on as the back-up catcher as well.

The skillset for third base and catcher have tremendous similarities. For both, quick twitch muscle movement is key. You have to be able to react quickly, block the baseball from getting past you and have a strong and accurate throwing arm. It’s obviously slightly different at third than catcher, but with essentially the same innate skills. Obviously, at third you don’t have to call the game and deal with the catchers, and clearly there are a few “equipment” differences as well.

The transition from catcher-to-third is rare, but it’s also not an unheard of move. Johnny Bench, one of the best backstops of all-time, played games at third throughout his career, and was moved there permanently in 1982 when he was 34. The transition wasn’t a smooth one, but Bench was hardly in his prime at that point.

A more interesting case with regards to the third base transition from catcher may very well be Joe Torre, who played catcher predominantly through 1968, transitioned to first base in 1969, then to third base in 1970, when he turned 29 years old. Now, Torre was a gold glove catcher, and while he certainly was known as an offensive player, he wasn’t a fire hydrant behind the plate either. He was a good first baseman, and a decent third baseman as well.

Now Santana doesn’t have the defensive acumen or background that either Bench or Torre had, but I think it does showcase a case-by-case scenario. Like all comps, you never really know what the outcome truly will be until you give it a try.

That’s what Francona is clearly doing. Rather than throwing him out there in a random platoon scenario, Santana will play the bulk of his games, early on at least, at third base.

Oh, and he isn’t Miguel Cabrera, so let’s stop the comps right there.

For whatever the reasons, Carlos Santana seems to have the skills to make the transition to third, and now the mystery surrounding the “Will he” or “Won’t he” are gone.

What about Carlos Santana being the back-up catcher? If he can be a successful third baseman, than I don’t see why he can’t supplement Yan Gomes on occasion. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out at season’s end, and what kind of percentages we are talking about. If the Indians can somehow manage to utilize Gomes and Santana as their two catchers for the entire season, it really allows Terry Francona an extra bench spot throughout the season.

It does bring about several other questions though.

  1. Lonnie Chisenhall has made the team as well, as the back-up third baseman. There will be some “utility” to his game, and Chiz will be happy to “pinch-run, play defense, start, DH, play left field, right field, whatever they ask” him to do. I love this scenario for Chisenhall, as it really puts his back against the wall. He has ability, but in the end, he has only really ever shown a limited skill-set at the big league level. For the first time, expectations won’t be on him to earn third base. In a best case scenario, Chisenhall makes Francona question who should start at third. In a worst case scenario, Chisenhall ends up in Columbus. Nobody would be surprised, and he still has an option to burn. With Bourn and Giambi on the DL, it does give Francona some flexibility. We’ll see what happens as players start to migrate back to health, especially if Chiz is excelling.

  2. How many games will Santana truly play at third base? If you believe Gomes and Santana stay healthy, and take averages into account, you’d probably want Santana catching at least 30 ballgames. If all things stay equal, Chisenhall slides in for those 30 or so games, Gomes rests or DHs, and you move forward. Should Chisenhall get sent down to Columbus because he’s either terrible or the Indians need the roster slot, then you likely plug in Aviles there in the Chis role, if you don’t do that in some cases already. You can even use a guy like Ryan Raburn in a pinch, but only in a pinch. I love the sentiment of some that are riding the Raburn wave from last year, thinking his solid season means he can play every utility position he’s ever played  with no dip in his offensive game. Folks, he’s nearly always had an offensive dip when he’s moved from the outfield. The Indians found him a niche, and while I don’t mind seeing him there in a game here and a game there, but keep it to a minimum.

  3. What happens if Santana gets hurt? That’s truly the scenario where, if everything is working out, we’ll see a player that’s equal two. The Indians would then have to shuttle Aviles over as the regular third baseman, or call up Chisenhall, then bring up a back-up catcher to supplement that role. Of course, a lot of it has to do with whatever this roster looks like should that “doomsday” scenario take place.

Whatever the case, the fact that we’re sitting here looking at a roster that has Carlos Santana as the regular third baseman…

…is just plain mad.

And your #5 starter is…Carlos Carrasco. Seriously, if this was something you didn’t see coming since November when Terry Francona said that he was going to be given every chance to make the rotation, then you really don’t pay attention to how Francona handles things.

Here’s the real question.

Does Carlos Carrasco deserve the #5 spot in the rotation? Look, I understand the love for Josh Tomlin. He’s had moments of brilliance, and you can likely argue who pitched better during spring training. Actually, you can argue who has pitched better, when healthy, during the regular season over their careers.

Is there a discernable difference?

While much is made of Carrasco’s stuff, and it is good, he’s yet to find that type of groove at the big league level. In his most extensive season, in 2011, his K-Rate was only 6.1 per 9, and over his career, he’s only at 6.2 per 9. He’s never had a high walk rate, but as far as missing bats, he’s never been really good at it.

Still, his velocity is superior to Tomlin’s, of that there is no question.

Tomlin, when he’s on, throws more strikes. His Walk per 9 over his career is sub-2, at 1.7 per 9, and he led the league in 2011, with an amazing 1.1 BB/9. His career K-Rate is 4.9 per 9.

There’s clearly more to it than that, but I think you can make a solid case that it really is a microcosm of how similar their outcomes really are when you get right down to it.

There are a lot of intangibles there as well, and you have to think that if Carrasco had Tomlin’s demeanor, he’d be better off, and likewise, if Tomlin had Carrasco’s stuff, he’d be better off. Unfortunately, we’re talking about two different pitchers.

Does Carrasco have more upside? Maybe, but he’s a puzzle that has to be unwrapped, and while there are a number of people that want to compare him to Ubaldo Jimenez, that’s actually an insult to Jimenez. No, I’m not saying that Jimenez is some sorta staff ace at this point with his overall game, but he’s had moments over the years in which you could arguably have called him the best pitcher in the league. While sandwiched around some really bad pitching, Ubaldo has been to a place that Carrasco has shown that ability for a five-ish week stretch in his career. He’s an enigma, but we still don’t know what we really have when we unwrap it, if that happens.

I do think we know what we get with Tomlin, and we will see him at some point.

At the end of the day, we are talking about our fifth starter. We will no doubt see a variety of guys all year long in that role, unless someone really grabs ahold of that. Ultimately, I hope that it’s Carrasco, simply because I don’t expect it.

Icing on the cake.

I also realize that we are the Cleveland Indians…a cash-limited team that often has to piece-meal a team. That means we can’t throw out a rotation like the Tigers had last year. Hell, the Tigers can’t throw out a rotation like the Tigers had last year.

At the end of the season, it’s likely that we are going to see Carrasco, Tomlin, Trevor BauerT.J. HouseShaun Marcum and Cody Anderson. We may not see them all, but it’s the nature of the beast. I’m certainly not going to proclaim or condemn off of spring training baseball. Those that hang on March pitching are simply kidding themselves.

I also believe that it’s a possibility that Carrasco may be on his last string here. I know that the common belief is that he has to be in the bullpen if he fails as a starter. I’m not convinced. I think we could see a situation in which he’s DFA-ed. I’m not saying he doesn’t hold value in the bullpen, but I could make a case that there are many others that fit the bullpen role better.

I could also see a situation in which Carrasco fails in April and the Indians deal him for cash considerations or a player to be named. I’m not hoping for it, and I don’t want it, but I could see it happen. This isn’t a knock on the guy or a hope of mine, but if the Indians think they’ve had enough, he could be in his last trial with the team.

This is my last column before opening day, and I can’t believe how fast time is moving. I have high hopes for this season…perhaps higher than most. My heart is screaming that this team has the intangibles to win 90+ games again. My head is trying to squelch all that with an 80-win season.

Ultimately, I still don’t know where I sit on the season. I do think that we’ve bridged the gap a bit with the Tigers, who have been snake-bit a little bit over the past few months. When news surfaced that Jose Iglesias was injured and may missed the entire season, it really gave me the feel that this team was being held together by string and duct tape. Fortunately for the Tigers, there’s still a lot of money underneath the surface, but this car is starting to show some wear.

I like Brad Ausmus, but the one area that isn’t being mentioned is the fact that Jim Leyland is no longer there. What’s my point?

Ausmus is being handed an interesting deck of cards, and with Max Scherzer seemingly on the outs with the front office after whatever just happened with his contract, I wonder really what’s going to happen this season. This is still a good baseball team, but when a friend mentioned the Boston Red Sox after Francona left, I could certainly see it.

Now, their pitching is still really good, but I would love to see what happens if they get popped in the mouth a few times early on in the year.

I know there’s a lot of sentiment about the Kansas City Royals being in the mix, but I really don’t see it. I think their rotation is excessively overrated this year. We’ll see what they have offensively. They should be better, but I’ve been listening to the same chatter for the past five years. I’ll believe it when I see it.

As to the Indians, I’ll get into my predictions over the next few days. Like last year, this is a flawed team. Their catcher looks promising, but there are questions. The infield of Nick SwisherJason KipnisAsdrubal Cabrera and Santana has fantastic offensive potential, but just don’t bring much confidence defensively. The outfield combination ultimately of Michael BrantleyMichael Bourn and David Murphy/Ryan Raburn has nice intangibles, but have many questions and issues. The starting rotation has a ton of promise. Of course, promise doesn’t get you far in an 162 game season. Bullpens are bullpens. I like the upside of the Indians pen, but we thought last year’s unit was the strength of the team.

It wasn’t.

In other words, the 2014 Indians have questions and warts and unknowns.

Of course, so does everyone else.

Whatever happens, the long journey begins on March 31. While it’s the end of “March Madness,” it’s the beginning of another baseball season. Who knows, maybe this is the season in which Cinderella finds its slipper right here in Cleveland.

Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as  the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at

User Comments

March 27, 2014 - 5:29 PM EDT
Agree that injuries will play a key in how the roster is constructed.

I think we will see something similar to what we saw last year. Start out with 8 pen arms but once guys like Giambi get healthy back to 7. Only will go to 8 again if injuries creep up (Myers, Pestano, Perez, etc)...but for the main grind (June-thru-August) we'll likely see the traditional 4-man bench.
March 27, 2014 - 4:47 PM EDT
Yep, I broke it down.....there was the mistake I made in late June with the Perez thing. Here is the makeup of the roster from opening day through Aug 31 before rosters expanded:

4/2 Opening day roster: 13 P, 12 H
4/5 Kazmir to DL (12 P, 12 H)
4/6 Bauer recalled (13 P, 12 H)
4/7 Bauer optioned (12 P, 12 H)
4/9 Marson to DL, Gomes recalled, Santos added (12 P, 13 H)
4/10 Kluber recalled, Carrasco optioned (12 P, 13 H)
4/12 Hagadone recalled, Kluber optioned, Albers to paternity, Giambi activated (11P, 14 H)
4/16 Phelps recalled, Santos optioned (11 P, 14 H)
4/17 Bourn to DL, Kluber recalled (12 P, 13 H)
4/20 Kazmir activated, Phelps optioned (13 P, 12 H)
4/21 Nieve added, Myers to DL (13 P, 12 H)
4/22 Albers activated, Nieve DFAed (13 P, 12 H)
4/24 Marson activated, Gomes optioned (13 P, 12 H)
4/28 Gomes recalled, Marson to DL, Barnes added for DH (13 P, 12 H)

Days with 12 position players: 18
Days with 13 or more position players: 11

5/1 Bauer recalled, Hagadone optioned (13 P, 12 H)
5/2 Bauer optioned (12 P, 12 H)
5/3 Carrera activated (12 P, 13 H)
5/5 Carrera DFAed, Barnes recalled (13 P, 12 H)
5/6 Hagadone recalled, Pestano to DL (13 P, 12 H)
5/9 Bourn activated, Barnes optioned (12 P, 13 H)
5/13 Chisenhall optioned, Huff added, Bauer recalled for DH (13 P, 12 H)
5/16 Hagadone optioned, Pestano activated (13 P, 12 H)
5/21 Swisher to paternity, Phelps recalled (13 P, 12 H)
5/23 Huff DFAed, Barnes recalled (13 P, 12 H)
5/27 Perez to DL, Hagadone recalled (13 P, 12 H)

Days with 12 position players: 25
Days with 13 or more position players: 6

6/1 Langwell added, Barnes optioned (13 P, 12 H)
6/4 Cabrera to DL, Diaz recalled (13 P, 12 H)
6/8 McAllister to DL, Carrasco recalled (13 P, 12 H)
6/10 Diaz optioned, McDonald added (13 P, 12 H)
6/18 Chisenhall recalled, Langwell optioned (12 P, 13 H)
6/24 House recalled, Carrasco optioned (12 P, 13 H)
6/26 Cabrera activated, McDonald DFAed (12 P, 13 H)
6/27 Perez activated, House optioned (12 P, 13 H)
6/28 Carrasco added for DH, Hagadone optioned, Bauer recalled, Bauer optioned between DH, Langwell added (12 P, 13 H)
6/29 Langwell optioned, Martinez added (12 P, 13 H)
6/30 Bourn to paternity list, Hagadone recalled (13 P, 12 H)

Days with 12 position players: 18
Days with 13 or more position players: 12

7/3 Bourn activated, Hagadone optioned (12 P, 13 H)
7/6 Martinez optioned, Carrasco recalled (12 P, 13 H)
7/7 Guilmet added, Carrasco optioned (12 P, 13 H)
7/11 Salazar recalled, Guilmet optioned (12 P, 13 H)
7/12 Lee recalled, Salazar optioned (12 P, 13 H)
7/23 McAllister activated, Lee optioned (12 P, 13 H)
7/31 Pestano optioned, Rzepczynski added (12 P, 13 H)

Days with 12 position players: 0
Days with 13 or more position players: 31

8/6 Kluber to DL, Langwell recalled (12 P, 13 H)
8/7 Langwell optioned, Salazar recalled (12 P, 13 H)
8/8 Reynolds DFAed, Guilmet recalled (13 P, 12 H)
8/28 Raburn to DL, Carson added (13 P, 12 H)
8/31 Carrasco optioned, Kubel added (12 P, 13 H)

Days with 12 Position Players: 23
Days with 13 or more position players: 8

Total from April through August 31:

Days with 12 position players: 84 (55%)
Days with 13 or more position players: 68 (45%)

It is not the 80% of the time as I thought, but the usage still shows how Francona has no problem going with a 3-man bench....and I wouldn't be surprised if they implore that around 60% of the time this season - though injuries always have a way of shifting things around.
March 27, 2014 - 3:12 PM EDT
Tony,with all due respect, you are wrong.....

The mistake you made was you said on June 27th the Indians designated McDonald and activated Chris Perez from the DL...this was not completely accurate. The Indians designated McDonald on June 26th and activated Asdrubal Cabrera from the DL. On June 27th (the day the Tribe traded McDonald) they activated Perez but optioned TJ House to the minors. Thus the Tribe kept their 13 position player and 12 pitcher set up they had going for the 2nd half of June.

The Tribe did not have 8-men in the pen then until June 30th when Bourn was placed on the Paternity List (Hagadone recalled). Bourn came off the Paternity List on July 3rd (Hags was optioned to AAA)....from July 3rd thru August 8th (when Reynolds was cut) the Tribe actually in fact had only a 7-man bullpen and a full 4-man bench.

As said, for much of April they had a 4-man bench...May they did have only 3 (and an 8-man pen) but for about half of June and essentially all of July they only had a 7-man bullpen and a full 4-man bench.

Again, that is if the transaction list on this site is accurate....maybe it's not? Though it does mostly jive with the Indians website.

Think people just felt like the Tribe had an 8-man pen for basically the whole year. Probably because teams almost never have one even half the year so when the Tribe did it, skewed some people's perception of how long we actually had one (I admit, I at first thought we had an 8-man pen/3-man bench longer than we actually did too).

I realize what Francona has said about wanting a lot of bullpen arms...but he's never had a 8-man bullpen for as much of a season as some are suggesting. Can't imagine he starts now...though never thought he'd start Santana at 3B and essentially have Chisenhall on the bench either so we shall see...
March 27, 2014 - 2:41 PM EDT
We already fleshed this out a month ago. In April, the Indians had a 7-man pen for a lot of it....but from May through August they had an 8-man pen almost the entire time save for 10-15 days.
March 27, 2014 - 2:28 PM EDT
Actually Laporta was an outfielder in the minors, he hardly played any 1b until he was 24 in Columbus, and didn't even log a full season's worth of play there in his career. And the reason guys get converted to 1b, is it's a relatively easy position to play. By watching Santana play 1b, he was not very good, fielding metrics also say he was not very good. Now he's at a more demanding position that requires more agility from a guy who had trouble moving to block pitches in the dirt. I will be impressed with Carlos if he can be anything like league average at 3b.
March 27, 2014 - 2:19 PM EDT

With all due respect, you are wrong on how often the Tribe used an 8-man pen last year. It was not 4/5ths of the time as you keep suggesting, but rather it was closer to about 50-55% of the time from April thru August.

That 50% number is from the transaction page on this very assuming that is accurate, it was pretty close to split even on whether we had 8 bullpen arms and a 3 man bench or 7 bullpen arms and a 4-man bench (though did lean more towards the 8-man pen).

Consider too several of those days when we had "13 pitchers" were when Carrasco was actually suspended, so really only had 12 pitchers and 12 position players.

Would not shock me if we went with an 8-man pen for half the year again. But I would be pretty surprised if we went with one for a good majority of the year. We didn't last year so don't expect to this year.
March 27, 2014 - 2:10 PM EDT

You need about 3 full seasons worth of data before UZR is relevant...900 or so innings is not even close to enough time to make a determination. Could easily look at DRS instead which had him as simply a -1 in 900 innings he only cost the Tribe 1 run at 1B defensively. Seems fair IMO. Note though not saying DRS is valid here either, nor is total zone. None of the stats are really valid. Did Santana look good at 1B? IMO no...but those 900 innings you mention were his professional total. LaPorta played in the minors in college and the minor leagues. Not comparable at all.
March 27, 2014 - 1:48 PM EDT
For what it's worth, Santana has a UZR/150 at 1b of -8.6, over 942 innings, which is a decently large sample. Laporta was at at -3.3 over about twice as many innings. Seemed to me they both specialized in boneheaded plays.
March 27, 2014 - 11:01 AM EDT
Francona likes the 8-man bullpen and used the three man bench for most of last season, a good 4/5s of the season. So would not surprise me to see when Bourn comes back that Morgan is gone and when Giambi comes back Chisenhall is optioned. That said, things can always change, and if Wood or Pestano are struggling, they could be optioned out. I think Atchison is around for awhile as a use and abuse or let set and rot long man arm.
March 27, 2014 - 10:57 AM EDT
Tony...IMO though having Santana as the backup catcher doesn't add any lineup versatility at all. Not if all Francona is doing is adding an 8th bullpen arm.

And I'm way off base and you disagree...but do you not think that in 2-3 weeks we'll see Bourn and Giambi on the big league roster? Do you think we still only have a 3-man bench then or go to the traditional 4-man bench? I think we go to the 4-man (again maybe I'm wrong, but it's in line with what Francona did last year).

Either way, I fail to see how having a DH-only like Giambi on the roster is better than having a real backup catcher. I know Giambi is a huge clubhouse guy....but at some point he becomes a liability on the roster. A guy like Kottaras put up a better OBP, better ISO/power, and can actually play the field.

Francona and company are obviously a lot smarter than you or I though....willing to trust him for now but this still is something that (clearly) worries me.
March 27, 2014 - 10:50 AM EDT
That was a typo on my part, meant 2010 season not 2011. The sub-4 ERA may be too much but a FIP in the 4.10-4.20 range doesn't seem unrealistic to me for Carrasco. Career FIP is 4.48 and career xFIP is 4.08...

Even if he is only 2011 Fausto would be livable though if his ERA is that high I don't think even good FIP/xFIP numbers save his job.
March 27, 2014 - 10:49 AM EDT
Important thing to remember.....this is still somewhat of an experiment. If Santana proves to be the real deal on an everyday basis at third base, then I could see the Indians eventually moving him from a backup catching role to more of a 3rd catcher. Right now they are doing something different.....having the backup catcher be a regular at another position. It is something that has never really been done before....and I firmly believe it deserves time to see if it shakes out. It may not work....and if so they will adjust at that time. But in the meantime it is a unique way of adding roster versatility and essentially having a 26-man roster since you no longer have a backup catcher who is more or less a waste on the roster as they can't pinch run, pinch hit or play another position. I am curious to see this play out.....
March 27, 2014 - 10:46 AM EDT
"What makes me skeptical of Santana at 3b isn't his work at C, which doesn't really translate, but his work at 1b. He looked, uh, Laporta-esque? He's played 900+ innings at 1b, and never seemed to improve. If he's suddenly capable of anything like league average defense at the much tougher 3b position, with much less experience, then that's some magic going on."

I think something people forget (or maybe just ignore) is the fact that Santana had virtually zero experience at 1B before the Tribe decided to throw him there for a handful of games a year. I'm not talking Major League experience, I'm talking any experience. In the minor leagues Santana played...wait for it....2 games at 1B....TWO. Compare that to 58 games at 38, 66 games in the OF...and 3 games at 2B. That's not a typo, Santana played more games at 2B in the minors than 1B.

Tribe just decided they wanted Santana's bat in the lineup everyday. DH was taken so they threw him at 1B with very little practice/experience. Surprised he looked as good as he did there actually. At least with 3B they sent him to winter ball for a number of games and actually gave him experience in spring training.

I really don't think you can take his play at 1B (playing time there was too sporadic) and use that as a reason he can't handle 3B. Not saying Santana will succeed at 3B...but he has way more experience at 3B heading into this season than he had at 1B when he started there. Was learning that position on the fly with no prior experience. 3B this year will be an experiment...but at least one where we have some idea of how he's looked and he has some experience.
March 27, 2014 - 10:41 AM EDT
That's the key with Carrasco. Expectations from some boisterous fans are far too high. If he turns into '07 Fausto, then Callaway should be made president of Cleveland. I think the '11 Fausto model would be a good "ceiling," realizing that anything better than that would be icing on the cake.
March 27, 2014 - 10:38 AM EDT
ha..yeah Carrasco and Ubaldo is not a good comp, agree there.

If you really wanted to compare Carrasco to someone....Fausto Carmona comes to mind. Still not a perfect comp as Fausto (side not, refuse to call him by his real name) has had a much better GB-rate in his career but he like Carrasco hasn't really been a swing-and-miss guy in his career. Career K-rate of just 5.56 and career walk rate of 3.31 BB-rate. Actually a lower K-rate and higher BB-rate than Carrasco.

There's also the fact that Fausto was moved to the bullpen before his breakout year after struggling in his 7 starts and actually pitching well before being put in the closers role. Carrasco last year struggled in 7 starts then looked pretty effective in the pen. Tribe rightfully kept Carmona in the rotation and it paid off (in 2007 at least). Not expecting Carrasco to have "that" kind of year....but don't think it's that crazy to think he could have something similar to Fausto's 2011 campaign. Maybe not the inning total but could see him throwing 180 innings with a FIP in the low 4's despite the lackluster K-rate.
March 27, 2014 - 10:24 AM EDT
I agree Hermie. Thinking that Santana can do both seems to be a utopian belief on their part. Like you, I question whether or not he can actually do both. Like I said in my piece, if he's going to catch 30-40 games while being the starting third baseman, I think that's undo stress.

The odd part of all of this is that theoretically, moving to third should improve his offense in a pure physical sense, as the season progresses, in that his body shouldn't break down as much. Of course, the dichotomy there is the new position combined with continued innings catching. New position + old position=trouble in my eyes.

I can't believe Francona hasn't thought this out. I wonder what we will see as the season progresses though. Perhaps once Bourn and Giambi shake themselves out, we see a scenario where they move a guy like Chisenhall for a really good backstop that can split time with Gomes behind the dish, while maybe also acquiring a bullpen arm or low minors guy.

Maybe they keep Chiz but send him down, move pieces around and ultimately grab another catcher.

I still think there's some "flux" to this lineup.

I think Santana will be fine, as you do, but think we'll see some transition as we head out of April, and into May and June.
March 27, 2014 - 10:21 AM EDT
One other example of a catcher moving to 3B that I forgot to mention....Pablo Sandoval. Bit different with him as he was a catcher only his first year in the minors and then switched to some 3B and catching...and then went back to just catching with some 1B mixed in (didn't play any 3B in 2007 or 2008 in the minors). Split time at 1B, catcher and 3B in the bigs when he broke in (though only 41 total games). The next year though....made the starting 3B (despite only a dozen games there the previous two seasons)....and he was allowed to play a whopping 3 games behind the plate in 2009. He was not the backup catcher, was a 3rd catcher.
March 27, 2014 - 10:14 AM EDT
My issue isn't so much will Santana succeed at 3B, as I think he will end up being just fine there. I just worry if him working on becoming a decent 3B he'll suffer at the plate and 2014 as a whole could be rough for him. Really think having him as the backup catcher is the killer...

Josh Donaldson recently made a similar transistion from catcher to 3B. One difference was in 2012 he only started 3 games behind the plate in the bigs. He really wasn't a backup catcher there, more the 3rd catcher. IMO that's what the Tribe needs to do if they really are set on Santana at 3B.

While I agree Miggy and Santana are different do think you can look at Miggy's switch back to 3B here. What did the Tigers do? they moved him to 3B and really only played him there (had 3 innings at 1B in 2012, none in 2013). They didn't take the guy they knew was their best hitter and guy they were going to rely on in the middle of the lineup and have him split time between 2 demanding positions. Gave him a 3B and left him alone.

The Tribe obviously wants Santana at 3B and seem to think it will work....great, I too hope it can work. But you will need to get a backup catcher at some point. Really bugs me that the Tribe has ignored this for so long.

I just don't feel the Tribe is truly committed to Santana at 3B. IF they were they'd take away the catcher's mitt and get a real backup catcher. A's did it with Donaldson and Tigers essentially took away Miggy's 1st base glove. If at some point you want Santana to go back to catcher fine. But for now, if you really want him to focus "only" on 3B...then play him ONLY at 3B.
March 27, 2014 - 7:58 AM EDT
I think there are good reasons to question his move to third as a full-time candidate. There's absolutely no reason to think that it will succeed, if you use common sense. Now, we all know that common sense often doesn't play a part in this, but you really do never know...on a case-to-case basis.

I think when you look at history, and combine that with the short turnaround and his defensive background...there are massive, massive questions.

I hope it works...
Joe Chengery
March 26, 2014 - 10:47 PM EDT
"Gokd" = "Gold."
Joe Chengery
March 26, 2014 - 10:47 PM EDT
In Santana's 1B defense, I don't recall Laporta making a diving defensive catch like Santana did during the first game at home last season (or perhaps 2012)- I never thought Santana's defense at 1B was bad. It wasn't Gokd Glove, but solid enough, whereas LaPorta, to me, never seemed comfortable at all over there though admittedly, he didn't play the position for the Indians much, less than Santana, in fact.
March 26, 2014 - 8:11 PM EDT
What makes me skeptical of Santana at 3b isn't his work at C, which doesn't really translate, but his work at 1b. He looked, uh, Laporta-esque? He's played 900+ innings at 1b, and never seemed to improve. If he's suddenly capable of anything like league average defense at the much tougher 3b position, with much less experience, then that's some magic going on.

But in any case, what Francona does at the start of the year probably doesn't matter too much, injuries and performance will shake things out.
March 26, 2014 - 7:19 PM EDT
It's just a tough crowd when it comes to the Indians. I agree ownership and the front office can make some questionable decisions, but they have been the most successful franchise in this town for the past 20 years and even in the last few seasons. Yet they are held to a much different standard than the Cavs and Browns where hope always springs eternal. It's just a weird situation when it comes to the Indians and for whatever reason there is a deeply rooted anger with the team.
March 26, 2014 - 7:12 PM EDT

Just my observations. Reading people's comments during the hot stove season and spring training the perception I got was the Indians were coming off 100 loss season, instead of 92 win season and token appearance to October baseball.

Carlos Santana will be fine at 3B. Carlos Carrasco will be fine as #5 starter. The Indians will have winning season and return back to October baseball.

Do I know that for sure. No But it's better to be excited and have hope then not. I would take this any day off week than going through no hope during my childhood of the 60's, teenage yr of 70's, and young adult of 80's - 93 in which you knew that the Indians would never finish higher than 4th place.

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