Notes from the Wigwam: Santana impresses
Santana, Tribe offense off to hot start
What a week! The Tribe opened the 2013 season this past week, and it ended up being a pretty interesting week.
On multiple occasions, we saw the Indians' new-look offense come through, and we also saw a couple of outstanding starting pitching performances. We even saw both at once (ex. Sunday).
The Indians' home opener is today, which signifies the start of another fun-filled Indians' week. So, with that being said, let's take a look at the week that was for the Indians...
Player of the Week
Carlos Santana — Catcher
6 G, 5 R, 12-for-24, 4 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K.
I think a number of Indians fans predicted that Santana might end up benefitting the most from the Indians'revamped lineup, and that has been the case so far. Santana did not just have a good week. Santana did not have just a great week, either. The switch-hitting catcher had a phenomenal week; arguably the best week he's had in his Major League career. In the past two seasons, we have seen Santana get off to dreadful starts. In 2011, Santana was hitting .198/.327/.395 on April 30. In comparison, he was hitting .230/.400/.410 on April 28 in 2012. This past week was obviously just one week in what is going to be a very long season, but it's hard to not be encouraged by Santana's performance. The IBI's Jim Pete has gone on record saying that he believes Santana can even be an MVP-caliber player this year with the revamped lineup. I initially disagreed, but then again, who knows? The production that he provides from the catcher position makes him so valuable that it is almost already a foregone conclusion that he will lead the Indians in WAR provided he stays healthy. I have long wanted Santana to bat over .300 as he routinely did in the minor leagues, and I genuinely believe this could be the season where we see that happen.
Minor League Player of the Week
Jose Ramirez — Second baseman, Akron Aeros
4 G, 8-for-16, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
I was ecstatic when I first heard from Tony Lastoria that Ramirez was going to start out at Double-A Akron, but I must admit that I was also cautiously optimistic. It's hard for any player to skip a complete level of the minor leagues, especially High-A where many players begin to cement themselves as potential Major League prospects. However, one week in, it looks as if the Indians made a brilliant decision. Simply put, Ramirez is a hitting machine, and he's also a solid defensive player as well. It's astonishing to think that Ramirez just turned 20 years, and he is already playing at the Double-A level. Also, let's be clear: Ramirez is not just playing, he's excelling. This may seem crazy, but if he continues at this rate, Ramirez could legitimately put himself into the Major League discussion by the end of this season. His future may be with the Indians, or he could really become some valuable trade bait if he continues to develop. 20-year-old middle infielders that can hit and defend do not grow on trees, and the Indians have found themselves a player that can do both.
News & notes
— The best part about this past week may be the fact that Santana was hardly the only Indian to get off to a scorching start. There was one reason why the Indians signed Mark Reynolds this past offseason — power. Reynolds is already starting to deliver as this past week, the right-handed slugger went 6-for-20 with one double and four home runs. Reynolds hit two home runs on Sunday, and the amazing thing is that he missed a third one by just a couple of inches. It's funny to think that the Indians almost did not sign Reynolds as the team's original target was Kevin Youkilis, and Reynolds never would have been even offered a deal had Youkilis accepted the Indians' two-year offer. Reynolds is sure to be frustrating at times this year, but I already feel as if I prefer the signing of him over the potential Youkilis deal. For the first time since Travis Hafner was in his prime, the Indians have a player who is legitimately capable of delivering more than 40 home runs a season. Even with 200 strikeouts a year, there's a value in that and a lot of it.
— Outside of Santana and Reynolds, the next most impressive Indian this past week was arguably right-hander Justin Masterson. Masterson started two games and went 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA, seven walks and 13 strikeouts. Masterson labored quite a bit on Opening Day, but that was not the case on Sunday. The right-hander pitched seven shutout innings, allowed two hits, walked three and struck out eight. Because of his lack of pitches, I have never really thought that Masterson could one day develop into an ace, but he certainly pitched like one on Sunday. The problem for Masterson still seems to be finding that consistency. While he ultimately got the win on Opening Day, he walked the tightrope several times, and things could have easily gone bad at any moment. But, of course, with that being said, Masterson is now sitting pretty with two wins and an ERA under one, so things obviously never went bad. As long as Masterson and his rotation mate Ubaldo Jimenez pitch well this season, the Indians do have a legitimate chance to compete, especially with this offense. The chances of this happening for both players may seem unlikely, but at least Masterson made strides from his first start to his next. We'll see how Jimenez does in his second start later today...
— There has definitely been a yin and a yang to Drew Stubbs' 2013 start. The right-handed hitting Stubbs has started the season 4-for-22 (.182) with nine strikeouts and zero walks in five games. The Indians knew that strikeouts were an unwanted accessory that came with Stubbs, but nine strikeouts in five games is still a ridiculously high amount. However, on the positive side of things, Stubbs has been impressive in right field and has already made a handful of nice plays. Shin-Soo Choo was certainly a nice player at the plate, but he was really a poor route runner, and his poor glove alone often cost the team some runs. That will not be the case with Stubbs, but we all know that offensive statistics are almost always held in a much higher regard than defensive ones. Hopefully Stubbs is just off to a poor start because he could certainly end up being a detriment to the team if his overall line this year ends up being similar to the .213/.277/.333 one that he posted in 2012.
— To me, the low point of last week was Brett Myers' start on Thursday. In five innings, Myers ended up allowing seven runs and four home runs on seven hits. The biggest problem was Myers' inability to maintain a lead or tie. On three occasions, the Indians took the lead or tied the game up only to have Myers come out and give it right back to the Blue Jays. It is only one start, so it's important to not have a knee-jerk reaction, but the start was still quite troubling. As we all know, Myers pitched in the bullpen last season, which is a big change from the job that he is tasked with now. Maybe it's no big deal, but the one thing I keep asking myself is this: Why did the Houston Astros have Myers in the bullpen last season to begin with? It's not as if they were rich with starting pitching talent, right? Could they, perhaps, have believed that he was no longer capable of being an effective starter? This seems to be somewhat of a worst-case scenario, but it is something that has been bothering me. Still, it is just one start, and this could be a moot point after a couple of starts.
— Lonnie Chisenhall's start may not be too eye catching just yet, but it was nice to see that manager Terry Francona decided to let Chisenhall stay in the lineup and face some tough lefties this past week. Chisenhall's career numbers against left-handers (.228/..253/.446) may leave a lot to be desired, but he did come through in a big way on Sunday as he hit a massive three-run shot off of Tampa Bay Rays lefty starter and reigning AL Cy Young winner David Price. Chisenhall is never going to improve in this area unless he gets an opportunity, and it at least appears as if Francona is determined to give him just that. The Indians are scheduled to face two lefties this week, the New York Yankees' Andy Pettite and the Chicago White Sox's Jose Quintana. I hope that Chisenhall remains in the lineup against both pitchers.
— Asdrubal Cabrera is off to a slow start as the switch-hitting shortstop has gone just 2-for-24 so far. Personally, I am not overly worried about it simply for the fact that Cabrera seems to be in great shape, which is a stark difference from recent years.
— Catcher Lou Marson is currently listed as day-to-day after a collision at the plate Saturday left him with a cervical neck sprain. If Marson does miss time, one would think the Indians would turn to Triple-A Columbus catcher Yan Gomes. The Esmil Rogers trade continues to look better each day as the team did not have the luxury of having another Major League-capable catcher beyond Marson and Santana last year, but they can now have that in Gomes.
— Reliever Cody Allen has got off to a rough start as he's allowed four runs (three earned) in three innings so far. Maybe it's just nerves, but Allen may also be in need of some more seasoning at Triple-A. He'll probably get just that if he does not manage to turn it around in his next couple of outings.
Steve can be reached via email at email@example.com.