Carlos Santana: AAA Columbus .318/.456/.571, 11 HR, 6 SB (0 CS), 42 BB, 33 K – We’ve reached the first player that legitimately has a place in the minors (sort of). As I mentioned in the Posey article, catcher’s defense is kind of really important. With Santana, there are legitimate concerns about his receiving skills. As Kevin Goldstein recently commented, “Obviously he can hit, but scouting reports of the defense have been pretty rough this year.”
Despite the defensive critiques, the Indians are likely to promote Carlos in early June. That’s because current incumbents Lou Marson (-.2 WAR) and Mike Redmond (-.2 WAR) have been awful. Marson’s hitting should improve since his characteristic plate discipline has been absent in his brief exposure to big league pitching. But scouting reports suggest Marson is unable to adequately handle fastballs with Major League movement, which doesn’t bode well for his sticking as a backup backstop. Mike Redmond is…well…Mike Redmond. So no matter how bad Santana is behind the plate, it probably doesn’t matter, his competition is a rookie struggling on both sides of the ball and a career backup. Additionally, Indians fans seem to believe that coach and former big league catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. can help Santana improve defensively at the big league level. Considering Marson’s continued struggles behind the dish, I’m skeptical about how much that matters in the short term.
I mentioned the defense probably isn’t a deciding factor. That’s partly because they’re already getting bad defense, but also because Santana is doing an epic job of mashing in Columbus. His minor league stats translate to a .273/.396/.482 Major League Equivalent line with 7 home runs, good for a .386 wOBA. Oliver’s preseason forecast called for a .247/.349/.424 and a .341 wOBA. I think with his continued mashing in AAA we can revise that forecast up considerably. I expect Santana’s power to remain fairly stable with the transition to the big leagues, what I’m interested in seeing is how that plate discipline translates. If it remains elite, that .386 wOBA MLE might be spot on. If it regresses while he establishes himself in the big leagues, I would expect a wOBA in the .350’s.
The whole range of likely outcomes is considerably better than the Marson/Redmond platoon. Oliver projects a .302 wOBA out of Marson and a .273 wOBA from Redmond. Even if Santana plays at the preseason projection (.341 wOBA), he’s a solid two wins better than the current platoon.
Of course those two or so wins don’t really matter. The Indians are already 11 games back in the division and their only real hope was for the rest of the division to suck out of the gate. At this point, they need to handle Santana in whatever way is best for his development. If Shapiro, Antonetti, and company decide Santana will get better defensively in the minors then he’ll remain there. More likely, they’ll feel the benefits of having Santana work with their big league coaches, build a rapport with the pitching staff, and adjust to big league pitching vastly outweighs the advantages of keeping him in Columbus.
The Indian’s have a 10 game homestand beginning on June 7th. My best guess is that Carlos will be joining the club in time for the Indians to bank a few extra tickets out of him.