The latest extensive report arrives in Spanish on ESPN Deportes via writer Enrique Rojas. Santana shares that the team is primarily planning for him to play third base next season. He’s currently trying to re-learn the position in the winter leagues over in the Dominican Republic. He last played third base as a Dodgers prospect in 2006.
Last season, Santana started 81 games at catcher while new everyday backstop Yan Gomes patrolled for 79. In the other games, Santana played primarily at first base, where in the article he shares that he wasn’t necessarily that comfortable. He has a .254/.367/.446 career batting line in 2,101 MLB plate appearances. He’ll turn 28 shortly after Opening Day.
But with the continued struggles of 25-year-old third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, the Indians are trying their luck with their switch-hitting offensive star at the hot corner. The news was first reported on Nov. 23 by the Plain Dealer’s Paul Hoynes. As it currently stands, Santana would easily be one of the best offensive catchers in MLB history, but the Indians are looking to maximize their MLB talent.
According to Rojas’ article, Indians third base coach Mike Sarbaugh has visited Santana down in the Dominican. Santana said he doesn’t want to be merely adequate or average, but is working hard to be quite good. He said: “I’m mentally and physically ready to play third base.” His errors have dropped dramatically since his first few games.
Ramón Peña, the Indians Director of Latin America Operations, said he looked initially lost in the field but is suddenly getting more comfortable. Audo Vicente, the team’s manager and a coach in the Diamondbacks organization, said Santana’s progress has been very impressive and if he keeps it up, he could become one of MLB’s better third baseman within two or three years.
Santana has gradually regressed into one of the worst-regarded defensive catchers in baseball. Despite the similar total of innings, Santana allowed 44 wild pitchers compared to Gomes’ 27. The younger Brazilian is thought to be a much better pitch framer too.
The third base news still seemed very shocking at first. Initially, the idea appeared to be a long-shot and hardly any fans expected Santana to actually play any meaningful MLB action at third base. Now, maybe the Indians are indeed planning on this to be the case. We’ll certainly know some more within the next several weeks as players start to report to Goodyear for spring training.
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Photo: AP Photo/Tony Dejak