Now that the 2013 season is complete, it’s time to take a look back at the team and how each player performed on the field. Just like in the preseason, we’ll kick off the 2013 player recap series with the Indians Opening Day starting catcher: Carlos Santana.
2013 Projection: There was a lot expected of Santana headed into the 2013 season. As one of the centerpieces of the Indians everyday lineup, everyone thought this would be the year where he finally put it all together. His discipline at the plate combined with his untapped power potential made him the ideal candidate for a breakout year that would see him make his way into the conversation as one of the best young hitters in the game. However, despite his potential as an offensive weapon, questions still lingered around his ability to control the running game and manage a pitching staff from behind the plate. With Lou Marson, a superior defensive catcher, expected to serve as his primary back up, it seemed likely that Santana would continue to see more time at either first base or DH.
The key to his season would undoubtedly be his health. Santana struggled with nagging, minor injuries in the season leading up to 2013 and was never really able to get comfortable in his role with the team. This factor was also believed to play in a role in Santana’s continued progression from everyday starting catcher to first baseman and designated hitter. The only question was whether or not the Tribe was prepared to waste some of Santana’s perceived value with a positional change. As a catcher, he had established himself as an above average to potential elite level hitter. As a first baseman or DH he would be considered average at best.
So what happened?: Santana had a great season. That’s what happened. His actual stats from the 2013 season finished very close or better than most of his projected numbers. It was the type of season many of us had been hoping for over the past few seasons. Most importantly, after repeatedly struggling in the cleanup spot in the lineup, Santana finally seemed to embrace the role as the primary bat in the heart of the order. While batting out of the cleanup spot, Santana put together an impressive triple slash of .275/.413/.497 in 208 plate appearances. He also added nine homers and 29 RBI while also scoring 27 runs out of the four spot.
However, it would appear that Santana’s time as the Indians everyday starting catcher may be coming to an end. Lou Marson was injured in the first week of the season and seemingly vanished from the face of the Earth. This paved the way for Yan Gomes to make his way to Cleveland.
With the emergence of Yan Gomes as a legitimate big league hitter and spectacular defensive catcher, Santana saw his playing time shift from back behind the plate to a combination of first base and designated hitter in the second half of the season. It was hard to argue with the decision. By the time the season had ended, Gomes had elevated himself to one of the best nine players on the team and deserving of regular playing time behind the plate.
Where do we go from here?: Santana will still come into Spring Training as a catcher and will continue to be listed at catcher in the depth chart, but don’t be surprised if he makes a more permanent move out from behind the plate. Yan Gomes’ play in 2013 probably earned him a spot on the 2014 roster as the team’s everyday starting catcher. The means Santana will be relegate to full-time DH duty with some first base mixed in. This should be seen as a positive move as it will help keep Santana fresh and keep him from enduring unnecessary injuries as a result of being the team’s every day catcher. Hopefully, Santana can build on 2013′s success and use that momentum to become an even better hitter in 2014.
Key Moment: On July 31 against the White Sox, Santana delivered a walk off home run in the bottom of the tenth inning against Dylan Axelrod. The home run gave the Tribe a 6-5 victory and was the team’s seventh win in a row. It also served as a good omen for what would come later in the season. You can watch video of that home run below. (Refresh page if video doesn’t load properly)