Dissecting the Carlos Santana Third Base Decision
Now that the dust has settled a bit after this afternoon’s announcement that Carlos Santana would be the everyday third baseman, it’s time to analyze just what the decision means and whether or not it was the right call. As of right now, about six hours after MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian broke the news on Twitter there are some obvious positives and negatives to such a decision, but for the most part, the choice of Santana over a former top prospect in Lonnie Chisenhall is none the less surprising and still a bit confusing.
From an offensive standpoint, the choice to start Carlos Santana was the obvious one to make. He is far superior to Chisenhall in every regard and, next to Jason Kipnis, is probably the most versatile offensive weapon on the roster. One look at the career stats for Santana and Chisenhall only reinforces what was already obvious.
Of course, one must take into account that the sample size for Chisenhall is much smaller than that of Santana. So while his counting stats are naturally much less than that of Santana’s, we can understand the potential impact of playing Santana over Chisenhall based on OBP and OPS.
Santana is an OBP machine thanks to his patience at the plate and discipline. Santana takes a walk when it is given. He also hits for power and more than his fair share of doubles. Meanwhile, Chisenhall possesses 30-home run power, but there is little evidence thus far in his career that he will ever full tap into that potential. Plate discipline has also been an issue at the big league level. For now, he is a middling prospect that has yet to fully figure everything out at the plate, especially when it come to taking a walk.
Another important factor in all of this is defense. The Indians did not feel as though the downgrade from Chisenhall to Santana was all that great. Or, not so great that they couldn’t over come Santana’s defensive miscues. Add in his work ethic and natural athletic ability and the Indians feel as though Santana can make strides during the season defensively. There is room for him to grow. On the other hand, the Indians know what they have defensively in Chisenhall. He’s good, but not great, a serviceable option at best.
But, the decision to play Santana at third over Chisenhall involved one key piece that I have yet to mention. That piece is Yan Gomes. The catalyst for this entire chain of events.
On the surface, it’s easy to say that Yan Gomes played great at catcher and thus warranted more playing time and a position move for Santana. It’s more complicated than that. As Tery Francona made mention of earlier this spring, his job is to put the best possible team on the field and that just because Santana wanted to make the move, didn’t mean he would ultimately make said move. In the end, the thought process for choosing Santana over Chisenhall probably played out as follows, almost like a math problem, but not quite.
- Are the Indians better offensively with Carlos Santana and Yan Gomes, or Carlos Santana and Lonnie Chisenhall?
- Are the Indians Better defensively with Carlos Santana and Yan Gomes, or Carlos Santana and Lonnie Chisenhall?
Oddly enough, the answer to both of those questions is Carlos Santana and Yan Gomes… because of Yan Gomes.
Gomes is an offensive upgrade over Lonnie Chisenhall within the Indians lineup. Even with regression back to league average, he should be among the more potent offensive catchers. Most catchers fall far short of league average. This is something we wouldn’t necessarily know because we’ve been blessed with 20 years of Sandy Alomar, Jr., Victor Martinez, and Santana.
Defensively, Gomes far surpasses Santana on each and every defensive metric for a catcher. Don’t believe me? Read this article by Jon over at Waiting for Next Year. The bottom line is that Yan Gomes can help the Indians more behind the plate than Carlos Santana can hurt them at third. Adding in the fact that Santana has room to improve as the year progresses or can be moved back to DH with Chisenhall playing third and this move makes a lot more sense.
If that makes sense.
The bottom line in all of this is that the Indians have made a decision and an important decision at that. In order to truly understand the ramifications of what they have decided on is going to take time. That means letting this play out for a longer period of time and not pulling the plug at the first sign of trouble. If the Indians are serious about Carlos Santana growing into the position, then they will need to grant him the opportunity not just to succeed, but also to fail. It’s through his failures that he’ll truly learn how to play the position.