OK, let’s just get this out of the way right off the bat…
I have a man crush on Carlos Santana. The man is a stud when it comes to mashing baseballs.
There I admit. I’ve admitted it in the past, but before analyzing the catching situation of the 2011 Indians I felt it necessary to admit my bias. So now that is out of the way let’s take a look at said catching situation.
The starter for the Indians in 2011 will be the aforementioned Santana. This will be Santana’s first full year in the majors. Hopes are high, especially considering how well he was playing last year before that bastard Ryan Kalish of the Red Sox blew up his knee on a play at the plate. My screams of terror are probably still reverberating throughout the outer most regions of our solar system. Talk about a complete panic attack… unless of course you enjoy watching your team’s top prospect and potential super star sprawled out on the ground and carried off on a stretcher after getting his knee bent backwards. I’m not bitter or anything.
At the time of his injury last year, 46 games over a 47 game span, Santana was batting .260 with 13 doubles, 6 home runs, 22 RBI, and an OPS of .868. That’s not bad for someone in their first go around at the big league level. It’s even better when you consider that for most of that time Santana was hitting well over .300. During that 46 game stretch, the Indians also played some decent baseball. It’s a shame we didn’t get a chance to see how the rest of the season would have played out. During the 47 game stretch with Santana, the Indians were 22 and 25. Yes, that is still 3 games under .500, but it was watchable baseball. The team just had a different, more positive feel to it and it was even more apparent after the injury. The remainder of the season was essentially a free fall.
If the Indians want to be successful in 2011 Santana will have to have a quality year behind the plate. That means hitting around .300, with 20+ home runs, 25+ doubles and 100 RBI. If he can do that and solidify the cleanup spot in the order the Indians will be ok. And these aren’t unreasonable expectations. That’s the type of pace he was on last year before the injury occurred. So far this spring he has looked 100% healthy and has shown no lingering effects of from his offseason surgery. It should also help that Santana will play almost every day, spending his non-catching days split between first base and DH.
The More Santana is able to play behind the plate the better off the Indians will be in the long run considering their alternatives. The backup will more than likely be Lou Marson. Oye… where to begin with this one? Marson was the starter last year before Santana arrived and after he got hurt. What we saw, well… It wasn’t good. In fact, it was awful. In 87 games Marson hit .195 with 3 homeruns, and 22 RBI. He didn’t exactly light it up. Babe Ruth he was not. Hell, he wasn’t even Mario Mendoza. a .195 batting average?!?! I could put on a uniform and find a way to hit above .200, and no I’m not being ridiculous, I was and still am that good at hitting a baseball. Marson is a quality backup from a defensive stand point, but offensively he is obviously a major downgrade from Santana despite the fact he was once regarded as an upper level prospect with the Phillies. Then again he’s only 24, so you never know what can happen. he hasn’t even hit his prime yet.
Of course there is no real alternative after Marson to serve as the backup. If the Indians want a higher quality backup they would need to go out after Spring Training and sign a veteran who didn’t make another club, or make a trade for someone else’s backup. Neither scenario seems likely so get used to seeing Marson behind that plate on Santana’s off days. Let’s just hope that’s the extent of Marson’s playing time. If Santana struggles or gets hurt and Marson is forced into full-time duty things could get very ugly.
But as I said, Santana appears to be one of the focal points of the offense moving forward and the Indians are committed. Along with Choo, Hafner, LaPorta, and the return of Sizemore, the Indians SHOULD have a decent lineup. Then again, baseball is a very unpredictable sport and anything can happen. Let’s just hope that anything involves Santana making the all-star team and being the middle of the order power presence the Indians have been lacking.