To date Carlos Santana has only played first base and catcher in his career. The Cleveland Indians might be faced with a dilemma in terms of where he will play next season, as both of those spots appear to be occupied (by Nick Swisher and the emerging Yan Gomes, respectively). Exploring what other options there might be besides simply inserting him as designated hitter, the team is having Santana play third base in winter ball to see if that might be a viable option next season.
Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer has an update on how things are going:
So far, the move hasn’t hurt his bat, but his glove and arm are still getting re-acquainted to life at the hot corner.
Santana is hitting .350 (7-for-20) with three errors for the Leones del Escogido in the Dominican Republic. Two of the errors came in one game – one on a throw, one on a ground ball…
…At the end of last season, Santana knew he’d lost the starting catcher’s job to Yan Gomes. He asked the Indians if he could go to winter ball and play third base so he could spend more time on the field next year. At the moment, it looks like he’ll be the Tribe’s main DH.”
As far as getting out from behind the plate, Santana played first base in 29 games last season. He committed only one error (a throwing error), but according to FanGraphs he had a less than stellar -2.8 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) at that spot. That’s not exactly going to get better at third base, so the question would be if Santana could hit enough to make his lackluster defense matter less.
Switch hitting catchers who are capable of blasting more than 20 home runs in a season are a rare breed. That makes it surprising, then, that Santana suddenly finds himself so displaced. But such is the situation, and it appears that most of his time next year will be spent as a designated hitter.