Cleveland Indians: It’s Time to Move On From Carlos Santana
The Indians expected much more from Santana this season. With his offensive struggles, is his time in Cleveland running out?
This season was filled with high expectations for the Cleveland Indians, and a good portion of that fell on Carlos Santana as he was expected to be a large part of the Indians offense–especially as he would become the primary first baseman. The Tribe finally shipped out the underperforming free agent trio of Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, and Brandon Moss. The time may be coming to do the same with Santana.
Players can slump, or have a bad year. It happens in baseball all the time. The trick becomes being able to decipher between a slump and a player reaching his ceiling. With Santana, more and more it’s beginning to feel like the room is getting smaller for him. The best thing going for him right now may be the fact no one is nipping at his heels. With the recent youth movement in Cleveland, even that may not save his job.
Before we delve into the numbers, another factor that has hurt him is his versatility. After starting at third base and being a backup catcher, Santana is a first baseman/DH only now. The move away from catcher came from several concussions suffered from batted balls off the mask. Third base was a defensive issue, plus it looked like Lonnie Chisenhall was going to seize that spot. Now it’s Giovanny Urshela, but I digress.
So now we have a switch-hitting first baseman batting just .231 with just 15 home runs–with just ONE from the right side of the plate. His power has always come from the left side, but the power outage from the right side is concerning. He’s still taking his walks with 81 this season. But for a hitter at a power position, getting on base is nice (but he’s at his lowest of his career at .348), but the slugging is one of the biggest concerns. After slugging .455 and .427 the last two seasons respectively, he sits at just .386 this year.
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When looking at Fangraphs, things begin to come into perspective. Looking at Santana’s contact percentages, his hard contact % is down to 30.7 from 35 last year. His ground ball % is up as well from 40.1 to 43.9. That’s a combination of swinging at pitches outside of the zone and his speed, or lack thereof.
He’s still getting his walks. But the lack of solid contact, and especially his struggles with RISP (.221, 30-for-136, 45 RBIs) have been a disappointment for the Indians offense. Santana isn’t the only one struggling, but the Indians seemed primed to clean house of underperformers in the second half.
There’s no denying Santana falls into that category.