The Carlos Santana Experience Invades Cleveland

By Tommy Rancel //

In the summer of 2008, the Dodgers acquired Casey Blake from the Cleveland Indians. Blake, 36, was a soon-to-be free agent after the season. In exchange for a few months of Blake’s services, the Dodgers parted ways with catching prospect Carlos Santana and minor league relief pitcher Jonathan Meloan.

The Dodgers re-signed Blake after the ’08 season, and the four-corner man (1B/3B/RF/LF) has been a good player for Los Angeles. On the other hand, he is far from an impact player. While it may have not seemed like it at the time of the trade, one of the players sent to the Indians may indeed become an impact player.

Jon Meloan has bounced around the league, from Cleveland to Tampa Bay to Oakland. Meanwhile, Carlos Santana has become a top-10 prospect in baseball. With the Indians already out of the race 2010, the focus has shifted to the future.

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Santana figures to be a key part of that future. A former third baseman/outfielder, Santana was converted to catcher in 2007. His defense is still questionable, but Santana’s ability at the plate has him ready for the big leagues right now.

In 2008, while splitting time between the two organizations, Santana hit .326/.431/.568 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 21 home runs and 117 RBI. That said, 560 of his 568 plate appearances came at the Single-A level. The Indians promoted him to Double-A in 2009, and he responded by hitting .290/.413/.530 with 23 home runs and 30 doubles. Ready for the top level of the minors in 2010, Santana appeared in 57 games for Triple-A Columbus – compiling a slash line of .316/.447/.597 with 13 longballs in just 246 PAs.

Along with a good batting average, and very good power (.241 Isolated power, aka slugging minus batting average, in 2009), perhaps Santana’s greatest skill is his batting eye. As a member of the Indians farm system, he walked 145 times and struck out just 132 times over the past two plus seasons. Throughout his minor league career, he has 333 walks and 322 strikeouts. It is that fantastic plate discipline that should help ease the transition from a good minor league hitter to a good major league one.

So far, so good. In his first four games as a major leaguer, Santana had three walks and just one strikeout. He also belted his first major league home run on Saturday. Although his batting average may take an initial hit at the top level, his plate discipline should keep him on base at an above-average clip.

Despite playing in the same division as Joe Mauer, don’t expect Mauer-like production, at least not right away. Meanwhile, looking at the man Santana indirectly replaced, Victor Martinez, we may have a more apt comparison. If Santana is on your waiver wire, put in a claim immediately in all mixed-league and AL-only formats.

Not much has gone the Indians’ way in 2010, but Santana’s supernatural on-base ability should be fun to watch this summer.

For more on Carlos Santana and other top prospects, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits.

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