While the Cleveland Indians improved their starting nine to its best point since 2007, it is clear that a few players have the capability to transform this team from a .500 ball-club to a legitimate contender. One player upon which the 2013 season pivots is 26 year old Dominican born catcher Carlos Santana. Entering 2012, the hubris surrounding Santana was high, coming off a season in which he hit 27 home runs with 79 RBI and a .239/.351/.457 slash line his potential seemed limitless. However, last season created some doubters as to whether Santana had already reached his ceiling.
While Santana’s batting average increased in 2012 that was never where his value was made, especially since the Indians spent a large part of last season searching for someone to establish themselves in the middle of the order. When looking at how one can expect him to perform, a few things can be drawn from 2011 and 2012 that point to further success. First, Santana when healthy for a minimum of a 150 games has shown he has 25 home run power with relative ease. Second, last season represented a sixteen point jump in his batting average as he began to regress towards career minor league norms in batting average and batting average on balls in play.
Santana’s production will be huge this season as he and perhaps Asdrubel Cabrera are possibly the only Indians with true MVP caliber potential. One thing is for sure, if Santana’s RBI production does not increase just purely based on added lineup depth, he will have either been injured or regressed exponentially. This season a new cast of Indians will be setting the table for a hungry Santana; be it the speedy Michael Bourn, grinder Jason Kipnis or OBP machine Nick Swisher.
The bottom line is this; manager Terry Francona will get more out of Santana than disconnected former skipper Manny Acta and with Santana finally being surround by a lineup that gets on base and can protect him, it is easy to project him hitting .275 with 25 homers and 105 RBI. Couple this with a possibly contending team and you have a guy ready to break into the top ten in MVP voting.
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