Santana thrives at first, which is where Indians should keep him

BY foxsports • February 5, 2015

There are few times when you can say a pair of injuries were the best thing to happen to a team. In the Indians' case last season though, that ended up being the case.

When Carlos Santana (concussion) and Nick Swisher (knee) went on the disabled list in late May, Lonnie Chisenhall entrenched himself at third base after a great start to the season. When he returned, Santana moved to first and found a regular home there and Swisher became the designated hitter.

At the time Santana went on the disabled list, he was hitting .159. The remainder of the season he batted .266 with 21 home runs and 68 RBI. Of the 102 games he played from June 6 to the end of the season, 89 were at first. For the first two months of the season, there were only three cases when he had a streak of three games or more at the same position.

With what he did offensively and defensively, is Santana the Indians regular first baseman coming into spring training?

"I don't see any reason to do something different unless there was a reason," manager Terry Francona said recently.

Santana also showed some great athleticism in making plays at first. According to STATS LLC's StatsPass, he had the sixth-best zone rating in the majors after taking over at first with a .879. By comparison, Swisher had the worst in the majors when he was the regular first baseman the first two months.

The zone rating is an estimate of a player's efficiency in fielding balls hit into his typical defensive zone, as measured by STATS LLC reporters. An infielder's rating is equal to the number of outs made divided by the number of balls hit into his zone. Only grounders are considered.

Francona also has a better appreciation for Santana after the two spent two weeks together in Japan during Major League Baseball's tour. After not quite knowing where he was going to be playing each day, Santana should not have that problem at least early this season.

2014 STARTS AT FIRST: Santana 93, Swisher 52, Jesus Aguilar 9, Lonnie Chisenhall 5, Chris Gimenez 3.

2015 OUTLOOK: The Indians have a ton of options to back up Santana. Besides Swisher and Chisenhall, there's also Brandon Moss. With Aguilar playing only first and designated hitter, it is tough seeing him get a spot on the Opening Day roster.

KEY NUMBER: 113 -- Walks drawn by Santana last year, which led the majors and were the sixth most in club history.

1B PROSPECT TO WATCH: Bobby Bradley -- After being selected in the third round last year, Bradley led the Arizona Rookie League in batting average (.361), home runs (8) and RBI (50) en route to MVP honors. Could begin this season at Low-A Lake County.

2014 ORGANIZATION DEPTH CHART (15 or more games at first): Columbus: Aguilar/Audy Ciriaco/David Cooper; Akron: Bryan LaHair/Jake Lowery/Ronny Rodriguez; Lynchburg: Joe Sever/Jerrud Sabourin; Lake County: Nellie Rodriguez/Grant Fink; Mahoning Valley: Leo Castillo/Juan De La Cruz; AZL Indians: Bobby Bradley/Emmanuel Tapia; DSL Indians: Jose Medina/Emmanuel Beltre/Ronnys Mora


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