The Cleveland Indians have a plenty of problems, but first base isn’t one, as Carlos Santana is coming off an All-Star season in 2019.
The Cleveland Indians march toward Spring Training behind a shield posterized with the face of the Cesar Hernandez.
With the lines about to be chalked out in Arizona, here’s one of The Factory’s latest position reviews, starting with first base.
The Tribe returns Carlos Santana, whose coming off his greatest professional season. Santana hit a career high .281 (.911 OPS), while also driving in career highs in home runs (34) and RBIs (93).
Defensively, Santana was one of the best in baseball last season, with FanGraphs ranking him fourth among all big-league first basemen.
The veteran is poised to carry the bulk of the load at the position, especially with so much roster uncertainty surrounding Jake Bauers.
We’ll get to the outfield later, but if you’ve been paying attention, you know the Tribe has 1 1/2 starting outfielders, and 256 guys capable of fulfilling a team’s fourth-outfielder spot.
When talking about Bauers, you’ve got to mention the corner outfield spots because if he makes the team, he’s got to be able to play outfield, in addition to backing up Santana at first.
Whether or not he’s needed in right field will depend on how Franmil Reyes looks during Spring Training. The power hitter looks like a DH. With no designated hitter in the NL, the Padres had to put him somewhere. That somewhere was right field and Reyes was awful, costing San Diego 12 runs, as measured by FanGraphs DRS stat.
Ideally, Bauers figures things out in 2020, because the roster can’t support a -0.6 WAR player. That said, he’ll be 24 for the entirety of the regular season, so he’s still really young. He’s a former Top 100 prospect, so the Indians will give him the chance to seize a spot.
If Bauers doesn’t step up, perhaps Bobby Bradley finally shows big leaguers what everyone was saying about his bat at the minor-league level. Bradley crushed the ball down on the farm, but fizzled in the short time we saw him an Indians uniform last year.
He came up as a first baseman and could rotate between first, outfield and DH.
In my crystal ball prediction, look for Santana to play a ton of innings at first. Reyes will show he’s strictly DH material, which means Bauers gets one of the OF job, while also doubling as Santana’s backup.
Santana is under contract through next season for $17.5 million, although he can be bought out for $500,000. The Indians would never entertain that though, would they? Gulp. Let’s hope Santana has a similar season to the one he had in 2019, and his contract doesn’t become an issue for the cost cutting Tribe.