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Update on Carlos Santana's attempt to play 3B

A look a the (very) early returns on Santana's Winter League experiment

Jason Miller

Carlos Santana, one of the best-hitting catcher in baseball, is currently in the Dominican Republic, playing winter ball, showing a commitment to help the Indians in any way he can, as he attempts to turn himself into a viable third-base option for the team in 2014 (since Yan Gomes will be taking over as the Tribe's primary backstop).

There's nothing to suggest he'd become the team's primary third baseman, but Lonnie Chisenhall has really struggled against left-handed pitching, so is Carlos could play third base against southpaw starters even once a week (while also catching once a week, playing first base occasionally, and serving as the team's DH the rest of the time), it would provide a nice boost to the team. Given that Miguel Cabrera was able to muddle his way through two seasons at the corner, the idea isn't as far-fetched as I thought when the idea the first floated a month or so ago.

Santana did play a bit of third base while in the Dodgers' minor-league system, but the last year he spent any real time there was 2006, when he was in Single-A. He made 12 errors in 32 games with Vero Beach that summer, and the following spring he transitioned into playing catcher, a year before the Indians acquired him in exchange for Casey Blake shortly before the 2008 trade deadline.

Santana only began playing winter ball (for the Leones del Escogido in his hometown of Santo Domingo) last week, so the sample size is very small, but the early results don't look good. All I have to go off are the box scores, and those don't include play-by-play data the way they would for MLB games, so I don't know how many chances Santana has had, nor do I know the specific nature of the plays, but Carlos has made 3 errors in his first 4 games: a throwing error in his second game, and then a fielding error and a throwing error yesterday.

As I said, I cannot really provide any context for those miscues, and it's possible he's also made a couple of wonderful plays. In any event, some rust is to be expected, a player of his caliber wouldn't be playing winter ball if not for a desire to get better at something, and it's reasonable to think his play will improve with more practice. On the other hand, he only has 4 more games before the Dominican League season ends, and no matter how much he practices, he may not be able to turn himself into a passable MLB third baseman.