Unsolicited observations: Cleaning up Santana’s swoon, Jesus is here, Bourn problems and more

Carlos Santana - Dejak AP

Carlos Santana - Dejak AP

These observations may be unsolicited, but it probably doesn’t take much to get an opinion from Tribe fans on the play of Carlos Santana. The Indians’ unexpected third baseman managed to get his OPS back over .600. In the stat world, we call that trending upward! One can hope, anyway.

Watching Santana at the plate has been frustrating on all fronts. That’s why it was refreshing to see him unleash a two-run homer against Toronto Wednesday night. Santana has now collected five hits in his last four games, enough to bring his average to .154 with five homers and 13 RBIs. He’s a switch hitter who’s not getting it done from either side of the plate (.149 as a lefty, and .163 from the right side). He’s also making weak contact, as pointed out in this WFNY feature.

The bottom line is that Santana isn’t going to make anyone forget Albert Belle. For his career he’s amassed 971 at-bats hitting clean up, slashing .220/.353/.398 with 40 homers and 143 RBIs. He’s actually most productive batting fifth. In that same time frame, Santana has 413 at-bats in the No. 5 spot and a line that reads .303/.400/.508 With 59 homers and 70 RBIs. Batting sixth, he’s batting .263/.353/.459 in 255 at-bats.

The larger point is the Indians need to start getting production from their clean-up man. How many teams contend with a fourth hitter who can’t hit his weight?

*****

While moving Santana out of the No. 4 hole is currently just fodder for this column, the Indians made a very real move by promoting 23-year-old rookie Jesus Aguilar from Class AAA Columbus Thursday. Aguilar was promoted in wake of Nyjer Morgan being sent to the 15-day disabled list.

The 6-3, 250-pound first baseman gives manager Terry Francona a power threat the team desperately needs. Aguilar hit 16 homers and drove in 105 runs at Class AA Akron last season. This year, he was batting .298 with a .909 OPS.

It’s hard to believe that Aguilar is the first stud power prospect since the days of Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez, but hey, better late than never.

*****

Michael Bourn is having one of those seasons. You know the story. He starts off on the DL and never really gets it going.

In 20 games, Bourn’s slash line reads .258/.286/.366. Additionally, he’s walked four times compared to 27 strikeouts. Yes, as the leadoff hitter, everyone would like to see him on base a lot more. Bourn has a career .334 on-base percentage.

Bourn’s defense has also seen better days, and that’s to be expected when a speed guy is nursing a hamstring injury. The former Atlanta Brave is just two years removed from being the top ranked defensive center fielder in the game. This year, he’s ranked 28th (-0.7 UZR) when compared to players who have played at least 90 innings.

It was disappointing to see Morgan go down with a knee injury because he did such an excellent job covering for Bourn. At the plate, Morgan was slashing .341/.429/.439. Defensively, Morgan is ranked lower than Bourn (-2.8 UZR) but his production at the plate was hard to be ignore.

*****

Cleveland is Draft City, so I’m looking forward to that other draft. No, not the NBA, but rather that cut-the-tension with a knife nail-biter known as the MLB Draft, which commences June 5.

LetsgoTribe.com laid out the Tribe’s draft position the other day, and the Indians have four picks in the first round. With these early selections, I’d like to see the front office target pitching.

Any player chosen probably won’t see Cleveland for two or three years at the least, but the Indians have a real problem in their minor league organization that needs addressed, because other than Trevor Bauer, there are no impact pitchers ready to jump into a big-league rotation.

This becomes a problem next year, especially if Justin Masterson leaves for greener pastures. Bauer could be in the rotation now, but after the Bauer Outage, the cabinets are bare. Perhaps the next best prospect outside of Bauer is Cody Anderson, who was named the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2013 after going 9-4 at Class A Carolina.

Anderson is at Class AA Akron this season with a 5.36 ERA in eight starts. He’s still relatively new to starting, but FanGraphs scouting report states he has a low-to-mid 90s fastball with the slider being his secondary pitch.

*****

When Justin Masterson pitched that Opening Day gem against Oakland, I thought he was in store for a big year. Free agency is right around the corner and he was coming of a fantastic spring. This was his time to cash in…and he’s done anything but.

“Mediocre” is currently the working title to his 2014 campaign, but there’s still time to turn things around.

For the season, he’s allowed allowed five earned runs in four of his nine starts.

  • a_foreign_film

    bourn is bourn – he’s never been a legitimate leadoff hitter but managers have constantly jammed him there because he fits the old school leadoff profile of “fast guy who plays centerfield”.

    he’s always been horrific on the K:BB ratio and in general he strikes out WAY too much for someone with absolutely no power. he should be batting 9th in our lineup (as it’s extremely easy to make an argument that he’s our worst hitter), but francona’s obsession with sub-optimal lineup construction will prevent that from ever happening.

  • lokey77

    “Jesus is here”.

    Thought you were going to talk about Johnny Football in the middle of an Indians post.

  • nj0

    I don’t get the whole “he hits better batting X in the order rather than Y”. That’s the type of statistical application that people mock sabermetric geeks of making (hitting .400 on the second tuesday when it’s raining).

    Do we think Santana wouldn’t be in a slump if he were hitting 5th? Do we think guys approach two on and one out differently based on where they’re hitting in the lineup? I do agree with the point that Francona hasn’t exactly ordered our lineup for maximum effectiveness, but I think the impact from that is often overblown.

  • nj0

    re: power studs

    I’d say that both Marte and Laporta fit the bill, neither just panned out.

    I’m very wary of getting too excited for Aguilar. Columbus is a hitters park so I take his impressive 2014 numbers with a grain of salt. Plus it’ll come down to if he can hit left handed pitching. That’s not to be too negative, just don’t want to set myself up for disappointment.

  • a_foreign_film

    on a related note, it drives me crazy when old-school types like francona use the ol’ “he’s a good [X spot in the lineup hitter], so we don’t want to throw him off his game by batting him in spot Y” as some bizarro justification to avoid making lineup changes. obviously, who’s batting around you is going to have an impact on what you get to hit, but the idea of “get on base” remains the same no matter where you hit in the order. i really struggle to believe that a competent major leaguer is suddenly going to have a breakdown if he’s asked to bat in some different place in the order than he normally does.

  • Harv 21

    Really hope the Bourn/Swisher signings don’t turn into anchors so heavy that they sink the Dolans’ local cable and revenue sharing income. Could do more damage to the franchise than the Hafner deal.

    Saw one Swisher AB last night, a 3-pitch whiff on breaking balls. Last year we all said his contract was making him press, his shoulder hurt and he ended up getting better in August. But geez, last night was so helpless and lost that I’m starting to wonder if they’ve signed a guy with prematurely aging bat speed to a long-term deal. If he’s off-balance and flailing at breaking balls because he’s cheating by starting his swing early, oh boy. Heat up, Swish. Because this org is not close to full repair of 15 years of horrible amateur position player evaluation.

  • nj0

    Agreed. And it’s not like there’s much situational hitting in baseball nowadays. Even when there is, it’s late in the game so it’s all dumb luck when it comes to who is at the plate at the time.

  • nj0

    As I’ve pointed out before, it’s hilarious that our fan base clamors for us to spend money on players and – when we do – the deals never work out.

  • Garry_Owen

    This team is painfully hard to watch. Zero consistency in anything (except inconsistency).

  • Ezzie Goldish

    And Sexson.

  • nj0

    Branyan, Broussard, Karim García… a few hits, plenty of misses.

  • nj0

    Actually, looking through B-Ref it’s sort of depressing to realize how easy it is for guys to hit dingers in AAA and then totally fail in the majors.

  • nj0

    Actually, I think our starting rotation has been surprisingly consistent, maybe with the exception of Salazar.

  • a_foreign_film

    sexson didn’t turn out to be a world beater, but he was certainly a competent power-hitting major leaguer.

  • Harv 21

    absolutely, had a few fine years elsewhere.

  • Garry_Owen

    Really? I guess in the last couple of weeks; but taking the 40-some game season as a whole, my impression has been: Kluber and McAllister have been (surprisingly?) reliable. Masterson has been frustratingly unreliable. As you said, Salazar has been Slytherin. P5 has been a crapshoot from Day 1, though I hope we have that solved now. Again, you may be right, but taken as a whole, it just seems like the starting rotation has been Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. (Sorry for the dual use of really bad allusions.)

  • Garry_Owen

    I wish we were able to spend money on players’ 2nd major league contracts, and not their 4th or 5th – which generally seems to be the case. But that’s not on the FO. That’s just the reality of the league.

  • cmm13

    and by “fast guy who plays centerfield” you mean African American.

  • cmm13

    You flash that kid’s name around here again on another Indians article and I’m gonna stick that draft card somewhere and pull the lever until it goes click.

  • cmm13

    and by “consistent” you mean “predictable”.

  • nj0

    They’ve all been pretty much what I expected.

  • nj0

    Yes, good description.

  • Craig Miller

    Yeah like Brett Butler, Mike Trout, Angel Pagan, Josh Hamilton, Shane Victorino, Peter Bourjos, and others.

  • Craig Miller

    You mean Johnny Manziel?

  • nj0

    WTF?

  • cmm13

    Actually I was thinking more Ricky Henderson, Bobby Bonds, Derek Jeter, Kenny Lofton, Lou Brock, Tim Raines and others.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    when we do – the deals never work out

    So many instances I can’t even remember them all. Point of truth they haven’t spent money in awhile and the last time they did they resigned their own players i.e. Westbrook and Hafner. I don’t count that, that’s a lateral move IMO. So yes they spent for Swisher and Bourn but in context did they really considering the money that was used came as a direct result from the selling of their TV Network? I guess the fact they chose to reinvest is considered a win or a positive these days to some. I think that’s sad personally.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Reality of ownership as well.

  • Craig Miller

    Wow, that’s kind of racist.

  • The Undertaker

    Richie Had 45 Home Runs Twice (2001 And 2003) With The Milwaukee Brewers That Is Great

  • The Undertaker

    Like With The Brewers And Mariners In Richie’s First Year With The Mariners (2005) He Hit 39 Home Runs

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    I thought you were going to say “African American” again there for a second.

  • Steve

    He was a .350 OBP guy before he came here, so I would say that he was a legit leadoff guy at one point. Just not here.

  • Steve

    The damage is done. They’ve spent the money. Unless they magically get 3 million people into the park they’ve got no more money to spend. Lindor for Cabrera and more signing likes Murphy is what the near future will look like.

    Life as a small market team. Hopefully Kipnis, Chisenhall, and Lindor start becoming the new norm when it comes to your last sentence.