On June 11th, 2010 a guy by the name of Carlos Santana made his debut for the Indians. Cleveland fans didn’t know it yet, but this guy would become one of the most beloved players to wear the Cleveland Indians uniform.
In 2005, Santana was signed by the Dodgers. At that point in time, he was more than just a catcher. He played second base, third base and the outfield. In the same season, Carlos began his career with the minor league affiliate Gulf Coast Dodgers. He played 32 games and batted .295 in that span. On July 26th, 2008 he was traded to the Indians along with John Meloan for Casey Blake. That year, he had 117 RBI in total after playing for three different minor league teams.
Santana made it up to the AA affiliate known at the time as the Akron Aeros. This may not seem like a big deal, but people started to take notice of him. Going into 2009 and 2010, he was named the top prospect in the Indians organization by Baseball America and really started to come into his own as a ballplayer. He received the top award in the Indians farm system known as the “Lou Boudreau Award” for being the top minor leaguer of the year.
In the midst of an absolute tear in AAA Columbus, Santana was promoted to the big leagues on June 11th, 2010. Santana, batting third in the order, became the first Indian to bat third in their MLB debut since Jim Norris in 1977. June 12th, that was his coming out party. He recorded his first hit against the Washington Nationals off of J.D. Martin. However, as fast as the party was getting started for Carlos Santana, it ended just as quickly as it began that year. On August 2nd at Fenway Park, he was injured on a play at the plate that would cause him to miss the rest of his rookie season. Just like that, his rookie season was over.
In April of 2012, the Indians signed him to 5-year, 21 million dollar contract. However, every major leaguer has their struggles and boy did he sure have his. In 2012, Santana was hitting just .221 with five home runs and 69 RBI heading into the all-star break that year. Former manager Manny Acta admitted that Carlos wasn’t hitting the way they expected him to. After the 2012 season, Acta was fired and in came the new sheriff, Terry “Tito” Francona. With the Rise of Yan Gomes in 2013, Gomes and Santana split catching duties. Santana struggled to find his niche on the ballclub for a while. He played third base but that was a disaster and spent little time at catcher. After coming off the DL in 2014, he would be moved over to first base where he played primarily heading into the 2015 season.
After the 2015 season, a guy by the name of Mike Napoli came into town. Napoli was primed veteran, having been to three World Series and winning one of them prior to coming to Cleveland. He was coming to a club that was young. It was a raw team, but they wanted to win. During Napoli’s career year, he helped Carlos Santana explode onto the scene. Carlos hit .259 with 34 home runs and 87 RBI. He would make the final out of the 2016 ALCS Game 5 (featured image).
2017 was even better. After Napoli left town, in comes Edwin Encarnacion. With Edwin taking over the DH spot, Santana was moved to first base where he thrived. He led MLB with 13 total runs and assists with 95. He was also second in the league with double plays turned (129), 4th in putouts (1,055) and 5th in fielding percentage (.996). He was a vital part of the Indians 102 wins this year and their 22-game winning streak.
Carlos enters free agency this offseason and it will be interesting to see what kind of market he commands. Even with the early round exit, he said he would like to still stay in Cleveland. What makes Carlos so valuable though is his ability to be selfless and flex for the team’s needs. He has found his niche with this ball club as a great first baseman and a hitter. Not only is he good ball player, but he has developed connections into the CLE community and gives back a ton.
As a player, Carlos is 4th in club history with 726 walks and 11th in home runs with 174. He is five hits shy of 1000 hits and that number will only continue to go up. Carlos Santana is Indians baseball. Grind it out till the very end and don’t give up. He needs to stay an Indian for the rest of his career no matter the price.
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Image via NEO insider
Stats via baseball reference, Espn, MLB.com, Plain Dealer, Indians.com