Carlos Santana set career highs in homers, runs, and RBI while tipping his batting average over the league average for the first time in three seasons. His days of playing up the defensive spectrum are done, but he returned to hitting with the power fantasy owners like to see from first basemen. His RBI production dipped as he spent most of his time hitting leadoff, thanks to his abilities to work counts and accept walks (.365 career OBP). Those skills are always going to ensure he hits in the top half of the lineup, and he has been durable, racking up six consecutive seasons of 600 or more plate appearances. While a switch hitter, the power comes from the left side, as 30 of his 34 homers last year were as a lefty and 77 percent of his career homers are as a lefty. As long as prospective owners realize his potential pitfalls -- mainly a batting average that could be on the wrong side of .250 -- he'll deliver, even more so in OBP leagues.
Indians manager Terry Francona said he is not sure whether Santana or Edwin Encarnacion will be the primary first baseman for Cleveland this season, Jordan Bastian of MLB.com reports. Santana played 64 games at first base and 92 as the designated hitter last season, but hit the same amount of home runs (17) at each position. The DH position could be a limiting fantasy value in some leagues, but Francona says he still needs to reassess the situation this spring and talk to the sluggers individually. Either way, both Santana and Encarnacion provide powerful offensive weapons within the Cleveland lineup and will likely receive equal playing time throughout the course of the season.
Santana will once again suit up for the Dominican Republic in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, Jordan Bastian of MLB.com reports. Indians management believed the 2013 WBC had a positive effect on Santana, and the team hopes the event will do the same in 2017. Santana has historically been a slow starter in April, but following the 2013 WBC, he hit .389 in the season's first month -- the best mark for any month in his six-year career. The slugger mashed a career-high 34 homers last season, but hit just .192 with a .696 OPS during the Tribe's postseason run through the World Series.
The Indians will pick up the $12 million team option on Santana's contract for next season, Jon Heyman of Today's Knuckleball reports. Santana hit just .192 in the postseason for the Indians, but he also set career regular-season bests in 2016 with 34 home runs, 87 RBI and an .864 OPS, so the Indians did not have to think long about bringing him back for another year. Santana split his time between first base and the designated hitter spot in 2016 and figures to do the same next year.
Santana is the starting left fielder for the Indians' World Series matchup against the Cubs on Friday, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports. There was wide speculation that Santana would play in the outfield in an effort to keep his bat in the lineup, and the Indians did just that. He'll slot into the lineup as the leadoff hitter as usual against Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks.
Santana will likely start in left field for Game 3 against the Cubs, Zack Meisel of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. The designated hitter spot is eliminated with the series moving back to Chicago, so the team is attempting to find a creative way to keep him in the lineup. The official lineup will be released on gameday, but Santana should be in it somewhere around the diamond.