Carlos Santana’s ability to take walks and get on base, coupled with his ability to hit for power, makes him a fit at several places in the batting order. To wit, last year with the Cleveland Indians, Santana batted leadoff 37 times and cleanup 26 times.
Santana did not hit second in Terry Francona’s lineup at all last season.
But that might be where he ends up hitting — at least to start off the 2018 season — for Gabe Kapler.
“I think the two-hole is a really important spot in the lineup — (a guy that) gets on base, comes up with men on base quite frequently,” the new Phillies manager said when the new Phillie was unveiled in a news conference on Wednesday. “Carlos can handle the two-hole.”
Kapler went on to say that he could envision Santana — who has averaged 24 homers and a .363 on-base percentage the last seven seasons — hitting first or third, as well.
But it’s clear that Kapler is considering using the switch-hitting Santana in the two-hole.
Things, obviously, will play out in spring training, and there’s a big variable lurking as Cesar Hernandez, and possibly others, remain potential trade chips. But right now, a few days before Christmas 2017, the Phillies’ 2018 opening day batting order could look like this:
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Carlos Santana, 1B
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Rhys Hoskins, LF
5. Maikel Franco, 3B
6. Nick Williams, RF
7. Jorge Alfaro, C
8. J.P. Crawford, SS
Of course, it’s possible that an outfielder other than Hoskins, maybe Williams, could be used in a trade for pitching. That could put Aaron Altherr in the lineup if he’s not traded. Crawford could bring some on-base skills to the bottom of the order and he could move up to leadoff if Hernandez is dealt and Scott Kingery is not up yet.
The Phillies’ overall on-base percentage is a dreadful .307 since they last made the playoffs in 2011. (Only San Diego, at .303, is worse.) But with the additions of Santana (for three years and $60 million) and Crawford (after the trade of Freddy Galvis) to the lineup in the last week, the Phillies will get on base more in 2018. And Kapler will have a lot of attractive options for constructing his lineup.
• The other day, we wrote about the Santana signing and how it ramped up the Phillies’ rebuild. General managers typically will not make dramatic predictions, particularly when talking about expectations for their clubs. (Who needs that pressure?) Nonetheless, Klentak was asked what the Santana signing meant for his expectations for the coming season.
“I expect us to be the best club we can possibly be, given our personnel,” he said. “We have a lot of young players, and with that, there’s some uncertainty. We know that. Young players don’t come with the same track record that a veteran comes with. But we believe that a lot of those players have a chance to take a step forward this year. If some of those players begin to take that step forward, we complement that with Carlos Santana in the middle of the lineup and a new-look bullpen, I don’t really want to place limitations on what we may do next year. But I would expect us to be a more exciting team next year, for sure.”
• Klentak has addressed the offense with Santana and the bullpen with Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter. There’s no use saying he needs to upgrade the starting rotation. He knows that. He has said it a number of times.
Prices for top young starting pitchers like Gerrit Cole and Chris Archer are exorbitant and would put a gaping hole in the Phillies’ young core. It’s possible that the Phillies will make only a modest addition to the rotation before spring training while gearing up for a July strike on the trade market. If the Texas Rangers fall out of the race, keep an eye on Cole Hamels. Both sides would have interest in a reunion someday.
“We’re going to try to add the best pitcher we can,” Klentak said. “But the trade market is very expensive for young, controllable starters. The free-agent market for the better starters is expensive in its own way. There’s a balancing act here. If you look at our rosters, not only at the big-league level but also at Triple A and Double A, we have a lot of starting pitching prospects and players who are close to big-league ready, and we need to make sure they continue to get those reps and innings that they need to develop to succeed at this level. But at the same time, we need to make sure we are doing everything we can to win Week 1 of the regular season next year.”
By Jim Salisbury