RotoBaller Scott Slezak will be out in Arizona covering the 2014 Cactus League, providing dispatches and observations.
I went to see the Cleveland Indians practice in Goodyear on Tuesday and the one thing I wanted to see was Carlos Santana work out at third base. Santana, indeed, was fielding grounders there during infield practice and did not see any reps at catcher or first base. I'm no scout and a player's range is rarely tested during these basic drills, but he seemed to handle the position well and at least looked comfortable there.
Alongside Santana during these drills was Lonnie Chisenhall. Once one of the Indians' prized prospects, Chisenhall has limped his way through two Major League seasons with less-than-impressive results. He is going undrafted in all but the very deepest of fantasy leagues.
Looking more closely, however, Chisenhall may be a player to consider as a post-hype sleeper at the position. After getting demoted last season, Chisenhall returned in September for a more-respectable 40 at bats. Also consider that his .245 BABIP indicates that at least some of his struggles can be chalked up to bad luck. In addition, Chisenhall tore up AAA pitching to the tune of a .390/.456/.676 triple-slash line with the Columbus Clippers. All signs point to a player poised for a breakout in 2014 . . . if he gets the chance to play.
I don't believe that Santana's work at third base is an indication that the Indians intend to make him a full-time player there. Terry Francona succeeded with the Tribe last season in part because of positional flexibility. He could move Nick Swisher between 1B and outfield. Santana could be used at catcher, first or DH. He has Mike Aviles to plug in across the diamond. Adding third-base to Santana's skill set does not mean that Chisenhall should be written off. If he can get off to a hot start and establish himself as the starter at the position then he could be good for a 20 homer, 80 RBI season. That would make him a $1 steal in auction leagues or a late-round sleeper in straight drafts.
For more notes and analysis on spring training in the Cactus League, check out all of Scott Slezak's dispatches