Indians' top prospect opens with bang(s)

Aaron Gleeman on the great catching prospect you might not know yet:

Part of the reason why the Indians were willing to trade both Victor Martinez and Kelly Shoppach last season is that they have stud catching prospect Carlos Santana waiting in the wings at Triple-A.

Acquired from the Dodgers in mid-2008 as part of the Casey Blake deal, Santana was initially expected to begin this season on the disabled list because of a broken hamate bone in right hand suffered while playing winter ball. Instead, he celebrated his 24th birthday last night by going 4-for-5 with two homers and a double in the Triple-A opener.

For now Lou Marson is Cleveland's starting catcher and at just 24 years old he's a solid enough prospect in his own right, but when Santana is ready the Indians won't hesitate to clear a path for him and that time may be right around the corner.

Just last week, I read somewhere that there aren't any good young catchers these days. I read something like that every few years, and every few years there's another new crop. Today it's Santana, Buster Posey and Jesus Montero, all of whom rank among the 10 best prospects in the minors.

The Indians are obviously blessed with young catchers, as Marson's only 11 weeks older than Santana. But it's far from clear how good Marson can be; in roughly the same playing time, he's got a .314/.433/.416 line in Double-A, .277/.361/.360 line in Triple-A. About all we can say for sure about Marson is that he'll draw his share of walks, which immediately puts him ahead of most young catchers.

So, yeah: Marson's a perfectly fine place-holder, but it would be lovely for the Indians if he played so well over the next month or two or three -- however long it takes Santana to force his way into the majors -- they could flip him for a catcher-hungry team and get another prospect (or two). Because the Indians are essentially playing one game: Prospect Acquisition. Get enough of them, and they can compete in a weak division every year. Don't get enough, and just hope to get lucky every few years. At this point they're doing well with hitters, but the jury's still out (way out) with pitchers. And they have to hit on both.