The Cleveland Indians will be leaning hard on a couple of veterans to develop their new crop of catchers.

Following the departure of catchers Victor Martinez and Kelly Shoppach, the Indians enter the 2010 season with an abundance of young catchers, who are high on potential but low on experience.

Lou Marson, 23, and Wyatt Toregas, 27, are expected to compete for Opening Day honors behind the plate. But the duo combine for a measly 41 career major league starts. While one of the two, likely Marson, will share catching duties with newly acquired veteran Mike Redmond, the buzz in the organization is about another catching prospect.

“We’ve got a young man named Carlos Santana, who isn’t too far off,” Indians General Manager Mark Shapiro said.

It’s easy to see the excitement on Shapiro’s face when he talks about Santana, who is already being hailed as the next Martinez.

Originally a third baseman, the switch-hitting Santana is currently rated the No. 11 prospect in all of baseball. The only problem is Santana is just that — a prospect. The 23-year-old Dominican has yet to catch a game at the Triple-A level. But that doesn’t dampen the spirits of Shapiro or first-year manager Manny Acta.

“Before the year is over I’m sure we are going to see Carlos [Santana] because he is so talented,” Acta said. “He needs some seasoning in Triple-A and to continue to work on his defense. But we know because he is so talented, before the year is over he’s going to be up here helping us out.”

Santana is set to start the season with the Columbus Clippers, the Indians’ Triple-A affiliate. When he does reach the big league club, Acta believes the Indians have experienced players and coaches in place to help develop Santana and the other young catchers.

“Mike Redmond, who we just signed, is going to come in and help [our young] guys out,” Acta said. “Mike has been in our division for years. He’s a student of the game and has been a quality backup. We think he and Sandy [Alomar Jr.] are going to be huge for our young catchers.”

Alomar, a familiar name for Tribe fans, returns to the club this year as a first-base coach, and will be instrumental in the growth of the team’s catchers. Shapiro discussed the signing of Alomar at the team’s press tour stop in Columbus last Thursday.

“It wasn’t just bringing back a name. It was a guy with a great catching program, a passion for coaching and a guy who is going to make an impact with our young catchers,” Shapiro said. “We’ve got three good, young catchers and I think Sandy will make an impact on whoever is up [on the major league level].”

While the Indians are young at catcher, and virtually every position across the board, Acta still expects his club to produce this season.

“We’re not just going to try and compete,” Acta said. “Our expectations are to win. We’re better than a lot of people give us credit for.”