by Ray Kuhn
Potential and talent have never been in question for Carlos Santana. For obvious reasons the fact that he is a catcher with tremendous offensive upside makes him that much more alluring to fantasy owners. Although he only hit .239 in 2011, there was optimism associated as he headed into 2012 thanks to his 27 HR and 79 RBI. He responded by raising his average to .252, but saw his HR total fall to 18 while he drove in 76 RBI. Now we must ask, is this the type of performance we should expect from Santana or can we expect more moving forward?
Batting average has not been Santana’s forte since he reached the major leagues in 2010, but at least last year we did see some improvement. With a BABIP still under .300 (.278 last season) there is certainly room for an improvement. You have to like that Santana does not strike out excessively. Last season he saw a decrease in his strikeout percentage from 20.2% to 16.6%, which certainly helped improve his average. Even more encouraging was the fact that his 3 lowest months from strikeouts (July, August, and September) correlated with the months in which he hit for the highest average (.276, .277, and .280 respectively).
Those same 3 months were when Santana produced the bulk of his power totals (13 HR and 37 RBI). After chalking June up to bad luck and an outlier (.224 BABIP), one can get a clearer picture of Santana’s expected performance. In each of those months his BABIP was still under .300, therefore making that performance repeatable. In fact, the main catalyst for this improvement was that for the last 3 months of the season Santana really was not striking out (12.4%, 12.8%, and 12.8% respectively).
Another improvement to highlight for Santana was his 19.1% line drive rate, as compared to 15.4% in 2011. Yes that did result in a drop in fly ball rate from 40% to 37.8%, but for Santana’s performance it is a good development because he still showed the ability to hit home runs.
While Nick Swisher is not the ideal middle of the lineup protection one would seek, he is still better than what Santana had last season. The Indians also added Mark Reynolds, so that should prove to be a slight boost to Santana as well. That coupled with the fact that he is healthy and now entering the magical age 27 season for hitters shows that this could be a good season for Santana (as does the addition of Michael Bourn at the top of the order).
His overall numbers from last season are down, but that is thanks to his lackluster first 3 months of the season. Remember the last 3 months and the improvements he made, and you have a top catcher for 2013. Even without an improvement Santana’s overall numbers were still starter worthy in 12 team leagues last season. Now, what happens if he can take the next step in his development? The potential is certainly there.
What do you think about Santana? Are you projecting a rebound this season and a corresponding Top 5 catcher rank in 2013?
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