Lineup Notes: Would Carlos Santana Hitting Leadoff Eliminate His Appeal?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

According to Paul Hoynes of The Cleveland Plain Dealer (click here for the article):

“The one thing I’ve thought about is Santana leading off,” said Francona. “It’s only a thought. Because of his skill set, I think he’d be one of the best leadoff hitters in the game. I know it’s a little unique. Maybe out of the box, and you’ve got to have somebody who can hit cleanup.”

How realistic a consideration it is remains to be seen, with both Rajai Davis and Jason Kipnis as potential candidates (until Michael Brantley is healthy) and a lack of alternatives for the middle of the lineup. If Santana is hitting atop the order, who slots into the cleanup spot? Yan Gomes? Mike Napoli?

For that reason it seems like a long-shot and it isn’t a reason for fantasy owners to alter their expectations. If they did make the move, though? For now the results could be crippling to Santana.

While he lacks the prototypical speed of a leadoff hitter, Santana has been a solid OBP producer. He owns a career .365 mark and has never been below .350 in a full season in the Majors:

  • 2011 – .351
  • 2012 – .365
  • 2013 – .377
  • 2014 – .365
  • 2014 – .357

Over that span Santana’s 15.5% walk rate ranks behind only Joey Votto (18.3%) and Jose Bautista (16.2%). That’s obviously led to the thought, but Kipnis lacks the RBI upside of Santana and thanks to his average has posted similar OBP in recent years (.366 in ’13, .372 in ’15). We’ve long argued more upside in Santana’s average, but it hasn’t happened yet so it’s tough to expect it now.

In theory you’d expect more potential for runs scored if he hit atop the lineup, but the players hitting behind him certainly don’t imply that. The lineup would likely look like this:

  1. Carlos Santana – DH
  2. Francisco Lindor – SS
  3. Jason Kipnis – 2B
  4. Yan Gomes – C
  5. Mike Napoli – 1B

In other words, unless you expected Lindor and/or Kipnis to rack up the RBI he’d have the same hitters behind him.   Throw in the drop in RBI and the move becomes disastrous.

For now chalk this one up to Spring Training speak, but if it were to come to fruition it would certainly be a negative impact on Santana in the early going.

Sources – Fangraphs, Cleveland Plain Dealer

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One comment

  1. jrob23 says:

    My lineup would be:


    I think it’s just something stupid to contemplate because they’re bored of the media already and like stirring the pot

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