A year ago it would have seemed impossible that Carlos Santana would be in position to assume regular catching duties for the Cleveland Indians. Victor Martinez, though coming off an injury-shortened season, was still in place. Kelly Shoppach filled in admirably (21 HR in 352 AB) and appeared to be the eventual successor.
Fast-forward twelve months and Martinez is in Boston, Shoppach is in Tampa Bay and Santana, one of the top prospects in baseball, is primed to potentially take over as the Indians catcher after posting the following line at Double-A:
428 At Bats
.290 Batting Average (124 Hits)
23 Home Runs
2 Stolen Bases
.413 On Base Percentage
.530 Slugging Percentage
.314 Batting Average on Balls in Play
Here’s what you need to know about him:
- He spent the first two years of his minor league career playing 3B and OF before being shifted to catcher full-time in 2007.
- He was originally signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers and was traded on July 26, 2008 as part of the trade that sent Casey Blake to the Dodgers.
- Baseball America recently ranked him as the Indians #1 prospect saying, “Santana has a bat that would fit nicely at any position, making it a premium for the catcher position. He combines outstanding plate discipline, contact-hitting ability and power at the plate.”
- He struck out 19.4% of the time last season, a reasonable mark. Obviously it has the potential to regress against tougher competition, but with a realistic BABIP, he should still be able to post a usable average.
- His eye at the plate is tremendous, posting a walk rate of 17.4% last season. Just for comparison’s sake, there were only seven players who posted a walk rate over 16% in the Major Leagues in 2009. You can’t ask Santana to maintain that type of rate during his rookie season, however.
- While he’s not fast, the fact that he can routinely get on base gives him a better chance to score runs than many other catchers. Only three catchers scored more than 70 runs last season, so don’t ignore this potential.
- He has a career minor league flyball rate of 46.4%, which is similar to his mark at Double-A last season (45.5%). His power is definitely for real and should translate to the Major Leagues.
If he does emerge as the starter behind the plate he could potentially be usable in all formats and definitely in two-catcher formats. Even if the Indians decide to take it slow and start him at Triple-A, monitor him closely. It’s only a matter of time before he gets his opportunity to make an impact in 2010.
What are your thoughts on Santana? Is he already a must own? How good could he be?
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