Sell High Candidate: Is Anthony Santander Going To Regress In 2021?

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Prior to the season Anthony Santander appeared on the Sleeper List in our 2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide (we graded him as a 4-Start Breakout), and he proved us right as he posted an impressive line when healthy:

.261 (40-153), 11 HR, 32 RBI, 24 R, 0 SB

He only appeared in 37 games, but he showed everything we could’ve asked for. In the Draft Guide we said:

“Santander hit .261 with 20 HR over 380 AB in the Majors, and there’s little reason to doubt his power (he plays half his games in Baltimore and a 15.6% HR/FB doesn’t raise any warning bells). He needs to learn to stay within the strike zone more (40.2% O-Swing%), and with experience that should come. If it does, with the opportunity for playing time there for the taking, it’s easy to see why we’d be excited.”

Over 130 games the past two seasons (533 AB) he has 33 doubles, 2 triples and 31 HR. Before we say that the power is 100% for real, two key questions loom large:

  • Exit Velocity – 88.6 mph
  • Average HR Distance – 388 feet

The Average HR Distance ties him for 207th among qualified hitters. While it’s not a mark that makes maintaining his power impossible, when coupled with a 36.7% Hard% it gets a little bit harder to buy. Further clouding the issue is his Home/Road split, with 8 HR at home vs. 3 HR on the road. That wasn’t an issue in ’19, but it needs to be watched.

That’s not to say that Santander can’t be a 25+ HR hitter, but that could be his ceiling.

As for his Average, there are warning signs. Obviously a drop in power would significantly impact things, and you have to wonder if that’s coming shortly. The question comes on whether or not he’s started swinging for the fences, with a 49.6% flyball rate. That said he was more willing to use the entire field (32.0% Oppo%), though he also continued to show a questionable approach (11.2% SwStr%, 40.8% O-Swing%).

Opposing pitchers have not yet fully adjusted (57.56% Hard pitches seen), and you have to think that’s coming as he’s struggled to hit well against changeups (.196) and curveballs (.222) over the past two seasons. If he starts seeing fewer fastballs, will the results be there?

That would make you think that there’s more bad than good and brings doubt about him moving forward. That’s not to say that he won’t be a productive option, but is he more .240-.250 with 25 HR as opposed to a player who will take another step forward? That seems likely, so proceed accordingly.

Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball

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