Carlos Santana: Can He Turn His 2011 Season Around?

NEW YORK - JUNE 12: Carlos Santana #41 of the Cleveland Indians bats against the New York Yankees on June 12, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees defeated the Indians 9-1. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Coming into the 2011 season, I ranked Carlos Santana as my second ranked fantasy catcher in my 2011 Catcher Rankings. Here is what I wrote about him back on March 3rd:

2. Carlos Santana, CLE-I moved Santana up in my rankings because I think he will hit for more power than Buster Posey in 2011. it will be interesting to see how he bounces back from his knee injury in 2011. The guy can flat out hit, has a solid plate discipline, and can hit for power. He could pass the Mauers, McCanns and Martinez's in 2012, if he stays healthy.

What a diffference three months make as Buster Posey is out for the year with an ankle injury, and Joe Mauer has missed considerable time this season. Coming into the season, I was concerned with how Santana would bounce back from his 2010 knee surgery, but felt he would be fine and build on his brief stay in the big leagues in 2010. Well, he has underperformed year to date.

Let's look at how Santana has performed this season after the jump:

In 213 at bats this season, he is hitting .221-.351-.376 with 7 HRs, 26 RBIs and 29 runs scored. I have to admit, I expected a much better batting average and a little more power from him at this point in the season. He still owns an excellent eye at the plate as he has a 21% K rate and a 17% BB rate, so it isn't like he lost his plate discipline.

But what he has lost is his ability to hit line drives apparently. In his 150 at bats last season, his batted ball data showed that 21% of balls in play were line drives. This season, in 213 at bats, his line drive rate has dropped to 13%. As a result, he has hit a lot more ground balls. Last year, he hit 35% of his balls in play on the ground, and that number has risen to 48% this season. I wonder if his recovery from knee surgery has anything to do with him hitting more ground balls this season.

But, on the positive side, Santana has been a bit unlucky as his BABIP is just .239 this season vs .277 in his 150 at bats last season. Then again, we are comparing his 2011 stats to a sample size consisting of just 150 big league at bats. Do we really know that his 2010 performance will be what we should expect from him, or is his 2011 stats the new level of expectation?

Looking at projections coming into the season, ZIPs had him hitting .252-.369-.438 with 18 HRs and 77 RBIs. Santana still has time to approach these projections, but how confident are you that he can turn things around?

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