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Fantasy Prospect Review: Carlos Santana

This post was originally posted to Jason's Baseball Blog, and has been updated both for fantasy relevance and through yesterday.

Indians' top prospect Carlos Santana was called up this morning, and will make his debut against the Nationals. Clearly, he is considered widely to be one of the top 3 catching prospects in all of baseball right now, but what can he do for your fantasy team?

His minor league stats to date:

Season League Level G AVG OBP SLG HR RBI SB BB K
2008 Calif. High-A 99 .323 .431 .563 14 96 7 69 59
2008 Carolina High-A 29 .352 .452 .590 6 19 3 20 24
2008 Eastern AA 2 .125 .125 .500 1 2 0 0 2
2008 Total 3 Levels 130 .326 .431 .568 21 117 10 89 85
2009 Eastern AA 130 .290 .413 .530 23 97 2 90 83
2010 IL AAA 57 .316 .447 .597 13 51 6 45 39

More after the jump...

Clearly, the kid can hit. A switch hitter, he has shown the ability to hit for power and average at every level he has played at. The part of his offense that I really like is his batting eye. This skill set was visible even in his early years, as he has always drawn nearly as many walks as strikeouts.

2005: 16 bb/8k
2006: 53/62
2007: 40/45
2008: 89/85
2009: 90/83
2010: 45/39

I am a firm believer in the idea that the ability to draw walks and make contact are critical to major league success. Of some concern from that 2008 season would be his batting average on balls-in-play (.413). As a result, I would have expected to see a correction to the mean, and see a reduction in his statistics in 2009. However, he posted a BABIP of .300 in 2009, while still showing excellent power and a solid batting average.

Digging a little deeper, I looked into his hand splits (LH/RH), as he is a switch-hitter.

2009 vs. Left .340/.464/.627 BABIP of .353
2009 vs. Right .266/.390/.492 BABIP of .286

Career vs. Left .327/.448/.552 BABIP of .350
Career vs. Right .271/.383/.464 BABIP of .301

The fact that he has such a drop between the two hands concerned me, so I looked at what I believe to be a comparable player.

Jorge Posada

Career vs. Left .299/.381/.496 BABIP of .351
Career vs. Right ..268/.378/.474 BABIP of .307

Having seen this, I don’t believe that the drop in on-base and slugging percentage to be that much of a red flag. While it is definitely too early to expect Jorge Posada out of Santana, I do believe it is a fair comparison (switch hitter, catcher, slugger).

The bat definitely appears to be legitimate. So what are the chances that Santana can stick at catcher?

In 2008, Carlos threw out 34 of 127 basestealers (27%), 24 out of 80 in 2009 (30%), and 9 out of 40 in 2010 (23%). This should experience a slight dropoff as he goes towards the Majors and sees better basestealers. However, the major league percentage for 2009 was 27.6%, so he definitely should be at least league average at holding baserunners. I can see him being a Victor Martinez type, where he’s not an issue behind the plate, but is probably not going to be the best defensive catcher you’ve ever seen. By comparison, Buster Posey threw out 46% in '09 and 44% in '10.

The fact that the Indians have Matt LaPorta slotted in most likely as the long-term 1B leads me to believe that Santana would have to be pretty horrendous behind the plate for the Indians to even consider moving him from there.

Prediction for 2010

Back in the preseason, I had written that I thought Santana would post .285/.400/.520 with 25 doubles, 25 homeruns and 95 rbi at AAA. I think that now that he is in the Majors, he still could post a .275/.380/.490 line with 10+ homeruns and 40+ rbi over the remainder of the season, which would fairly easily make him a top-10 catcher from this point forward. If you're running out one of the hot hands, I would look to pick up Santana immediately. I think that realistically, the only players who are going to definitely outperform Santana for the remainder of the season are Brian McCann, Joe Mauer, and Victor Martinez. After that, he's probably in that same group as Buster Posey, Kurt Suzuki, Mike Napoli, Matt Wieters, and Ryan Doumit.