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Not at the plate, Carlos

Carlos Santana just had the best bad season I’ve ever seen.

Jason Miller

Carlos Santana just had a .231/.365/.427 which adds up to a .792 OPS.  Despite my cries, most leagues use batting average as their ratio.  Santana was a batting average nightmare last year.  Since he is such a pull heavy hitter, he constantly hits into shifts, and the .249 Babip isn't necessarily something that I'd expect a huge positive regression.  BUT he did hit 27 home runs, and he did have the MLB's best walk rate.  His 18.8% K rate was very good especially considering that he tied as the 18th best home run hitter in baseball, and was the top home run hitting catcher in baseball.  He was the 5th most valuable catcher in 5x5 ESPN leagues last year.

Now, with Santana catching 11 games last year, he will only be a 3B/1B in ESPN leagues that use their standard settings (20 games in the prior season at the position, and 10 in the current season), but will be a catcher in Yahoo that uses (10 season prior, 5 current).  Since I personally like ESPN better than Yahoo, this article will be geared towards Santana's value in their system, but I'll mention his value as a C at the end.

So Santana, what do we do with a player like you?  His 17.1 BB%, 18.8 K%, and 4.1 HR% left him with exactly 40% of his 2014 season being made up of the three true outcomes, that is an Adam Dunnian total.  This is one of the few times I'll say that's a good thing since such a huge chunk of those outcomes are home runs and walks, and also since Carlos is terrible at getting hits on balls in play.  Since Santana has an approach many players would love to have, I'll break it down.

It all begins with Santana not being a fan of swinging the bat in general. This may seem unusual but with his power, and the fear this instills in pitchers hearts, it's a good decision.  Santana is incredibly selective; he only swings at 37.7% of pitches thrown, 5th lowest in the MLB (MLB average 46.7%).  He chases only 22% of all pitches (MLB average 31.3%), which was the 4th best rate in the MLB.  He pairs this with an 81% contact rate (79.4% MLB average).

Swing percentage vs RHP (Courtesy of brooksbaseball.net)

Santana swing percentage vs RHP

Swing percentage vs LHP (Courtesy of brooksbaseball.net)

Santana vs LHP

Carlos Santana clearly knows when to swing.  He also packs quite a punch, averaging 290.08 ft. per fly ball and homerun.  That was 60th farthest in the MLB, putting him around names like Oswaldo Arcia, Matt Holliday, and Mike Zunino.  I doubt many weren't believing in Santana's power, but it's very real.

The only glaring problem would be his splits.  Against lefties he's a career .282 hitter, against righties he's only managed a .232 average.  Last year was more of the same .271 vs Lefties, and .212 against Righties.  He's also a pull hitter as a righty and a dead pull hitter as a lefty.  He actually pulled 63% of all balls as a lefty, an exceptionally high rate, but also hit 18 of his 19 lefty home runs to right field.

Location

AB

H

1B

2B

3B

HR

RBI

AVG

as L to Left

46

10

8

2

0

0

2

0.217

as L to Center

55

14

12

1

0

1

9

0.255

as L to Right

172

53

24

11

0

18

45

0.308

I found the higher average to RF to be interesting considering he's such a heavily shifted player, but what made that almost impossible to believe is that he actually hits a ton of grounders when he's pulling the ball.

Location

GB/FB

LD%

GB%

FB%

IFFB%

HR/FB

IFH%

BUH%

as L to Left

0.23

0.00%

18.60%

81.40%

40.00%

0.00%

37.50%

100.00%

as L to Center

0.73

18.20%

34.50%

47.30%

0.00%

3.80%

0.00%

0.00%

as L to Right

1.54

26.60%

44.50%

28.90%

10.00%

36.00%

3.90%

0.00%

So despite the excellent 26.6% line drive rate on balls pulled, and the amazing 36% HR/FB rate on pulled balls, the 44.5% ground balls are far too much for a slow guy, who is constantly facing a shift.  If you add his grounders to center and right you are left with 96 ground balls into the shift just as a lefty.  That's a huge chunk of his at bats, and leads me to believe that his .249 Babip may actually not be as much bad luck as you would think.  Looking at his right and left handed spray charts, it becomes more obvious that the days of Santana hitting .250 may be his ceiling going forward rather than what you should expect.

Santana hit type against RHP (courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net)

hit type against RHP

Hit type against LHP (courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net)

hit type against lhp

So the big question now is what kind of value does Santana have with and without Catcher eligibility?  Steamer projects Santana to play a career low number of games next year (138) which I don't understand considering he catches less frequently than ever now. With those numbers Steamer also projects a 245/366/433 triple slash line. They think 21 HR and 4 SB are fair for this abbreviated 593 AB season projection, which would be the lowest of his full season career.  Since Santana has averaged 642 ABs since 2011, his first full year, I'm going to expand Steamers projection to a more normal number using 642 AB.  That gives Santana a 23 home run, 4 SB, .245 season.  While the average is scary, Santana is fresh off a year where he had the 3rd most home runs as a 3B, and the most as a catcher in baseball.  If you were to look at next seasons R/RBI production, as much as I don't like Jason Kipnis, I refuse to believe he won't bounce back at least a little bit, and Michael Brantley who will likely come back to earth some, will still be a good average and on base percentage player as he has always been.  Those are two nice names to be sandwiched between.  I believe the Indians who had an above average .707 OPS, despite playing in a pitchers park, will be better offensively, and then there is the possibility of Lindor showing up to help the cause next season as well.  Santana's days at 3B are over after he posted a high school level .909 fielding percentage there last year, but he'll be there again next season in fantasy.

I think as a 3B, and his unmentioned very healthy track record, he should be worthy of a pick in the 80's next season in the Starling Marte, Jason Heyward group. If he retains catcher eligibility, I'd lower that to the 70s, closer to a Kyle Seager ranking.

Santana 5 HR vs KC