Key Stats: Carlos Santana is currently the first catcher off the boards in early mock drafts going in the 2nd or 3rd round. He has displayed power at every step of his young career and also shown an ability to hit for average, so the abysmal .239 he hit last year can safely be dismissed as a young player adjusting. Despite that he still pounded 25 HR’s and 79 RBI’s on fairly pedestrian Cleveland offense. He also has eligibility at 1B, meaning on days where a catcher would normally be resting, he’ll just be using a different type of glove and still getting AB’s, further fueling our fantasy rosters. Did I mention he is an OBP machine getting on at clips of .401 and .351 his first two years in big league ball?
Skeptics Say: Are you joking? Have you seen this kid play? Raise your hand if you don’t want a catcher on your team that will hit at least 25 HR, get in the neighborhood of 85-90 RBI and get more AB’s than 90% of the catchers in baseball. I thought so. The .239 average is nothing to be concerned about as that was dragged down by a below average BABIP of .263 (2nd lowest at any level he has played at). He was clearly unlucky in that department last year.
Peer Comparison: For the longest time you wouldn’t find catchers in the top 100 players lists at the end of a season. In fact there have only been three catchers that have finished in Yahoo!’s top 100 since ’07 (Mauer four times, V-Mart three times and Mike Napoli just last year). I’m going to go out on a limb, and say that Santana would have been there to had it not been for his poor batting average. So taking that group of 4 players, where does that leave us with them in regards to this year?
Mauer – Health problems last year robbed him of playing time and the home park doesn’t do him any favors. The 28 home run season in 2009 was a fluke. Despite that, he can and will be a great source for a high average when healthy.
Martinez – Torn ACL has ended his season before it started.
We’re left with Mike Napoli and Carlos. Both are players that hit for power. Both are extremely valuable in leagues that use OBP and both will give us bonus AB’s while resting at 1B or DH. But what about the averages? Dating back to 2006 Napoli has never hit above .300 (with last year being the exception). Santana has hit over .300 four times (in the minors). Napoli’s 2011 average of .320 was supported by an amazing .344 BABIP. Santana’s miserable .239 was bogged down by a low .263 BABIP. Napoli’s 30 HR’s were buffed by a ridiculously high 25.4% HR/FB ratio. Santana hit 25 HR’s with a much more realistic (and easily maintained) 16% HR/FB. Just making this comparison I think we can trust that Santana will be better or just as good this season, while Napoli, who is a great hitting catcher, has too many inflated numbers working against him for him to easily repeat last season.
Team Outlook: Cleveland certainly isn’t a team devoid of names and ability. It’s just full of questions. Can Choo and Sizemore play like they did before injuries? Can Cabrera maintain his out of nowhere emergence from last season? Will Kipnis and Chisenhall live up to the hype that acompanies top prospects? All these questions answered, and more, in the Indians 2012 season…
What They’re Saying: CBS Sportsline – #1 in Top 40 Catchers; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com – #2 in the Top 25 Catchers & #51 in the Top 250 Players; RotoChamp – #24 in the Top 300 Players; Mock Draft Central – #1 Catcher and #35 Overall
Projection: There is a reason that Carlos is ranked so high by the people and places above. Despite the increasing offensive production and influx of talented young players at the position, Santana is clearly something special. Draft with confidence that he will be improving on his numbers from last year.
.270 AVG, 28 HR, 89 RBI, 70 Runs, 5 Steals, .360 OBP and .830 OPS in 550 AB’s