Taking a look back at the consensus preseason rankings of catchers for 2013, Carlos Santana sat in position #3, behind Joe Mauer and just ahead of Yadier Molina. Heading into his 27-year old season in 2013 Santana was a popular pick to breakout offensively. However, Santana will probably wrap the 2013 season on the edge of the top-10 of catchers. While this may seem like a disappointment, his peripheral numbers actually indicate that there were offensive improvements, and even some slight continuation of these trends in 2014 should allow him to end up in the top 5.
Batting average has never been Santana’s strong suit. Thus far in his major league career he is a 0.252 hitter. In 2013 he ticked his average up to about 0.260, which while not contending for a batting title gives him another 6-10 hits during the season. Again, might not sound like much, but when you factor his line-drive and fly-ball rates (21.8%/34.8% respectively), he could be in line for a few more extra base hits. I project him as a 0.265-0.270 hitter for the next couple of years.
These Cleveland Indians are not the Cleveland Indians of the movie Major League. This year’s iteration is 6th in the majors in runs scored, while standing 10th in home runs. Michael Bourn has struggled in his first year in Cleveland, while Jason Kipnis has blossomed into one of the best young players in baseball. Asdrubal Cabrera missed time with injuries. Michael Brantley is an exciting young outfielder. Veterans Nick Swisher and Mike Aviles have been steady producers. Placing Santana in the middle of this lineup next season should lead to more opportunities to score as well as drive in runs.
Home Runs and RBI’s
Hitting in the middle of a productive lineup should also afford Santana ample opportunities to drive in runs. Santana has been a more productive hitter with men on base in 2013 than when batting with the bases empty (0.335 compared to 0.209, though he does have 12 solo homers). He continues to hit 0.291 with men in scoring position, driving in about 50% of his runs in this scenario. Get men on base and Santana should produce.
Santana saw an increase in his line drive rate in 2013, as noted above, and some of the 30+ doubles could turn into homeruns with an increased flyball rate or should his power continue to develop (his HR/flyball rate showed an increase from 11.5% to 13.7% from 2012 to 2013).
While Santana may take away stolen bases from the opposition, he is not going to assist you in any way in this category. But then again, which catchers truly will? Catchers are a notoriously slow lot. Russell Martin might help you out with a few more steals than the average catcher (he leads MLB catchers with 9 steals, with Jonathan Lucroy second with 6), but this is not a category that makes or breaks your selection.
So where am I selecting him?
I am not going to select a catcher before the 7th or 8th round of any year-over-year draft, and more than likely I am going to wait as long as I can before taking a catcher who I think could fall somewhere in the 7-10 rated catcher for the year range. However, in a keeper or dynasty style league, I would rank Santana as one of the top 3-5 catchers to own (Buster Posey, Yadier Molina, Salvador Perez and Wilin Rosario being the rest of my top 5). Therefore, I probably have to consider selecting him after 2 of those guys go off the board. With eligibility at 1B as well (and CI if your league plays that way), Santana offers some roster flexibility, though I am drafting him to be my catcher, not my CI for sure.