Bearish on Carlos Santana

This is part of an ongoing pro/con series on RotoGraphs over the next couple of weeks. Today we’ll look at the positive/negative side of Carlos Santana. Expect the opposite side shortly.

Carlos Santana, Carlos Santana, Carlos Santana!  How come every time I write an article about catchers, some fool comes in here and brings up Carlos Santana?

Look at these numbers:

G PA H HR R RBI SB
59 249 45 7 29 26 2
BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ WAR
17.3% 20.3% .163 .241 .223 .353 .386 .332 109 1.4

Perfectly acceptable totals if you were drafting Miguel Olivo in the 21st round.

And now these ZiPS for the rest of the season:

G PA H HR R RBI SB
349 71 11 47 46 4
BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ WAR
16.0% 22.7% .179 .276 .244 .366 .423 .353

Pretty damn good if I’m buying low on Matt Wieters.

But I didn’t draft Olivo in the 21st round and I’m not buying low on Wieters here.  I’m talking about Carlos freakin’ Santana.  I’m talking about the switch-hitting, power-swinging backstop that was, not just the top prospect in the Indians’ system, but one of the most highly regarded prospects in all of baseball.  This guy was supposed to be the best.  This guy was supposed to be the best fantasy catcher, second only to the almighty Joe Mauer.  This guy was supposed to eat lightning and crap thunder.

But it hasn’t turned out that way now, has it?  You could have gotten the same production had you just drafted John Buck.  In fact, Olivo’s numbers make Santana’s numbers look like Yadier Molina’s numbers.

“Oh, but Howard, look at the OBP!  Santana’s OBP is killer.  He’s a total stud in OBP leagues.”

Pffffft!  You know what?  Maybe Santana’s numbers are killer in an OBP league, but how many leagues out there in the baseball fantasy world count OBP instead of AVG?  Maybe in your more competitive leagues they do, but I’m guessing the majority of leagues out there in existence go with batting average over on-base percentage.  It may not be the first choice of fantasy nerds like us, but it’s out there and it’s pretty common.  I’m talking about your work league.  I’m talking about the league you’ve been doing with your high school buddies for the last 20 years.  I’m talking about your brother-in-law’s league where you’re competing against nine other mooks with deep pockets and the attention span of a hyperactive kid without his Ritalin and fed too much chocolate.  Your most basic of fantasy baseball leagues default to batting average.  So right there, based on current production, Santana’s overall value takes a hit.  His regular ol’, non-saberfied stats look pretty pedestrian.

Sure, Santana looked pretty good last season before he got waxed by Ryan Kalish.  Nothing that had you doing back-flips, but solid enough to keep you hoping.  However, in a world that preaches sample size, you obviously have to take those numbers from 192 plate appearances with a grain of salt, right?  He’s had 50 more plate appearance this year and the numbers are fairly similar, although this year’s slash line of .223/.353/.386 looks pretty pathetic in comparison.

So what makes everyone think that Santana is the be all, end all of fantasy catchers?  Because he can take a walk and has a high OBP?  See my comments above.

You want to blame his current atrocities on the low BABIP and tell me that it’s going to increase?  Sure.  Maybe a little.  You want to blame it on the 1.31 GB/FB rate, the 49.1 GB% and the uber-weak 13.3 LD%?  Go right ahead.  But tell me how exactly you know that those numbers are going to dramatically change for the better?

Is it because he has such phenomenal minor league numbers?  Sure.  Everyone who crushes the ball in the minors comes up to the big leagues and rakes.  It says it right here on the back of my Brandon Wood bubble gum card.

Listen, I don’t hate the guy.  Not at all.  I think he will find success at the major league level at some point.  But to think that it’s happening right now and that you should buy, buy buy, then you’re mistaken.  You’ll end up overpaying because his value is sitting all in his name right now.  Keeper leagues?  If you can afford to hold him for another year or two and then maybe get that superstar production, then take the risk.  But if you’re in a re-draft league this year, you’re not missing anything special by not owning him.  Most catchers need time to develop and that includes the great Carlos Santana.




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Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site, RotobuzzGuy.com, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at rotobuzzguy@gmail.com


20 Responses to “Bearish on Carlos Santana”

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  1. John says:

    Even if it’s in an OBP league…..

    .223/.353/.386 with a high pick
    or
    .232/.388/.452
    with a late round pick (if not free agency)

    I’ll take the latter (Chris Iannetta)

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  2. paulie102704 says:

    wow biased much? He is on pace for a 73/17/65/5/.730 and he has been hot and cold all year. In keeper leagues this guy is a NO BRAINER and he is a hot week away from bringing his slash line projections into top 5 catcher status. Talk to me in July when he is on pace for 25 home runs. Not the best piece of writing I have ever seen on RG.

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  3. Lewis says:

    How someone who writes for Fangraphs could possibly be bearish on Carlos Santana is beyond me.

    A 23 year old catcher who walks 18% of the time while striking out barely more? Yes please.

    Then to top it off you compare him to Brandon Wood who is about as different hitter as possible.

    Weak sauce.

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  4. That Guy says:

    I’m bearish on this article.

    +17 Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. Drew says:

    Bad thing about this guy is you can’t even sell him for much at this point, *especially* in a typical work league.

    I like him a lot, but gave up too much for him early on, and now I’m paying the price (I got Santana and Choo for Victor Martinez – apparently the guy I traded with had a crystal ball).

    The other catcher I use – Iannetta, mentioned already in the comments – has also been similarly hot and cold, and is impossible to use on a regular basis. He’s meeting expectations, but mainly because of an inflated BB% (he hits 8th in the Rockies order, so, while his plate discipline is top notch, I assume he also gets pitched around a lot).

    Do you recommend upgrading? Or will these guys eventually come closer to their projected value as the season progresses?

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    • That Guy says:

      I feel your pain. In a flurry of trades, I got rid of Victor Martinez and acquired Choo and Santana as part of my haul. After taking over 1st place, these trades, injuries to Longoria, Hanley, and Prado really have me reeling right now.

      The truth is, if you’re bearish on guys you already own, so is everyone else, and you’re probably stuck with them.

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  6. Scott says:

    Wow. Stop whining. If you picked this guy as the number 2 catcher in your league, you’re getting what you deserve.

    Besides, for his first full year in the league, he’s not doing that bad. And like another poster said, in a keeper league, he’s golden.

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  7. Frankie says:

    I dunno, personally I drafted Santana 91st overall, and the league counts BB. He has been pretty much what I expected. If you take 26 weeks subtract the round he was drafted 9, you get 17. If by the 17th round he has not met your expectations, you need to drop him. I can alrdy tell you in 6 weeks barring injury Santana isn’t going anywhere. On pace for 100+ BB.

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  8. Relax says:

    The point of the article was to dig up anything bad he could about Carlos. The “Bull” article will counterpoint this one in their series.

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  9. Dandy Salderson says:

    People still use avg? I thought everyone converted to obp years ago.

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  10. Romyrick says:

    This article reminds me of Hannity and Colmes. Everyone reading this site is going to be Bullish on Santana but some sacrificial lamb is going to have to come out and write the companion piece. I’m sorry Howard Bender but your face looks like an emaciated dinosaur right now.

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  11. Rob says:

    I’m sorry, but if I recall correctly, and I do, Carlos Santana was never toted as a top 5 catcher this season, except by a few sites. He was always top 10, but mostly predicted to be a 6-7 catcher. That’s exactly what he is right now. If you drafted him as a #2 catcher (behind Mauer), then you deserve the dissapointment.

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    • Drew says:

      Who are the 6?

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      • Oye Como Va says:

        Yeah, I agree. My sense of consensus top catchers pre-draft, integrating six fantasy magazines, numerous web sites, and Shandler’s stuff:

        Mauer
        McCann
        VMart
        Posey
        Santana
        Wieters
        Napoli
        Soto
        M. Montero

        #5 at worst, unless you think Wieters, Napoli, Soto, or Montero were higher.

        Any others?

        Posada
        Martin
        Cervelli
        (J. Montero)
        Varitek
        Saltalamacchia
        Arencibia
        Jaso
        Avila
        Olivo
        (W. Myers)
        Pierzynski
        Suzuki
        Pena
        Mathis
        Conger
        Torrealba
        Thole
        Ruiz
        Buck
        IRod
        Ramos
        Ross
        Lucroy
        Y. Molina
        Hannigan
        Hernandez
        (Mesaroco)
        (Grandal)
        J. Castro (D.L.)
        Towles
        Doumit
        (T. Sanchez)
        Hundley
        Barajas
        Ianetta

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  12. Chris says:

    I kept Santana, but I was lucky enough to pickup Avila early. I actually have both of them starting in some games with Santana at UTIL, IB, or CI, which probably shows more my lack of bench than anything else. If he continues to slide this year, I might not keep him and try to redraft him so I can keep him more years. Since I am in an OPB league, he has decent value. It is also nice that he has kept his #4 spot.

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    • STEALTH says:

      he’s been dropped to 6th.

      i have Santana in 2 leagues, 1 an OBP. I am neither bearish nor bullish on Santana. I have hopes, sure, but I think he’ll split the difference and be a ptetty good catcher the rest of the way, worse than great, better than mediocre…

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  13. Zack says:

    Santana hasn’t been a disappointment at all in points leagues. He’s the number two catcher right now, just behind Brian McCann. People look at the .230 average and crap their pants, but if you take a few of his walks and convert them to singles, he’d be hitting .270 and no one would complain. Obviously a single is more valuable than a walk, but still. Haven’t we all moved on from batting average anyway?

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  14. cs3 says:

    Where are all the Santana loving, Howard hating, band-wagoners now?

    It appears the author was right all along, and most of the snarky commenters are now eating there words.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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