The way I am drafting this year, which isn’t much different than most years, is to wait a long while on pitching and stack my roster with mid rotation types along with some young guys with high upside. There is always debate on whether or not that strategy is appropriate, and this post is certainly not expected to start that debate. But one guy I have had on my mind was Ervin Santana. As someone who has added a sinker and regularly shows great command, Santana is a guy I was looking at pretty aggressively entering my drafts.
Now, with Santana landing a one year deal with the Braves, my eyes are even more focused on Santana. It is not rocket science to think that going into a good ballpark with a good defense in the National League is better for Santana’s numbers than going into a homer friendly ballpark in Baltimore or Toronto. Obviously, for those who have drafted already or own Santana in long term leagues, this was a big win for you.
The Royals had a great defense last year and the Braves will have a great defense this year, barring substantial injuries to a number of their position players. Andrelton Simmons and Jason Heyward will annually compete for the gold glove award and B.J. Upton and Freddie Freeman are more than adequate defensively at their positions. Left field was bad last year, but one has to expect a notoriously solid fielder like Justin Upton to get back on track after a rough first season at a new position. Third base and second base will be black holes, but Santana can bet on getting quality defense behind a continually developing sinkerball.
At Turner Field, ZiPS projects Santana for a 3.59 ERA, which is certainly serviceable as a mid-rotation guy. While this is a site more dedicated to the stats side of things, Santana has a whole heck of a lot riding on his gamble to take one year this year. He will without a doubt be banking on performing up to his full potential to guarantee he gets a long term offer he is looking for. Whether that actually has an impact on his performance is impossible to know, but I like the fact that he has more than a few motivations for success.
Santana fits the mold of a lot of the Braves pitchers. First off, he has a low walk rate, which is what the Braves focus heavily on in the rotation. Mike Minor, Kris Medlen, and Julio Teheran were all dynamos in this aspect last season, and Santana should continue to pound the zone just as the rest of the staff does. The low walk rate obviously helps his WHIP, an integral fantasy category. Netting a solid 1.14 mark last season, his first year with the sinker, is definitely a good sign. We can expect his BABIP to rise, but again as the Braves should also have a solid defense behind him, it shouldn’t rise at the same level were he to go to a defensively challenged squad. Again, this is a great landing place for Santana due to man factors. Home runs have always been an issue with Santana and they likely will be again this year, but moving to the NL should help him keep that number below 25. If he can continue to pound the zone, the home run issue shouldn’t be too big of a detriment as long as they are more often of the solo variety.
All in all, if you were interested in Santana a week ago, you should be even more interested in him now. His projected ZiPS ERA dropping from 4.26 to 3.59 exemplifies that better than my words ever could.
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