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Ervin Santana Trade Implications

Yesterday, the Royals acquired Ervin Santana and cash from the Angels for minor-leaguer Brandon Sisk. Our own Dave Cameron extensively covered the deal from the real world perspective. The change in scenery does look to change Santana’s value for the worse, but regressing back to the his previous production level will be the main key for his fantasy value going forward.

Here is a quick look at the surrounding changes by him moving from the Angels to the Royals

Park Factors (PF)
Angels: 96
Royals: 101

Home Runs
Angels: 97
Royals: 92

Defense (2012)
Angels: +44
Royals: -10

Defensive Efficiency
Angels: .708 (best in the AL)
Royals: .673 (worst in the AL)

Offensive support (2012)
Angels: 4.73 Runs/G
Royals: 4.17 Run/G

While the change in home park looks to be neutral for the 29-year-old right-handed pitcher, the other two factors show that the move will have have some negative implications. The porous Royals defense will lead to more hits (higher WHIP) and then more runs (higher ERA) and more losses (less Wins). Also, he will likely see half a run less in run support which will adversely affect his win total. The move will likely bring down his fantasy value a bit.

The biggest factor in 2013 that will determine his value is how he will pitch after struggling in 2012. In 2012, his ERA jumped to career high of 5.63. The main factor causing the jump was his league leading two home runs per nine innings. It was the highest value among all qualified starters. Besides being the highest value last year, it was the 2nd highest value in the last 10 years behind Bronson Arroyo‘s 2.1 HR/9 in 2011. Some regression should be expected. To determine how much, I took the 10 pitcher with high home run rates and determined their change in HR rate for the next season. On average, the the HR rate dropped 0.5 with the range being no drop (Eric Milton from 2004 to 2005) to a drop of one point (Carlos Silva from 2006 to 2007).

Besides the astronomical home run rate, the next biggest concerns with Santana was a significant drop in his fastball speed in the send half of 2012.

Month: Fastball speed (mph)
April: 93.3
May: 92.6
June: 92.6
July: 92.5
August: 91.3
September: 91.6

Over the course of the season, he lost almost 2 MPH on his fast ball.

The only negative effect on his core stats seemed to be his higher HR/9 rate as both his K/BB and BABIP improved:

Going into 2013, it will be tough to get a gauge on Santana. I would not count on him for any kind of reliable and/or decent production. If healthy, he will throw a bunch of innings. How he does in those innings is really up in the air. The home run rate will probably come down, but how much? Is the drop in velocity permanent? (Note: The Royals have PITCHf/x installed at their home spring training site, so his fastball speed will be known going into season) Will he learn to pitch with the lower velocity? I would late a late round flier on him to see if he turns it around, but I would not have him be part of any everyday pitching staff to begin the season.