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Sergio Santos Changes Colors

No, not his skin color. If you missed the news (and that would never happen because you refresh FanGraphs every five minutes, right?), Sergio Santos went from being a White Sock to a Blue Jay yesterday. After saving 30 games while posting a 3.55 ERA for the Sox over the past year, this has clear fantasy implications. Is Santos going to be the de facto closer, and if so, how will he perform upon his move to the AL East?

Let’s tackle the first question first. Santos’ main competition would have been Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco. However, Rauch was a free agent who just signed with the Mets, while Francisco chose to be truly original, by signing with the…Mets as well. That leaves an underwhelming bullpen in Toronto that includes Casey Janssen, who has actually been quite good the last two years, and Jesse Litsch.

Though Janssen has posted strong peripherals and has recorded 9 saves in his career, he isn’t your prototypical closer, though would probably get the job done if given the chance. No one else in the bullpen really poses a challenge or stands out as a solid alternative. So unless Santos utterly implodes, he should have fairly good job security.

Of course the easiest way to ensure job security is to pitch well. Can Santos accomplish such a task? A quick glance at his luck metrics would lead most to believe that Santos actually benefited from some good fortune, given his .269 BABIP and 74.3% LOB%. However, his SIERA was just 2.25, while his xFIP was nearly as impressive at 2.69. This compares with just an okay 3.55 ERA. SIERA in particular loves the huge strikeout rate, which it likely thinks reduces hits on balls in play, meaning the lower BABIP is actually not just good luck. SIERA also has less of a problem with Santos’ neutral ground ball/fly ball profile.

Santos’ strikeout rate cannot be mentioned without some excitement. He posted the 3rd highest K/9 and K% among all pitchers with at least 60 innings pitched and his SwStk% was a less impressive, but still awesome, 10th overall. His main problem is his control and tendency to completely lose the strike zone. As a Santos owner this season, I got used to those at-bats where he would throw ball after ball and I feared that Ozzie Guillen was going to literally run out to the mound and stab him. Overall, Santos posted a F-Strike% just a bit below the league average, which gives us hope that he may be able to get that walk rate below 4.0.

That control is important because it is difficult to sustain a strikeout rate over 13.0 every year. If his K/9 does regress a bit, he is going to have to improve his control to compensate. The ballpark switch shouldn’t have much of an effect, as both inflate home runs, though Chicago more so than Toronto. That small difference should be enough to offset the move to a better hitting division.

Overall, the move helps Santos a bit. He should have better job security and he will not have to deal with a crazy manager who keeps moving him in and out of the closer role. His raw stuff is truly ridiculous and his skill set and pitch selection and repertoire are not much different than Rookie of the Year Craig Kimbrel. He should be drafted as one of the better closers in baseball from a fantasy perspective. At the very least, that many strikeouts from a reliever has considerable value.