The Frustrating Carlos Santana

At this time last year, well actually about a week earlier, we did a series of Bullish/Bearish articles where we each picked one side or the other on a particular player of note.  My Bearish on Carlos Santana piece wasn’t convincing anyone and some even pointed out that perhaps yours truly was just taking one for the team here and picking a side he may not wholeheartedly believe in.  But here we are a little more than a year later and while I still have hope for confidence in another second half surge, I look back on that article and can sympathize with the guy who wrote it.

First off, let’s just clear one thing up.  I never said that I would recommend drafting Miguel Olivo or John Buck ahead of Carlos Santana.  If my words were unclear in the original piece, my apologies. All I was saying was that, at the time, with the stats as they were at that moment, you could have gotten the same production as what Santana gave you, had you drafted one of those two guys in the 21st round.  It was meant to emphasize the general frustration owners were feeling, getting such pedestrian numbers as they had received.  Watching Santana outproduce both, and by a significant margin in some categories, was not a surprise, by any means.

But the frustration Santana owners are having now does not stem from a comparison to inferior backstops who may, at the time, be outproducing him.  It comes from the fact that, while he certainly turned it up finally in the second half of last season, he has not continued down that path of greatness. Rather than pick things up this year where he left off last season, he has regressed to those same pedestrian numbers he produced through the first three months of 2011 and in some cases has even gotten worse.

Here’s a month by month breakdown to compare:

2011 86 5 .198 .327 19.2% 16.3% .198 .194
2012 84 3 .262 .417 21.4% 21.4% .185 .311


2011 7.5% 55.2% 37.3%
2012 31.3% 41.7% 27.1%


2011 76 1 .263 .392 14.4% 18.6% .132 .297
2012 105 2 .233 .314 19.0% 11.4% .111 .268


2011 20.0% 47.7% 32.3%
2012 13.7% 42.5% 43.8%


2011 95 5 .221 .353 23.3% 16.4% .211 .250
2012 70 0 .190 .314 22.9% 15.7% .069 .256


2011 17.4% 39.1% 43.5%
2012 23.3% 51.2% 25.6%


Sure, there are a few places where you can say he improved, i.e. his month of April was, for the most part, better in 2012 than it was in 2011.  But overall, it’s very easy to see that, not only has he declined each month here in 2012, but his numbers are markedly worse this season than they were last.  His power isn’t there, his walks aren’t there and he’s mashing more balls in the dirt than a…well you can finish the metaphor in your head.  Needless to say though, it’s not good.  I mean, a 2.00 GB/FB for June this year?  Really?

Now again, we saw the poor start last year and those that were patient were rewarded with an outstanding second half. But what assurances do we have that we will witness the same pattern this year?  Because he did it last year, we should just assume?  Because his xBABIP is roughly 58 points higher than his current BABIP?  Is that enough for you to believe?  To endure these disappointing numbers from a guy whose ADP was 37.00?  To not pull your hair out every time you see an 0-for-4 next to his name on your live scoring page?

Is this going to turn into one of those situations like with Mark Teixeira where you have to endure two months of a .204 batting average in order to reap the benefits of a 30-plus home run season by year end?  As a fantasy owner, having to wait on a player to come around, especially a player you’ve obviously invested so much in, can be a nightmare.  You’re getting barely passable numbers and watching your batting average, and in this case even OBP this season, get dragged down to a level that ultimately becomes pretty difficult to pick back up.

Even worse is the obvious inability to trade such a player.  It’s not that you can’t trade him, but that if you do, you’re taking a huge loss unless you’ve got either the biggest Santana fan or the biggest bonehead in the world as a trade partner.  You can’t even trade him as a keeper right now.  We’re at that point in season where, in keeper leagues, the teams in contention are dumping top players for package deals to help solidify their teams.  You’re seeing 2-for-1, 3-for-1 and sometimes even 4-for-1 deals being made for next year’s protects and it’s nearly impossible to even remotely include Santana in one of those deals.  I mean, who is going to give you full value for him right now?  What’s your selling point?  He turned it around last year?  That simply doesn’t cut it, especially when he’s looked worse this year as the season has progressed. Atleast last year there were different improvements from one month to the next.

Again, I’m not saying give up on him.  I’m not saying to trade him.  You’ve endured this much up to this point and if you truly believe in the player, then all you can do is hope that improvement is coming soon.  If it does, then great.  Atleast you’ve now got a track record and know what you’re getting into each year that you draft/protect him.  If it doesn’t, well then you have another dilemma to pore over next year.  Do you give him another shot or do you just wash your hands and hope that whomever gets him next year doesn’t end up with the Santana you thought you were getting this time around.



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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,, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at

32 Responses to “The Frustrating Carlos Santana”

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  1. prankmunky says:

    Do you think some of the June production decrease could be attributed to the lingering effects of the concussion that Santana experienced in late May (granted his numbers were already declining in May pre-concussion)?

    I’m just waiting for Will Myers to get the call with his C eligibility in Yahoo!

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  2. pete2286 says:

    Is there any research out there that shows how the same player hits while playing different positions in the field? In 2011, over 40% of his innings came at first base while in 2012 the number is just below 12%. Could being behind the plate so often take a toll on his offensive numbers?

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  3. Vinny says:

    I somehow managed to trade this guy for Brandon Phillips two weeks ago!

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    • Shane says:

      That’s great news! Could you let us know if you have any more deals on the horizon…

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      • Mr. Thell says:

        Yes, please keep us posted on what you have in the pipeline.

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      • Brad says:

        Oh please, the guy was simply expressing himself in a valid and non-offensive manner. It must be a slow day at the office for the Fangraph conversational police….

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    • Kelly says:

      Good Fantasy move. I got rid of Philips 4 weeks ago. He was inept at the time as well. Hopefully, he’ll make all of us eat crow, but for now I see him as trade bait.

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  4. JPG says:

    Could at be as simple as he is being too selective? His walk rate is great but at what point does his patience actually hurt his production?

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    • Young Gung says:

      I remember the coaching staff was saying that was part of his problem last year; that he was being so selective he was taking good pitches to drive.

      I think you def have to wonder whether that concussion has had a negative result on his performance or not as stated above.

      Thing that confuses me thus far is that he was pretty good against lefties last year and thus far he’s been pretty bad against them this year.

      I play in leagues that count walks and outside of his upside that category was the main driving force to take him when he fell to the 5th round. In non walk/obp leagues, yeah top 40 is too high.

      as it stands I’m not too high on him going forward mainly because of that concussion. What sucks is that in leagues with small benches carrying 2 catchers is usually a dumb idea so hopefully his problems have nothing to do with the concussion issue. I feel like there’s more hope that he can battle through this if that is the case.

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  5. jcxy says:

    I’ve never understood the strategy that overdrafts C. From my perspective, it’s almost assuredly a value loss proposition, because you’re trading production at pick 25-30 (the place the beltre, mccutchen, hamilton, cruz, holliday, bourn, stanton et al were picked this year) for guaranteed C ABs. Maybe that’s less egregious in (2) Catcher leagues, but even still…I wonder if any position more routinely comes up short to its ZiPS projected ABs than C, through both injury and ineffectiveness. Still, I’m curious…

    For people who have used this strategy in the past, what kind of adjustments did you have to make on draft day to get this to work? Does the strategy work, generally speaking?

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    • Mr. Thell says:

      I don’t think anybody was drafting Santana in the 25-30 range. His Yahoo ADP was 44.2, and that had a lot to do with their aggressive 44 ranking heading into the season.

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    • Jeb says:

      I admit it. I took him at 37 and it’s cost me dearly. I was fully expecting a .275/30HR/115 RBI season from him. My thinking at the time that I could wait on OFs and get value from the Matt Joyces and Kendry Morales’ of the world.

      Thinking: Joyce+Santana > Cruz+late round catcher.

      Gamble lost.

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  6. Mario Mendoza of commenters says:

    In April it looked like he WAS carrying over his 2011 surge. So, I traded for him. Doh!

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  7. Juan B says:

    “his walks aren’t there”

    He has a 16.0% BB rate which is higher than last year’s 14.7%…

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  8. Casper says:

    I play to win now, not later. That said, he still possesses tremendous upside. I don’t want to sell for a loss til I am convinced I have no choice. In the mean time I added Salvador Perez and am benching Carlos. Worst-case scenario is I get the same mediocre production out of Perez.

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  9. anonymous says:

    If I had a million dollars, I’d pay for Howard Bender to take writing classes. That first sentence should be burned.

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    • stan says:

      I agree. Mr. Bender is by far the least eloquent and the least informative of all the writers associated with Fangraphs. I greatly enjoy this website, but have lost respect for its content due to Howard Bender’s careless articles.

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      • Howard Bender says:

        Well I can’t help if you don’t like my style of writing, but to use the phrase “careless articles” seems to me, a little inflammatory. I may not be the most saber-oriented guy on the writing staff here and I don’t wrap things up in pretty looking charts and graphs, but the fantasy advice has been sound. Everyone has their hits and their misses. The trick is to simply be right more than you are wrong. I’m not exactly keeping score over here, but if I did, I’m willing to bet there’s a lot more in the win column than in the loss.

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      • cs3 says:

        Stan did you even bother to read his article last year about Santana?
        Howard was absolutely correct.

        How can you argue that hes not informative?

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      • robert says:

        “careless”? i don’t get that one. as far as writing skills go, i’m a stickler for grammar, but on a site of this sort, content trumps writing style. keep ‘em coming, howard!

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  10. stan says:

    Mr. Bender, having re-read my previous comment, I agree that it is inflammatory in nature. Perhaps it is time that I reevaluate my opinion.

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  11. PlateTectonics says:

    Because he’s a switch hitter, you may want to look at his batted ball profiles separately. Santana was extremely difficult for me to project last off-season in part because of his odd splits — so I passed on him everywhere. He’s a low-average fly ball hitter from the left side of the plate (where he’ll get many more plate appearances against RHP), but a higher average line-drive hitter from the right. So he’s got two distinct swings, and he may display more volatility year-in and year-out than most other guys. BABIP vagaries aside, I can’t get a bead on him; he’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde…and I’m afraid of what I don’t understand.

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  12. Allan Tamarkin says:

    I always read articles by Mr. Bender. To me he is one of most interesting writers on fantasy baseball. His articles always seem fresh and well thought out.

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  13. Giants Fan Mark says:

    Hey guys, I’m in a keeper league, and I have the opportunity to trade Carlos Santana and Kelly Johnson for AJ Pierzynski and Josh Willingham. They way that the league is set up, none of these players are keepers for me unless Santana really goes on a surge. Should I pull the trigger?

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  14. LB says:

    He was dropped in my 14 team league. He made it through waivers so I picked him up and dropped the equally frustrating Ricky Romero. I took a close look at him and the bottom line is he has never put up bad numbers for a full season (minors included). He will find a way to turn it around.

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  15. Tid says:

    I’m almost too embarrassed to admit I drafted him with the 32nd overall pick in my Yahoo! league. It’s easy to shed a tear when I see I could have drafted Starlin Castro, Hunter Pence, or Stephen Strassburg… but it’s the pick I made, and I admit I bought into the hype (doesn’t help I’m an Indians fan and had that “home team” influence to boot.).

    As an Indians fan, I suppose I could share some insight.

    His drop in production does match up with his concussion. What most people miss is the time of his concussion is also when Travis Hafner and Jack Hannahan went on the DL. That lineup misses Hafner, and struggled with the loss of both players. It also meant that Santana moved to the #4 slot in the batting order that was missing key pieces. Local announcers have questioned if he was pressing in the #4 slot to make up for the missing pieces when the team was struggling to score runs, and they also suggested that it might be too much pressure for a player as young as him.

    Santana 2012 when batting in the #4 slot:
    139 AB, 17 R, 25 H, 4 HR, 19 RBI, .180AVG

    Santana pressing and struggling in the cleanup role with the loss of key players to the lineup is as plausible explanation as any. Right now he’s been battling a sore back and has missed a few starts. He was in the #6 spot in the batting order last night, so perhaps the change in the batting order with a healthier back will do him some good. Travis Hafner is supposed to return to the lineup today. There’s a lot of reasons to hope for a quick turnaround for Santana, but lots of reasons to be concerned if he doesn’t.

    Note: Jose Lopez has been servicable as a DH, and even worthy for fantasy roster consideration as a bench player with .270 and 27RBI in 152 AB with 1st, 2nd and 3rd base eligibility. A poor man’s Daniel Murphy.

    Also, jcxy:

    Catcher can be a temperamental position, and nobody wants to be the guy who is constantly picking up and dropping catchers from June through the end of the season in hopes of catching lightning in a bottle to salvage their roster. Being set at Catcher is a nice luxury and a luxury some owners are willing to overpay to get.

    There have been years when one or two catchers have been so head and shoulders above the rest (the Ivan Rodriguez/Mike Piazza era) that it was worth it. Recently there’s an abundance of talent at C… more so than in years past, so some people may just be stuck in the old mindset (I admit I am part of this group).

    I think this season has been very different from one fantasy veterans are used to when it comes to C. There have been some very well regarded catchers that haven’t produced (Santana, McCann and Avila among others), and some guys like Ruiz and Pierzynski that have given top notch production. This year is unlike a lot of seasons (I’m talking 90’s and early 2000’s) when there were less guys at the top at C, and the guys at the top were more consistent from year to year (really wish I wasn’t too lazy to find stats to back this up, just going on my recollection). This year has been one that has punished owners that drafted certain catchers high and rewarded owners that made a late speculative pickup. It’s easy to say in retrospect that you shouldn’t overpay for catchers when it hasn’t been this volatile in many previous seasons, however it is something to keep in mind looking forward.

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  16. Kelly says:

    Santana has little to no leadership and his defensive skills are far below those of Lou Marson’s. I would be fine with Marson and Carlin as our backstops. Trading Santana to the NL for some decent right handed hitter or a starting pitcher better than our 4 # 4’s would be acceptable. But, since we have 4 players in the entire system that can potentially lift 20 homeruns out of the park I don’t expect to see Carlos elsewhere – remember the Brandon Philips debacle.

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