Only 29 days until live game action…
OK, so the first actual Grapefruit or Cactus League game doesn’t take place until February 22nd, but the Red Sox are splitting up their squad and playing a couple of colleges on February 21st so we’re just 30 days away from organized professional baseball. So why not a countdown of this final, grueling winter month that includes some fantasy analysis?
Obviously my primary focus at this site is on pitchers and you’ll get quite a bit of my analysis on them in late February when the SP Guide drops, thus I was thinking of something surrounding hitters. With 30 days to go, I am going to do a hitter per day highlighting one from each team. I selected my player of note from each team and then randomized them (which was pretty interesting consider who the final two were after the randomization) so that’s the order I’ll be following.
If you just randomly poll some fantasy baseball managers asking them how Carlos Santana did in 2012, I think you’ll end up with answers suggesting it was a “down” or “poor” season. After all, he did drop nine home runs from his 2011 total, but the perception is likely built around the fact that he ended June with a .220 batting average and 673 OPS. It wasn’t so much that he got off to a poor start, either, he had an 863 OPS in April, but May and June were complete washouts as he put a 592 mark during the two months clearly playing at far less than 100 percent health and the concussion at the end of May certainly didn’t help.
In fact, from the concussion date (May 25th) to the All-Star break, he hit .172 with 527 OPS. With that in mind, how much more impressive are his final numbers of a .252 batting average and 785 OPS? The four days off served him well and he hit .281 with an 887 OPS the rest of the way. Throughout the year he continued to take his walks, but it felt like it was passivity during his May-June slump and he was missing worthwhile pitches opting for the free pass instead. That is based on probably 10-12 games of watching the Indians including some series against my Tigers so if you don’t want to lock that down in stone, I understand. Just letting you know what I saw.
Despite losing essentially two months where he was playing, but struggling majorly, Santana still had a very nice season. He sustained his OPS by raising his on-base percentage to account for the drop in slugging percentage. And he had just three fewer runs batted in despite 49 fewer plate appearances. Lost in the shuffle was the improved strikeout rate dropping from 20.2 to 16.6 percent while lightly boosting his walk rate from 14.7 to 14.9 percent.
Going into 2013, Santana is part a very deep catcher pool and analysts can’t seem to agree exactly where he belongs. There is plenty of established star power at the position with a handful of up-and-comers poised for breakouts, too. For me, he is an easy top three behind no more than Buster Posey and Yadier Molina, but the early rankings have him anywhere from two to seven:
- Fantasy Alarm has him second
- Roto Professor has him second
- David Gonos has him second
- Razzball has him second
- CBS has him third
- Roto Analysis’ group ranking puts him fourth
- Fake Teams’ group ranking also puts him fourth
- Roto Champ has him fourth
- ESPN has him fifth
- USAToday has him seventh
It looks like drafters are following Steve Gardner at USAToday the most early on as his current average draft position has him as the seventh backstop off the board. In an OBP league, he’s easily behind only Posey, but most leagues still use batting average where he has a bit of a deficiency against righties. He is a switch-hitter who fares better against lefties, but he isn’t exactly crushing them, either. He had a .272 average against them last year which isn’t too far from his .278 career mark against southpaws.
An attribute to consider with Santana is his first base & DH playing time. It allows him to get those extra plate appearances that other catchers won’t accumulate and keeps some of the wear-and-tear off of him. This has allowed him to join Joe Mauer as the only two catchers with 600+ plate appearances the last two seasons. Meanwhile his 658 from 2011 is the second-highest total from a catcher since 2006 topped only by former Indian Victor Martinez who had 672 in 2009 with Cleveland and Boston.
Speaking of Martinez, he is another guy who deserves a boost because of playing time. He should still be catcher-eligible in any league worth its salt because of his 26 games there in 2011 when he last played and he won’t have to crouch at all in 2013. He should be the exclusive DH for the Tigers with maybe a couple of 1B starts mixed in to give Prince Fielder the proverbial half day off.
A healthy Santana can bring a .275-90-30-100 season to the table. And yes, I do think he can reach 100 RBIs with Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Nick Swisher ahead of him in the lineup.