Originally written on Baseball Professor  |  Last updated 2/12/13
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If I told you that a particular player had a career 15.4% walk rate, 18.0% strikeout rate, and 17.7% line drive rate, you’d think he was a .280 hitter. Nope. That player is Carlos Santana and in 1,459 career plate appearances he’s just a .247 hitter.Honestly, I can’t figure out why. His 17.7% line drive rate is a few points lower than the league average (typically 20-21%), but his walk rate is phenomenal and his strikeout rate isn’t too shabby either. Last year Santana was downright filthy with a 14.9% walk rate, 16.6% strikeout rate, and 19.1% line drive rare and he still batted just .252.Our xBA formula takes into account more than just those three factors, though, and Santana’s xBA took a major hit thanks to a higher-than-average 11.5% infield fly rate and some sub-par foot speed. I still believe that one of these years we’ll see Santana put it all together and post a BABIP north of last year’s .278 mark, and I’m willing to gamble that we see that as soon as 2013.At a GlanceStrengths: HR, RBI, OBP, OPSNeutral: R, BA, SLGWeaknesses: SBPlayer ComparisonsBest-case scenario: Jay Bruce (CIN)Likely scenario: Matt Wieters (BAL), Miguel Montero (ARI), Mike Napoli (BOS)Worst-case scenario: Dan Uggla (ATL)Carlos Santana 2013 Fantasy ProjectionLast year Santana’s fly ball rate dipped to 37.8%. It’s tough to know if that was a one-year anomaly or a continuing trend as his fly ball rate has fallen each year. Regardless, we project a rebound year, but only to 39.2%. With the power Santana has and the plethora of plate appearances the Indians provide him with annually, he has a great chance at breaking out for 30 homers this year. I’m very confident he hits at least 25, and that’s a pretty good number for a catcher.After signing Michael Bourn, Cleveland actually has a pretty lethal top half of their lineup. Bourn, Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, Nick Swisher, and Santana will all benefit from the guys batting around them, and I think it’s enough to get Santana to the 90-RBI threshold, especially if his batting average improves like we expect.Even though he qualifies at first base, he’ll almost exclusively be used as a catcher. Still, the dual eligibility is nice as is the fact that Santana is among the game’s elites in terms of OBP. For a guy with just three years of MLB experience, Santana’s career .116 BOD (that’s Batting Average/On-Base Differential for you noobs out there) is particularly impressive. The fact that he has a career .363 OBP despite a .247 career average is pretty amazing. If he’s able to get his average up to, say, .270, we could be looking at a catcher with a .385+ OBP. That’s Joe Mauer, Buster Posey, Miguel Montero territory.To make a long bio short, I love Santana. And I really love him in OBP leagues.
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