In one of the organization’s better moves over the past decade-plus, the Indians, led by former General Manager Mark Shapiro, sent Casey Blake and cash to the Dodgers for switch-hitting catcher Carlos Santana in 2008.
Fast forward a few years and Santana has become of the better backstops in the game, showing an elite walk rate, above-average power, and modest strikeout numbers.
Since Santana became a fulltime starter in 2011, he’s hit .250/.361/.443. And according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, his total offensive production has been 24% better than the league average, fifth best at the position and 41st among all hitters, ahead of several big names including Jay Bruce, Mark Teixeira, Adam Jones, and Nelson Cruz.
Carlos Santana is an above-average ball player, totaling just over 10 wins above replacement (FanGraphs) in 432 career games. But he’s halfway through his age-27 season, and I’m still wondering when — perhaps if — he’s going to take that final jump toward stardom.
Just how rare of a combination is Santana particular skill set (plate discipline/power/contact ability)?
Since 2010, there are seven players to walk in at least 13% of their plate appearances, post an Isolated Power above .190, and strikeout fewer than 19% of the time. They are:
- Miguel Cabrera
- Joey Votto
- Jose Bautista
- Prince Fielder
- David Ortiz
- Carlos Santana
- Lance Berkman
It’s definitely an elite group of names. But based purely on offense, Santana has been the least productive player among the group. Cabrera, Votto, Bautista, Fielder, and Ortiz have all been at least 45% better than the league average. And Berkman, who’s ten years older than Santana, has been 31% better.
The obvious differentiator between the top five and bottom two is power. And Santana’s pop has never really taken that expected step forward.
After posting a career Isolated Power, a measure of a hitter’s raw power, of .210 in the minor leagues, Santana has followed that up with of big league totals of .207, .217, .168, and .190. What’s so concerning, however, is that his fly ball rates have declined every year since 2010 while his line drive rates have basically hovered around 20% or so. It’s difficult to hit for added pop when you’re putting the ball in the air fewer and fewer times.
Carlos Santana is an above-average — and underrated — bat behind the plate. But if he wants to take that final step forward, he’s going to have to start getting some more loft in his swing. Otherwise, he’s going to stay a very good hitter, not great.
For more analysis check out Joe’s Site: www.ProspectDigest.com. Follow him on Twitter: @ReleasePoints