Photo Credit: Thom Sheridan
Okay, so your boy Stats All Folks hasn’t even made a rough cheat sheet and the only thing I’ve done so far is rank catchers. Regardless, I’m comfortable saying that Carlos Santana is a first round caliber fantasy option. Crazy? Not really. Position scarcity is a bitch, and Santana provides an incredible advantage at a position that generally produces mediocre-at-best results. Santana’s power potential is tremendous, but the real reason he’s set to be such a diesel option is his playing time. Last year the San-Man had 63 more PAs than Victor Martinez (who mostly DH’d) and came to the plate 225 more times than Mike Napoli, who is widely considered the second best fantasy catcher. That’s a huge advantage to have as a fantasy owner since most backstops have a hard time reaching the 500 PA plateau. The Indians have very little offensive upside and they have no choice but to stick Santana at first or DH just to keep his bat in the lineup everyday.
So Santana clearly gets more PAs than any other catcher, but you need a great bat to go with all those trips to the plate in order to warrant a first round selection. Fortunately for the Cleveland backstop, he’s coming off a season in which he posted a .217 ISO, 16.0 HR/FB, and 14.7 BB% in his first full campaign. Pretty fucking awesome. Yes Santana hit just .239, but his BA should rise to at least the .260 range in 2012. His groundball rates were way up from his minor league numbers while his line drive percentage fell well below his marks in the minors. Couple that with a .263 BABIP and the fact that Santana has been a pretty good contact hitter throughout his pro career, and it’s easy to see why a BA spike is on the horizon. Of course, the real reason we are coverting Santana is the power. Dude rocked 27 HRs last year and at age 25 (26 in April) there is certainly room for his already great power production to grow.
Sure one can make the argument that V-Mart might catch him in PAs this year since he is heading towards strict DH duties in 2012, but keep in mind that he is 32 and has dealt with some nagging injuries the last two years (while also enduring a serious power drop-off last year). Think Napoli poses much of a threat to Santana’s position as the top fantasy catcher? Unless you believe he’s about to make an extra 150-200 PAs appear out of thin air, he’s really no match for Santana. The Rangers are committed to Mitch Moreland as their first baseman and it would be pretty ridiculous for Napoli to improve on his .312 ISO (.249 career) and .320 BA (.2464) from last year. In other words, Napoli peaked in ‘11 and while he is still an elite fantasy backstop, the PA discrepancy between he and Santana and the fact that he is due to come back down to earth in 2012 make Napoli the clearly inferior option.
So let’s review. We have a player still not in his prime who is capable of hitting 30 or more HRs with 100 RBIs and 90-100 runs thanks to his abundant playing time. This same player is coming off a season in which he had more PAs than elite players like Albert Pujols, Jose Bautista, and Ryan Braun. Oh, and they also happen to play a position that generally sees its top 12 players net around 500 PAs (or, over 150 less than what our potential first rounder will net us if healthy). Let us also not forget that this position he plays is one that most people straight-up expect modest stats from. Even the staunchest position scarcity critic can’t front on Santana. If you had a shortstop with Santana’s power potential, they would be seen as at worst a second round target. Catcher is a thinner position in my opinion simply because they don’t play as often as other position players, so when you see a player who mans that position who is being given everyday ABs, you have to seriously boost them up your rankings.
You won’t need to spend a first rounder to net Santana as a late-third round pick should be good enough to secure his services. I’m simply saying that the type of production I’m expecting him to throw up should be good enough to make him a top 12 fantasy player this season. Believe that.