There are several fantasy baseball rules to abide by. Don’t draft saves. Don’t date someone who manages in your fantasy baseball league. Don’t draft catchers in the early rounds.
Well, I’m here to tell you that rules are meant to be broken. And that is where Carlos Santana comes into play.
Fantasy catchers with tools like Carlos Santana are few and far between. Aside from his defensive value in real life, Santana has the potential to be an offensive monster in fantasy. It would be an understatement to say that Santana dominated at nearly every stop in the minors. In 2171 minor league plate appearances, Santana put up an impressive .290/.401/.499 line. Even more impressive, however, was Santana’s 322/333 strikeout to walk ratio. Obviously the pedigree is there for him to not just be good, but to be one of the best.
The most common comparison to Santana is former Indians backstop, Victor Martinez. Victor had basically one less year to develop in the minors, but through 1763 plate appearances in his minor league career (excluding rehab games), Martinez hit .318/.385/.470 and his 197/172 strikeout to walk ratio doesn’t hold up in comparison to Santana’s. When you look at Martinez’s first full season as he transitioned to the majors at 25 years old in 2004, he put up a .283/23/108 in 591 plate appearances. He led all backstops in doubles, home runs, RBI, and finished in the top 10 in nearly every offensive category for catchers.
Santana has the ability to graduate to the Mauer-Martinez-McCann class and put up top-tier type fantasy numbers. While his 192 plate appearances provided a small sample size last year, Santana managed to hit .260/.401/.467, and his OPS plus was 144 before his knee was ruined. Indians manager Manny Acta has stated that Santana will spend time during Cactus League games at first base this spring to hopefully help give his legs a break during the regular season.
The news that Cleveland is looking for ways to keep his bat in the lineup throughout the season is a positive sign for his at bats. Santana, who came up with the Dodgers as a third baseman, shouldn’t have too difficult of a time making a transition to first, and I’d also expect him to see time as the team’s DH to give his legs a rest as well.
If Santana can stay healthy all season and he gets his 550 plate appearances, I think you could be looking at a .285/20/95 season with a .900 OPS.
If you’re looking for a backstop this year in your fantasy draft, I’d be looking to pick up Santana by the sixth or seventh round in a non-keeper, roto or head-to-head league. If you wanted to argue taking Santana in the fourth or fifth round, you could make a case for taking him ahead of players like Victor Martinez, Buster Posey and Brian McCann. If Santana continues to produce like he has in the past, he is one of the best. His upside, however, has him as the best in the game.