Carlos Santana has always seemed to follow in the footsteps of Matt Wieters (not including the fact that he was actually born a month earlier). When Keith Law ranked Wieters as his #1 prospect in 2009, Carlos Santana was a not-so-distant 13th. Divergently, Wieters entered the league that year while Santana spent another year and a half in the minors. When both eventually came up, the pair had similar rookie seasons: Wieters slugged 8 homers with a .288 average in 96 games and Santana hit 6 homers with a .260 average in 46 games. Wieters was always expected to be the better all-around player while Santana offered more power; however, last year that was not the case at all, and in fact, this could be the season that Santana overtakes Wieters as a superior fantasy catcher.
From his first full season in 2011 to his second in 2012, Santana improved as a hitter in almost every category. Yes, he unsurprisingly improved his average over 10 points from his putrid .239 mark, but more impressively he lowered his strikeout rate a full 4% in the process. In addition, he saw his line-drive rate go up to an impressive 19.1%. While Santana’s power did take a slight hit, the young catcher still has plenty of raw power, and projecting him for 25-30 home runs in 2013 is completely reasonable considering his second half.
On the surface, Santana’s 2012 looks like solid improvement, but it gets better and better the deeper we dig. Santana finished the first half hitting .221 with 5 homers and a 20% K-rate. That makes Santana’s second half numbers an impressive .281 average with 13 homers and, most encouragingly, a 13% K-rate. Other than Buster Posey, those are as impressive numbers as any catcher in the majors. The natural progression for a catcher is inherently slower than the skill progression at any other position because backstops need to learn the arduous process of handling and managing a pitching staff. Taking his position into consideration, Santana has actually improved quite rapidly and it seems fair to expect another progression this year. Yes, it is not fair to completely discount his first half, but for a big name prospect in his second full season, it seems fair to put more weight into his much-improved second half. Sure, there’s a chance we see first-half Santana next year, but all players have risk and I’d be willing to bet we’ll see something at least closer to what Santana did during last season’s second half next year.
Written by Matt Schwimmer. Follow Matt on Twitter @SportStar6MS.
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