Our 2011 fantasy baseball projections will be released one-by-one until the top 100 players have been revealed. These rankings consider past achievements, current performance and expected future results based on standard 5×5 H2H settings.
In 2010, Baseball America editors Jim Callis, Will Lingo and John Manuel had differing opinions on catching prospects Carlos Santana and Buster Posey. Santana ranked as high as No. 7 on Lingo’s top-50 prospect list, while Posey was listed as high as No. 8 by both Lingo and Callis. Either way, one thing was certain: both were perennial All-Stars in the making.
Fast-forward one year, and most everyone now agrees Buster Posey is the superior fantasy option. Posey’s current ADP on Mock Draft Central is 48, compared to Santana’s current draft position of 127. ESPN’s Matthew Berry has a similar opinion, ranking Posey No. 47 overall, Santana No. 129. Yahoo! composite rankings peg Posey at No. 39, while Santana checks in at N0. 70. You get the point.
I’m willing to go out on a limb, however, and say Santana will be the more valuable fantasy catcher; not only in 2011, but in the future as well. Here’s why:
Baseball America noted last season that Santana’s “bat would fit nicely at any position, making it a premium bat for a catcher.” They went on to rave about his ability to draw high walk totals, and his selectively aggressive plate approach. Most notably they said, “Santana maximizes his swing from top to bottom to generate plus power from both sides of the plate.”
Let me repeat that.
PLUS power from BOTH sides of the plate. Hello!
Posey, highly regarded for his “sound, disciplined approach,” versatility, leadership, and arm strength, draws comparisons to Joe Mauer. Like Mauer, however, “power isn’t (Posey’s) best tool.”
Santana’s raw power was on display in the minors, as the Dominican Republic native posted especially impressive totals over the last three seasons:
- 2008 (A & AA): 21 HRs, 117 RBI, .326/.431/.568, 89 BB/85 K in 463 ABs
- 2009 (AA): 23 HRs, 97 RBI, .290/.413/.530, 90 BB/83 K in 428 ABs
- 2010 (AAA & MLB): 19 HRs, 73 RBI, .291 BA, 86 BB/68 K in 346 ABs
Over his entire six-year minor league career, Santana hit .290/.401/.499 with 75 HRs in 1,787 at-bats (23.8 AB/HR). Also note that he’s walked more than he’s struck out as a pro. (Posey hit .333/.427/.542 with 25 HRs in 631 career minor league at-bats (25.2 AB/HR).)
In his major league debut with the Indians last season, Santana hit .260/.401/.467 with six HRs, but was limited to just 150 at-bats due to a season-ending knee injury in early August. While I’ll admit this is a very small sample size to draw conclusions from, Santana posted some eye-popping numbers for a 24-year-old rookie catcher.
Of batters with at least 190 plate appearances last season (really lowering the bar, I know), Santana had the highest walk rate, at 19.3 percent (Posey’s was 6.8 percent). Jim Thome was second, with a 17.6 percent walk rate. Prince Fielder and Daric Barton tied for the league lead among players who qualified for the batting title, both posting a 16.0 percent walk rate.
Under the same criteria (190 plate appearances), only six players under the age of 25 last year posted an ISO power higher than Santana’s .207 total (Posey’s was .200).
Further, Santana didn’t necessarily rack up the strikeouts as you would expect a young power hitter to, finishing the season with strikeout rate of 19.3 percent (MLB average 20.7 percent). Posey fared much better here, whiffing on strike three only 13.5 percent of the time.
After rehabbing his surgically repaired knee this offseason, Santana was cleared three weeks ago to begin taking batting practice and catching bullpen sessions, and has already seen live action in spring games.
Given a full season as the Indians’ cleanup hitter (batting behind Shin-Soo Choo), Santana could be in for especially impressive numbers. A threat to post 20-plus HRs and 80 RBI to go along with a .280 batting average solidifies Santana’s spot as the fourth best fantasy catcher.
What about Posey? Check back tomorrow for more on him.
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Image courtesy: Joel Dinda
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