The IBI Preview Capsules are back for 2017 as Jake Dungan takes an in-depth look at all the players who could impact the Tribe in the upcoming season from the established stars to the prospects on the verge of being called up to the majors to the non-roster invites to spring training.
Carlos Santana, 1B/DH
Throws: Right -- Bats: Switch -- Entering his age-31 season -- Contract: Sixth year of 6-year/$31.8 million (Free agent in 2018)
2016 In Review: Last season was by far Carlos Santana's best season of his career up to this point as he posted career highs across the board in homers (34), runs scored (89), RBI's (87), slugging percentage (.498) and WAR (3.7). Additionally, the Dominican native continued to get on base at an impressive clip with a .366 OBP and 99 walks versus 99 strikeouts. Santana spent most of the year batting out of the leadoff spot in order to take advantage of his aforementioned ability to get on base as he was slotted in the number one spot in the lineup in 86 of his 158 games. This unorthodox approach helped maximize both his value and the run-scoring ability of the Tribe offense.
Versus Right-handers: Like the rest of his career, the vast majority of Santana's power came from the left side of the plate with 30 of his 34 homers coming against right-handed pitchers and a slugging percentage of .541, 146 points higher than against southpaws. His on-base percentage was also higher against right-handed pitching at .374, which is unusual given that historically the 30-year-old has gotten on base more regularly against lefties along with having a higher batting average. His average was still lower when batting from the left side last year at .256, but only by 11 points.
Versus Left-handers: Again, staying in line with his career tendencies, Santana accumulated a higher batting average from the right side of the plate at .267 despite showing more power from the other side. This helps balance his game in that while he's not as likely to hit a home run when batting right-handed, the chances of him getting a hit are better, thus giving him ways to impact the game from both sides of the plate.
Defense: With the departure of Mike Napoli and Edwin Encarnacion in the fold, the starting first base duties appear to be in the hands of Santana heading into 2017. That's not a bad thing considering the Tribe slugger posted positive stats in DRS and UZR last year at one and 2.2, respectively in 556.2 innings at the position. Overall, his fielding ability at first has been up and down over the years, including two of his worst defensive seasons in 2014 and 2015. Encarnacion can also share some of the time at first as he has proven capable of providing at least average defense at the position the last couple years. It'll be interesting to see if Santana also gets more time in the outfield after brief exposure last year, but for now his spot is going to be at first base primarily.
Fantasy Impact: There's always the "contract year" effect that motivates a number of players on the verge of free agency, but it's hard to see how Santana could improve on last year. In fact, anticipating a decline might be more reasonable. Still, depending on the degree of decline, Santana could be less productive than he was in 2016 and still be a very valuable hitter for the Tribe. Steamer and Depth charts both project a bit of a step back in 2017, but still some quality number across the board including 25-plus homers, 75-plus RBI's and a 2.6 WAR. The key elements to watch for with Santana is where in the lineup will he bat and how will the contract year affect his production.
Summary: While Carlos Santana has been a figure of much criticism, fair or not, over his years in Cleveland, the numbers are pretty clear as far as him being one of the better hitters in franchise history as he holds the record for most home runs by an Indians switch hitters with 151, which is also tied for 12th on the all-time list for Cleveland batters. He is also ninth in walks at 638 and in the top 30 in career WAR at 20.2. Right now, the Indians have not shown much public interest in retaining the Dominican native, but something could still be done by opening day, although the Encarnacion deal may have stretched their payroll to the limit. So whether 2017 will be his last season with the Tribe or not, he has made his mark with the organization and still has one more year to add to it;.
Check out our other 2017 Preview Capsules here:
- 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion
- LHP Andrew Miller
- RHP Corey Kluber
- 3B Jose Ramirez
- INF Erik Gonzalez
- RHP Cody Allen
- OF Abraham Almonte
- 2B Jason Kipnis
- RHP Carlos Carrasco
- OF Bradley Zimmer
- C Roberto Perez