Cleveland Indians catcher Carlos Santana has emerged as a solid fantasy option over the last three seasons, averaging 22 home runs and 76 RBI per season (two seasons with 20 or more home runs). He has also had over 600 plate appearances in all three seasons, as seeing time at first base (29 games-24 starts last season) and as a designated hitter (47 games in 2013) has helped him stay in the lineup on nearly an every day basis.
Santana is apparently on the verge of a position move, as he recently told Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes that he expects to play third base this season. It’s unclear if the hot corner will be Santana’s exclusive position, but how does the possibility of playing a new position impact his fantasy value?
Multi-position eligibility is never a negative for fantasy baseball owners, and Santana is already eligible in a lot of fantasy leagues at first base as well as catcher. Since he played third base a bit in his minor league career (58 games), there’s a chance he sticks there beyond this coming season if the transition goes well.
Leaving aside a likely move to a new position for a moment, Santana’s batting average is moving upward, from .239 in 2011 to .268 last season. That has been spurred by hitting more line drives (just under 22 percent in 2013, up from just over 15 percent in 2011) and an overall contact rate that has been around 80 percent in each of the last two seasons. An elevated home run/fly ball rate (16 percent) surely helped Santana hit 27 home runs in 2011, but if he settles in around last year’s rate (13 percent) 20-25 home runs per season looks like a sure bet for the foreseeable future with continued top-notch durability.
Santana’s fantasy value would take a hit without eligibility at catcher, but that’s something fantasy owners will not have to think about until 2015 at the earliest. He was already virtually certain to be among the first handful of catchers off the board in fantasy drafts this year, but with possible eligibility at two other positions coming an argument can be made for Santana to be the first catcher drafted in a lot of leagues.
Brad Berreman is a Senior Writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.