Fantasy Baseball: Who's Better, Keon Broxton or Domingo Santana?

Broxton and Santana are teammates and both play the outfield. How do you choose who to target in fantasy drafts?

It's fantasy baseball draft season, which means it's time for lots of difficult decisions when choosing between similar players.

Case in point -- Milwaukee Brewers teammates Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana. Right off the bat, two potential differentiators are removed from the equation when deciding who to draft. These guys play for the same team -- thus no advantage based on schedule, stadium and so forth. -- and also play the same position for fantasy purposes. (Broxton plays center field, Santana plays right field).

Before jumping into some stats, a quick background summary of each player might help us form our ultimate decision. Broxton is 26 years-old and had just two plate appearances in the bigs before 2016. Santana is 24 years-old and had 205 plate appearances in the big leagues prior to last season.

Let's look at their respective 2016 seasons and hopefully some distinctions will start to appear.

Player PA AVG OBP Homers Runs RBI's Steals
Broxton 244 .242 .354 9 28 19 23
Santana 281 .256 .345 11 34 32 2

Based on these traditional stats, there wasn't much of a difference in their production except for RBI's and steals. Broxton drove in 13 less runs, but he stole 21 more bases than Santana. This is basically a wash and doesn't help determine who to draft, unless you have a squad in need of some stolen bases. Each player also failed to accrue 300 plate appearances, so the sample here isn't huge.

Maybe advanced stats will help paint a clearer picture.

Broxton 14.8% 36.1% .373 .784 .188 .343 109 2.1
Santana 11.4% 32.4% .359 .792 .191 .343 110 -0.1

Unfortunately, these stats don't help create much separation either, as they too are quite similar. Broxton and Santana had a virtually identical wOBA and wRC+, two stats designed to account for a player's overall offensive contribution. The glaring difference on this table is the fWAR column, where Broxton has a fairly significant lead.

However, this is mostly attributed to defense. Broxton posted a 6.3 Defensive Runs Above Average, according to Fangraphs, while Santana clocked in at -12.3. Defense doesn't matter for fantasy purposes, so we are still stuck on who to select.

At this point with Broxton and Santana, we are splitting hairs, so let's analyze their batted-ball profile from 2016.

There are a few things to love about the numbers on this table, but unfortunately, they are again fairly similar. Both of their line drive rates (LD%) would have ranked 11th or better among qualified hitters last season, and their hard-hit rates (Hard%) would have both ranked in the top 25.

Player Line-Drive% Ground-Ball% Fly-Ball% Soft% Med% Hard%
Broxton 25.0% 44.8% 30.2% 13.3% 43.3% 43.3%
Santana 30.1% 44.2% 25.6% 14.1% 47.4% 38.5%

These two consistently squared up the ball, which more often than not is going to lead to positive results -- and it should help quell any feelings of unease surrounding their high BABIP.

Despite the similarities, this is the first time where we can lean toward one player as Broxton's hard-hit rate was almost five percentage points higher than Santana's.

Take a look at the top-five hitters last season in terms of hard-hit rate -- David Ortiz, Freddie Freeman, Matt Carpenter, Mike Trout, and Miguel Cabrera. That is a murderer's row of sluggers and only two of them had a higher hard-hit rate than Broxton's, sample size aside. It's just one stat, but it's worth nothing when a hitter makes hard contact this consistently.

OK, this is the last table -- I promise. Below are our projections for Broxton and Santana for the upcoming season.

Player PA Walks Hits Homers Runs RBI's Steals AVG
Broxton 444 46 88 15 51 44 30 .226
Santana 492 54 104 19 59 61 6 .245

Once again, it's a fairly similar set of data. Per our projections, Santana holds the edge in most counting stats with the exception of steals, a category in which we expect Broxton to thrive.

Broxton is currently being selected earlier in drafts than Santana is, with an average draft position of 185.67 and OF39, according to average draft position (APD) data from National Fantasy Baseball Championship. Santana owns a 262.20 ADP and is the 63rd outfielder.

If it's safety you're looking for, Santana may be the way to go based on being able to get him cheaper. If it's upside you want -- and it's not a bad idea to gamble on upside later in drafts -- Broxton's potential for a possible 20-homer, 30-steal campaign probably makes him the better selection.

Broxton hit 8 of his 9 home runs in the second half last season, while posting a .400 wOBA, 148 wRC+, and stealing 16 bags in that span -- possibly a sign of what's to come. And Milwaukee may hit him higher in the order, which should help his counting stats (as well as getting him more plate appearances). Of course, Broxton will need to avoid another poor first half to stick at the top of the lineup

As long as you can deal with the strikeouts -- Broxton's 14.7% swinging-strike rate in 2016 would have tied for 10th-highest among qualified hitters -- you should be able to comfortably live with his potential to fill up the box score in a few categories. That's every fantasy owner's dream, especially from a player who won't cost them a high draft pick.