Fantasy Baseball: Carlos Santana Needs to Be on Your Radar

Cleveland's first baseman/designated hitter is one of the most underrated players in baseball. Coming off a career year, he should be a fantasy baseball target.

It seems like Cleveland Indians' first baseman/designated hitter Carlos Santana has been around forever, but he hasn't. It seems like Santana must be in his mid-30s at this point in his career, but he isn't (he's only 30). And it seems like there are a ton of better options for your fantasy baseball team, but the truth is, there really aren't.

Folks, Carlos Santana is a beast.

Last year was a career performance for the slugger, a season in which he set personal highs in slugging percentage (.498), home runs (34), RBI's (87), runs scored (89), weighted on-base average (wOBA, .370), weighted runs created (wRC+, 132), OPS (.865), and total bases (290). He also posted a career-low strikeout rate (14.4%) and maintained his traditionally high walk rate (14.4%).

He was the anchor of a pretty decent Indians lineup as their top power option.

And now, Santana gets to hit in a lineup that adds Edwin Encarnacion and potentially Michael Brantley, who played in his first spring game on Monday and went 2-for-3. That certainly doesn't hurt his run production potential.

Santana isn't some flash in the pan, either. The 30-year-old has been doing this consistently since 2011. In fact, here is where he ranks in some major offensive categories over the last six years among first basemen.

Statistic Ranking
fWAR 8
HR 8
Runs 9
RBI 10
SB 7
AVG T-39
SLG 26
wOBA 13
wRC+ 14

And while Santana did play a majority of his games at designated hitter last year (92), he did play 64 games at first base. He also showed during the World Baseball Classic that he can hang pretty well at that position.

As Santana continued to walk at a high rate and strikeout less than he ever had in 2016, he also posted a career-best hard-hit rate, as measured by Baseball Savant and StatCast. Last year, Santana hit 145 balls more than 100 mph, 10th most in baseball. That was better than guys like Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Mookie Betts and the great Mike Trout.

Santana is a switch-hitter, making gameday decisions on whether to remove him against a tough left-hander like Chris Sale or a stud right-hander like Justin Verlander less of an issue. Here are his career splits, and last year's numbers, against righties and lefties.

Career vs. L .277 .283 .439 .823 129
Career vs. R .233 .357 .446 .802 122
2016 vs. L .267 .347 .395 .742 102
2016 vs. R .256 .374 .541 .915 144

For his career, his batting average has traditionally been better as a right-handed hitter, along with his OPS and wRC+. However, he's far better at working walks and slugging as a lefty. Last year, some of those numbers got turned around, with far better splits against right-handers than left-handers across the board.

The bottom line with Santana is that he has been really good for a really long time, and 2016 was his best year ever. Yes, he's 30 years old now, but any decline shouldn't start happening for another couple years, especially if he becomes a full-time designated hitter.

Santana's ADP on FantasyPros has him at 105th overall, making him the 17th first baseman off the board and the 6th designated hitter. Is that too low? Our numberFire yearly projections seem to indicate that it is. Among first base options, we give Santana an nF score of 5.76, 13th-best at that position.

He just set a career high in home runs, walks a lot, and is among the players who hits the ball the hardest in the game.

Being able to get Santana as the 13th first baseman off the board shows the position's depth, and it might be wise to wait a little on a position that holds so much value.