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Carlos Santana Projected as Tribe’s Top Hitter in 2011

2011/02/09
Grady Sizemore

Image via Wikipedia

According to Jordan Bastian at MLB.com, Dr. Rick Parker has given Carlos Santana a clean bill of health, allowing Santana to participate fully when spring training begins on Feb. 17.   The switch-hitting catcher is also on target to start on Opening Day against the White Sox.

This is obviously great news for Manny Acta, who intends to get Santana into the lineup more often this season by giving him occasional starts at first base.  Baseball Prospectus no doubt would agree with this move: Their PECOTA forecasting system projects Santana to be the Indians’ top hitter in 2011, a somewhat surprising development given Shin-Soo Choo‘s emergence as one of the AL’s top players.

Even more surprising is how much better than his teammates PECOTA projects Santana to be.  Using a method borrowed from Rich Lederer at BaseballAnalysts.com, I graphed each Indians hitter’s projected OBP and SLG against an axis showing the league averages for 2010.

(Note: The projections include some players, like Matt McBride and Delvi Cid, who are unlikely to have any role with the 2011 Indians.)

That’s Santana, floating by himself in the upper right corner.  PECOTA projects him to post a .264/.379/.470 line, bettering Choo’s projected OBP by 10 points and projected SLG by 30 points.

Coming off his MVP performance in the Asian games, Choo is entering his age-28 season, arguably the peak performance age for most MLB players.  Yet the system predicts a down year for Choo in comparison to his last two full seasons, forecasting a loss of 75 points of OPS for the Tribe slugger.

Tribe fans should be cautiously optimistic about Grady Sizemore, however.  While a return to his peak years of 2006-2008 is unlikely, Sizemore projects as a .252/.350/.435 hitter, numbers that would be welcome at the top of the lineup.  In 2010, Tribe hitters—primarily Michael Brantley, Trevor Crowe and Asdrubal Cabrera—managed only a .294 OBP from the leadoff spot and just a .315 OBP hitting second.

Cabrera, too, should rebound slightly from last year, to .273/.330/.378, but don’t expect the newly signed Orlando Cabrera to contribute much. PECOTA not only sees his bat declining to .264/.307/.351, but also divines a drop in his defensive ability as well.

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