Tuesday, March 5, 2024
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Royals Sign Carlos Santana

The Kansas City Royals have made yet another free agent signing. This time, they have added a veteran first baseman in Carlos Santana on a two-year deal. According to Joel Sherman, Santana will be paid $7 million in 2021 and $10.5 million in 2022.

Santana has a career weighted runs created plus (wRC+) of 121, meaning he’s hit at a level 21 percent above league average. In fact, 2020 was the first season in which he posted a wRC+ of 100 or lower (below-average offense). By DRS (defensive runs saved), Santana was an average defender in 2018 and 2019 (0 DRS both of those years). By OAA, Statcast’s defensive metric, he was above average in 2018 (6 OAA at 1B) and a hair below average in 2019 (-1 OAA). Santana is actually an okay base runner (1.2 BsR [Base running runs above average] since 2017) despite possessing below-average sprint speed.

Carlos Santana is rightfully renowned for his good plate discipline. From 2015 to 2020, he’s actually walked more than he has struck out. His career walk rate is 15.5%, and his career strikeout rate is 16.5%.

In the 2019 regular season and postseason, Santana saw a combined 241 pitches in the chase zone. He swung at none of them. 288 other hitters saw at least 100 pitches in that attack zone of the plate. Only one other player besides Santana didn’t swing at one of them: Logan Forsythe.

At the end of last month, I wrote about why I found the Royals’ signing of Michael Taylor to be intriguing. One of the main reasons I loved that particular deal was that Michael Taylor‘s predictive weighted on-base average on contact (pwOBAcon) was much higher than his actual weighted on-base average on contact (wOBAcon). This is the case for Santana also.

In 2020, Santana’s wOBAcon was .285 while his pwOBAcon was .339. Because of this difference, his pwOBA is 37 points higher than his wOBA (.350 vs .313). Santana didn’t hit the ball well last year, and although his pwOBAcon is much better than his wOBAcon, it is still below average. Since Statcast started tracking exit velocity, launch angle, etc. in 2015, Santana’s barrel%, average exit velocity, wOBAcon, and sprint speed (tie) were the lowest they have ever been. With that being said, Santana had a below average weighted on-base average on contact three out of five seasons from 2015 to 2019 and still was above average offensively.

When a player has as good of plate discipline as Carlos Santana has — his walk rate was 103 percent above league average in 2020, and he struck out less frequently than he walked — that player doesn’t need to tear the cover off the baseball. This contract, which is for two years at a reasonable rate (average of $8.75 million per year), should work out pretty well for a young Kansas City Royals team, who is acquiring someone with valuable playoff experience.