Next stop, stardom: 2011 breakout picks – Carlos Santana

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Carlos Santana was in the middle of one of the best rookie seasons ever by a catcher when a gruesome home-plate collision on August 2 left him with a season-ending knee injury, but he’s healthy now and ready to make Dodgers fans miserable remembering the mid-2008 trade that sent Santana to Cleveland for Casey Blake.

Because excellent plate discipline is such a big part of Santana’s game and not everyone appreciates the value of on-base percentage relative to, say, homers and RBIs, his numbers may not scream superstar. However, he’s capable of becoming an elite offensive catcher and is also no slouch defensively behind the plate, giving him MVP-caliber upside.

Santana hit .260 with a .401 on-base percentage and .467 slugging percentage in his 46-game debut with the Indians, smacking 19 extra-base hits in 150 at-bats and drawing 37 walks compared to just 29 strikeouts. In doing so he joined Jason Kendall in 1998 as the only two catchers in the past 70 years to crack a .400 OBP and .850 OPS at age 24. And the switch-hitter is capable of even more after batting .296 with 37 homers, more walks (135) than strikeouts (124), and a .983 OPS in 189 games between Double-A and Triple-A.

Santana has the patience and strike-zone control to get on base at a .400 clip even while hitting .260, but if his batting average creeps up into the .280 range and his power develops like the minor-league track record suggests he can be an absolute monster offensively at a position where on-base machines are awfully hard to find. In fact, during the past 50 years the only catchers with a career OBP above .375 are Joe Mauer (.407), Gene Tenace (.388), Mike Piazza (.377), and Jorge Posada (.377).

I’ll be shocked if Santana doesn’t join that group.

Mitch Haniger leaves game with oblique injury

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Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger left Tuesday night’s game against the Tigers with a strained oblique, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports. Haniger suffered the injury running after hitting a single in the third inning. He was 2-for-2 when he exited the game.

Haniger will almost certainly be placed on the 10-day disabled list as a result of the injury. It’s a big loss for the Mariners, as he entered the night batting .321/.430/.590 with four home runs and 16 RBI in 93 plate appearances.

Danny Valencia, who pinch-ran for Haniger and stayed in the game to play right field, is likely to take Haniger’s spot in the lineup and in the outfield during his absence.

Jose Altuve, Teoscar Hernandez leave game after collision

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Astros second baseman Jose Altuve and outfielder Teoscar Hernandez collided attempting to catch a shallow fly ball hit by Indians catcher Yan Gomes in the bottom of the eighth inning during Tuesday night’s game.

Hernandez, who was called up earlier on Tuesday, had just come into the game as a defensive replacement for Carlos Beltran. George Springer entered the game in right field in Hernandez’s place after Hernandez was carted off the field. Altuve was replaced at second base by Marwin Gonzalez.

The Astros should have updates on the conditions of both players after the game. Losing Altuve would be a big deal for the first-place Astros, as he entered the game batting .324/.393/.459 with seven stolen bases.