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.

Royals closer Kelvin Herrera leaves with forearm tightness

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The Royals are a game and a half out of the crazy AL Wild Card race — six games back of the Indians in the division — so they don’t have a huge margin for error. They got some bad news last night, though, that could have a major impact on their playoff hopes: closer Kelvin Herrera experienced tightness in his right forearm in the ninth inning of last night’s win, forcing him out of the game.

Herrera walked the bases loaded, then went to a 2-0 count on the next batter before leaving the game. That last pitch was a fastball that clocked in at 91 m.p.h., which is NOT a typical Kelvin Herrera fastball.  Herrera didn’t talk after the game but his teammate Sal Perez said that Herrera told him  “I’m tight. I don’t feel my forearm.”

Reporters left the clubhouse before an official diagnosis or prognosis could be delivered, so expect an update some time today. If Herrera is out the closer duties could fall to Scott Alexander or Brandon Maurer.

Albert Pujols sets the all-time record for home runs by a foreign-born player

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Albert Pujols had a big night last night, driving in four runs as the Angels beat the Rangers 10-1. Three of those runs came on a three-run homer. That was the 610th home run of Pujols’ career, snapping a tie for eighth on the all-time list with Sammy Sosa. It also made him baseball’s all-time leader for home runs by a player born outside the U.S.

Pujols was aware of the accomplishment, of course, and noted how honored he was after the game:

”It’s pretty special. Obviously, all the great players from the Dominican Republic, Latin America, Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia, they’ve gone through the big leagues and to be able to accomplish something like this is very humbling.”

After Sosa, who is from the Dominican Republic, comes Rafael Palmeiro (569); Manny Ramirez (555); David Ortiz (541); Carlos Delgado (473); Jose Canseco (462); Adrian Beltre and Miguel Cabrera (459).