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.

Fan hit by foul ball during Sunday’s Rockies-Dodgers game

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Another fan was struck by a line drive foul ball during Sunday’s game between the Rockies and Dodgers at Dodger Stadium, Mike DiGiovanna and Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times report. The ball was hit by Cody Bellinger in the first inning, going just beyond where the protective netting ends at the first-base dugout, striking a young woman in the head. Play was delayed for two minutes while the woman received medical attention. She initially stayed in her seat holding an ice pack to her head but was taken to a hospital for evaluation. According to someone in the Dodger Stadium first-aid office, the girl was alert and responding.

After the game, Bellinger said, “It was weird. It’s the first time I think I’ve hit a fan. I saw it literally hit her face. That was tough. I just tried to regroup. I’m sure it was tough for everyone.” He added, “I went over the next half-inning just to make sure she was all right. She said she was all right. She gave me a thumbs up. Obviously, it’s a scary situation.”

Both Bellinger and manager Dave Roberts expressed support for extending the protective netting at Dodger Stadium. [Update: Netting will be extended, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports.]

Bellinger was involved in yet another incident involving a fan later in the game. According to Michael Duarte of NBC Los Angeles, a 14-year-old girl ran on the field in the ninth inning. Bellinger said the girl came up to him and said, “I want a hug.” As she hugged Bellinger, a security guard tackled her. Bellinger said to her, “You know you’re going to jail?” She replied, “Yeah, I know. It was worth it.”