The first few weeks of April are usually pretty quiet for the game’s best prospects, but once May rolls around, teams will begin to call them up after effectively pushing the player’s free agency and arbitration clock back a year. It’s a sound strategy, because usually whatever is sacrificed during those first few weeks of the season (a win? maybe two at most?) is more than recouped in the extra couple of months of team control.
Ryan Braun surfaced in May of 2007 and became not just one of the best hitters in the league, but a savior for many fantasy owners. Evan Longoria did the same in 2008 and last year it was Andrew McCutchen. Finding that one big time prospect who goes from the bush leagues to fantasy megastar is never an easy task, but that’s what we’re here for.
Cleveland’s current catching situation features the tag team of Lou Marson and Mike Redmond, who’ve combined to reach base just four times in 27 plate appearances so far this season. At some point soon the Indians will summon uber-prospect Carlos Santana from Triple-A, who they comically acquired from the Dodgers for Casey Blake and whatever was left on his contract. Our own Marc Hulet ranked him as the seventh best prospect in the game, and the second best catching prospect overall.
In this young season, Santana has gone all Albert Pujols on the Triple-A International League. His triple-slash line sit at .450/.500/1.150, a year after posting a .418 wOBA in Double-A. Six of his nine hits have gone for extra bases (four homers, two doubles), and he’s come around to score seven times in five games. Santana has more walks (181) than strikeouts (170) since 2008, which backs up his reputation as having supreme knowledge of the strike zone. The defensive ability is there as well, so a position switch is not coming anytime soon.
The catching situation in fantasyland is pretty grim beyond the top six or eight players, but Santana could jump right into that mix once he’s promoted. Cleveland has to keep him in the minors roughly two weeks to push free agency back by a year, but about two months to push arbitration back. Count on a mid-to-late May call up.
Santana sports the power, the bat control, and the discipline to be an impact fantasy player once the Indians calls him up, and he’s clearly the best catcher in their organization at the moment. The fact that he plays such a scarce position makes him even more attractive to fantasy owners. If you’re willing to live with a dead spot on your bench for the next month or so, then by all means grab Santana, who’s owned in just 3% of Yahoo! leagues. If not, then make sure you keep an eye on Cleveland’s transactions, because chances are he’ll be an upgrade over your current catching situation or a fantastic piece of trade bait.