The Royal Carlos Santana

On Tuesday, Carlos Santana signed a two-year deal with the Royals, likely to take over as their starting first baseman, with the occasional start at DH I’m sure. The move pushes Hunter Dozier back to third base and essentially signals that the team has given up on Ryan O’Hearn. Let’s find out how the change in home ball park might affect his performance.

Park Factor Comparison
Park AVG 1B 2B 3B HR SLG wOBAcon RBIcon
Progressive Field (Indians) 101 98 110 66 103 102 101 102
Kauffman Stadium (Royals) 100 103 98 111 85 96 97 93

Note that because Santana is a switch-hitter, I calculated the percentage of his plate appearances that he hit left-handed versus right-handed. I then multiplied those percentages by each handedness factor to derive a combined factor for each metric and park.

As you may have guessed, the park switch is a major negative for Santana. But let’s start at the beginning. In terms of batting average, which could be affected by strikeout or BABIP park factors, the two parks are as close as can get without being identical. Kauffman has been neutral, while Progressive has ever so slightly boosted batting average. Santana has rarely been a positive batting average contributor, but this season he embarrassingly finished with a sub-Mendoza mark at .199. With a career .266 BABIP, he could use any help he could get to push that batting average up. Unfortunately, he consistently pulls a ton of grounders into the shift, so a low BABIP is here to stay and park factors aren’t going to have a dramatic influence.

Interestingly, Kauffman has actually boosted singles, while Progressive has suppressed them. That’s a surprise considering that singles make up the overwhelming majority of hits, so you would expect the AVG factor to typically lineup with the singles factor. That’s not the case here. While Santana likely won’t benefit from a park that increases singles as much as many other hitters, this piece is still a bit of good news. There is an even greater gap in doubles factor, this time going the other way as Kauffman is now unfavorable. Santana has been a solid doubles hitter, so perhaps he lose a double or two. That doesn’t mean those previous doubles become outs though, as maybe they merely become singles, so all that’s affected is his ISO/SLG and possibly a run scored. Lastly, Kauffman greatly boosts triples, but that obviously means little for Santana.

The most important factor comparison for Santana (and for the majority of hitters when analyzing a park switch from a fantasy lens) is of course home runs. Progressive Field is quite good for left-handed home runs. Kauffman is not. Like Kauffman is one of the worst parks in the Majors for left-handed home run power and there’s a major issue for Santana next year. While his HR/FB rate has jumped all over the place, generally bouncing between the low double digits to 16% and change, before notching a career high in 2019 of 19.3%, it’s the biggest source of his fantasy value. That is, unless you play in a league that counts OBP, in which case the value he derives from OBP is likely the highest among the five categories.

While it doesn’t mean you should just take his 2020 HR/FB rate of 12.3% and reduce it for the new park (that’s not how you develop a projection!), it does mean his home run outlook looks a lot worse now than it did on Monday. It’ll be that much tougher for him to push that HR/FB rate back toward his career 14.1% mark or come anywhere close to his 2019 career high. Again, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done, but his 2021 HR/FB projection will absolutely be lower, and perhaps close to the lowest it could have potentially gotten, given his new home park.

It’s not a surprise given the dramatic difference in home run park factors that Kauffman also loses mightily in the SLG wOBAcon and RBIcon factors, with the park really suppressing offense. For a hitter entering his age 35 season coming off the worst performance of his career, this was not a good move for his performance. Given his age and weak 2020, he’ll probably come cheap regardless of where he signed, but now his chances of producing a profit have been cut. In an OBP league, you have to still remember his name, but in traditional batting average leagues, he’ll have to come super cheap to make me think there’s profit potential.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

He’ll be good for the playing time, collect at least 20 HRs to stay relevant, while keeping the RBIs flowing in with fast baserunners ahead of him. His average could boost if he tries for more LD shares.

I’m guessing the Royals are more interested in getting him on-base and scoring runners than poking them out the porch. They’ve got Soler, likely behind him, to do the poking and the trotting.