If you have to endure your favorite baseball team being bad, as Orioles fans have had to do for four seasons now, one thing that can make the drudgery seem a bit more bearable is if there are players on the team who have something fun going for them. For me, Anthony Santander has been one of those players ever since the day two summers ago that all of the visiting British kids cheered every time he threw them a foul ball.
Santander would be an interesting player for the current Orioles even without that. He started out as one more of Dan Duquette’s far-off Rule 5 draft experiments, one who was shepherded onto the injured list under circumstances that may have been shady if scrutinized in order to keep him around, then banished to the minors the first day possible.
That Santander went from that afterthought, one forgotten guy at the bottom of a pile of outfield prospects who had fans more excited, into a productive big leaguer is great for him - and a fun story. It was a new Santander who emerged in 2019. He arrived in early June, played 81 games, and through that half-season worth of action was batting .288/.323/.523, with 18 home runs.
The full story of Santander’s 2019 includes another 12 games after that where his season numbers tanked to a much-less-interesting .261/.297/.476. He was shut down a few days early, with the team indicating he’d been dinged up for a little while, so if you wanted to put on the orange-tinted shades, you could tell yourself that healthy Santander was better. With a strong 37 games in 2020 before he went on the injured list, Santander offered at least a small sample size of support for the optimism.
Where does all of that leave Santander going forward? If the low-volume but persistent trade whispers from this offseason are any indication, it’ll leave him somewhere other than Baltimore soon enough. Let’s ignore that for now, because it’s not much fun to think about fun players being traded.
Here’s what three of the big, public, freely available projection systems see for Santander in the 2021 season:
- ZiPS: .267/.308/.489
- Steamer: .262/.311/.478 (both from Fangraphs)
- Marcel: .249/.305/.464 (from Baseball Reference)
The Fangraphs projections are not pessimistic ones in that they are perfectly fine performance for an MLB player. With ZiPS, Santander is worth 1.7 WAR; Steamer puts him at 1.5. A good team needs some 1.7 WAR guys so that it’s doesn’t have several spots in the lineup with a revolving door of negative-value scrubs.
For anyone who was hoping for more of the June 7-September 7 2019 Santander, or more of the 2020 Santander, those projections, especially the B-Ref one, probably feel a bit pessimistic. A .797 OPS is nothing to sneeze at, but if you believe a player can duplicate .840 or better, it feels like a step back.
As to who ends up being right, well, that’s what our ongoing series of polls is for.
The case for the over
You are a big believer in what Santander did before his late 2019 slump. Manager Brandon Hyde told reporters late in that season, after Santander played in his final game of the year, “He’s been playing pretty banged up the last couple weeks, and — to his credit — not saying anything to anybody and wanting to be out there.” If a guy’s slump is because he’s hurt, then presuming he can stay healthy, his slumps will hopefully not be so bad.
The 2020 success before an oblique injury took him out for the year is also a point for the optimists. If Santander kept up the pace of 11 home runs in 37 games, he could play 148 games - a decent season’s workload - and have 44 home runs.
The case for the under
The more “ifs” are involved in your scenario of success for a player, the more of a house of cards it is. Sneeze and they can all fall over. Maybe Santander is always going to be the kind of player who’s got nagging injuries sapping his performance. Or maybe you just think he’s going to be fine. A .790 OPS from a corner outfielder is fine. In 2020, left fielders collectively had a .757 OPS and right fielders hit a .764 OPS. Santander could still be better than average and still come under this projection.
Make your pick
See the first post of this series for an explanation of why the poll is built around ZiPS. Camden Chat readers have been optimistic about the players so far, including 64% so far voting “under” on Tanner Scott’s projected 3.70 ERA. I won’t be surprised if that continues.
The only polls I’ll revisit at season’s end are the ones where a hitter takes at least 200 plate appearances, a reliever throws at least 25 innings, or a starter throws at least 60 innings as Orioles. That’s about a third of a season. If someone gets hurt or gets traded before they can play that much, it won’t be very interesting to see if they beat their projected performance or not.
In the event of a push, where Santander has a .797 OPS, the tie goes to the over.
What are you expecting from Santander in the coming season? Are we going to get a consistently good version of the best parts of his 2019 and 2020 seasons? Or do you think regression is coming for him? Let us know in the comments below.
Will Anthony Santander go over or under his projected ZiPS OPS of .797 in 2021?
This poll is closed