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January 16, 2014

Tale of the Tape

Jonathan Lucroy vs. Carlos Santana

by Alex Kantecki


Today’s “Tale of the Tape” focuses on a pair of 27-year-old catchers from a pair of midwestern cities: Cleveland’s Carlos Santana and Milwaukee’s Jonathan Lucroy. Both finished 2013 as top-five catchers sans Victor Martinez, with the Brewer getting the better of the Indian (no. 3 to no. 5). While that might surprise some people given Santana’s pedigree as a top-flight prospect and Lucroy’s quiet ascent to the top, that doesn’t mean one is overrated and one is underrated. Both catchers are in their primes and should continue to provide top-five upside in 2014; today’s exercise examines who has a better chance of finishing the season on top. Mike Gianella lists Santana and Lucroy as four-star players and ranks them back-to-back at no. 4 and no. 5, respectively, so choosing between the two on draft day could come down to a matter of personal preference.

Batting Average
One look at the career batting averages of Lucroy and Santana makes it clear: Lucroy holds the decisive edge. Lucroy’s .279 career BA dwarfs Santana’s .254, albeit in 410 fewer plate appearances. Dragging Santana’s career average down is a .239 showing in 2011; he rebounded with a .252 mark the following season and even more so with a .268 average in 2013. Lucroy, meanwhile, added 55 points to his .265 in 2011, hitting .320 in 2012 before coming down to earth with a .280 average last year. Lucroy also holds a decisive advantage with a career .306 BABIP (compared to .281 for Santana), and his contact rates are far superior. Additionally, there’s a clear edge among the duo’s strikeout rates—especially when it comes to last season (11.9 percent for Lucroy, 17.1 percent for Santana). Lucroy’s batting average is his greatest advantage.

Advantage: Lucroy

On-Base Percentage
Whereas Lucroy easily tops Santana in batting average, the opposite is true in terms of on-base percentage. Santana has recorded an impressive .367 OBP since entering the league, including marks of .401 (in 192 PA) in 2010 and .377 in 2013. Only Joe Mauer had a higher on-base percentage last season (among qualified catchers), while Santana’s 14.5 percent walk rate was tops at the position. Lucroy registered a .340 OBP in 2013, which was seventh best, and a walk rate of 7.9 percent, but his career on-base percentage sits at .331—36 points worse than Santana’s.

Advantage: Santana

Home Runs
Santana’s power has been on full display since his debut, when he blasted 27 home runs in his first full season (2011) with a .217 ISO. His power has since fallen to 18 home runs and a .168 ISO in 2012 and 20 home runs and a .187 ISO in 2013—last season’s numbers were still top five at the position, however. Lucroy, meanwhile, was poised to break out in 2012 before a freak injury sidelined his season (more on that later); that year, he hit 12 home runs in 346 PA with a .193 ISO. He came back and hit a career-best 18 long balls in 2013, to go along with a .175 ISO. Lucroy does have two things working in his favor: Miller Park is the preferred home for power, and he also holds a significant advantage in batted-ball distance over Santana the past two seasons, including a 286.06-to-274.86 edge in 2013. Both recorded an identical .455 slugging percentage last year, but, given Santana’s 27-home-run campaign in 2011, I’m leaning toward giving the check mark to Santana. They can both hit 20, but I’d wager on Santana reaching 25 before Lucroy.

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Related Content:  Carlos Santana,  Fantasy,  Catchers,  Jonathan Lucroy

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Premium Article Prospects Will Break Y... (01/15)
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