Cleveland Indians: Can Carlos Santana return to 2016 form with the Tribe?

Carlos Santana was a huge part of the Cleveland Indians 2016 World Series run, but can he return to his 2016 form now that he is back with the Tribe?

When I see Carlos Santana step back out there in a Cleveland Indians uniform during Spring Training, it’s bound to bring a tear to my eye. But if he plays as he down the stretch for the Phillies, it could bring a lot of tears to my eyes.

Santana was once a huge force in the Indians lineup. In 2016 he had a slash line of .259/.366/.498 and 87 RBI. All of which were career-highs. He also had 130 wRC+ that season. Sure, it’s hard to replicate those numbers, but you wouldn’t expect a drastic dropoff at Santana’s age.

The dropoff hasn’t been drastic, but it’s there nonetheless. Santana’s weighted on-base average or wOBA has dropped substantially in two years from .370 in 2016 to .333 with the Phillies in 2018.

So what gives here? It’s not easy to continue to build on career-high numbers, but the change of scenery may have also played into the regression.

Santana loved it in Cleveland, morale can play into one’s performance for sure, just look at Matt Harvey with the Mets. So is there hope that Santana can return to form? Absolutely. If you look at his strikeout numbers, he’s improved slightly each year since 2016. He had a career-best 13.7 strikeout percentage last season, which shows that his plate discipline has improved.

He also hit to the opposite field 22 percent of the time, which is more than he’s ever done in the majors. But staying on the topic of batted balls, you can start to see a problem. Santana had a lot of soft contact in 2018. He had what Fangraphs considers soft contact 22.7 percent of the time and almost 18 percent of his hits were infield flies. That does almost nothing to help the team.

So what does all of this mean? Well, to return to form it would help for Santana to start hitting balls harder. The Steamer on Fangraphs actually projects a slight return to form for Slamtana. They have him projected to have a .251/.367/.453 slash line with 24 homers and 81 RBI. While those offensive numbers aren’t as good, the slash line shows more consistency than the previous two seasons.

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We can only hope that our beloved Carlos Santana provides us the offense we desire. The Indians need a big bat in the wake of Edwin Encarnacion leaving. Santana’s bat isn’t that big, but he can help provide more value if he can get that power swing back.