Welcome to Kings of Kauffman’s KC Royals Projections series for 2022. Between now and Opening Day, our writers are analyzing how various Royals performed last season and predicting how they might fare this year. Up first is Carlos Santana.
The first base void Eric Hosmer left for the KC Royals when he headed to the financially greener pastures of San Diego after the 2017 season took too long for the club to address to its satisfaction.
The Royals, spoiled by Hosmer’s good play and popularity, just couldn’t find someone to take his place. They inexplicably signed Lucas Duda twice to fill the hole, and Ryan O’Hearn, Ryan McBroom and Hunter Dozier failed to win the job, although Dozier’s performance in 2020 suggested Kansas City might be able to live with him at first.
But for whatever reason, the Royals decided Dozier wasn’t their first base elixir, and went hunting for a different solution after the 2020 campaign. And in early December, they appeared to have found it when Cleveland slugger Carlos Santana signed a two-year free agent deal designed to cure the continuing problem Hosmer’s departure created.
From the start, Santana’s signing seemed shrewd. A switch-hitter, he gave the Royals a threat from either side of the plate. He brought proven power (240 homers in 11 seasons before 2021), decent first base defense, and a career OBP—.366—uncommonly high for a power-hitter.
And he started his first KC season just as the Royals had hoped. Santana took a .250/.382/.443 line, 10 home runs and 34 RBIs into June; his average was two points, and his OBP 16 points, above his pre-Kansas City career marks.
Unfortunately, a hip injury nagged Santana for part of the rest of the season and he finished with 19 homers, a .214 average and a .319 OBP.
How will he do this season?
Baseball Reference & FanGraphs projections for Carlos Santana’s Royals 2022.
If Baseball Reference and FanGraphs are correct, Santana’s 2021 campaign may signal the beginning of decline. Baseball Reference predicts he’ll hit 20 homers, drive in 68 runs and slash .228/.336/.388; FanGraphs (Depth Chart version) projects 14 home runs, 48 RBIs and a .235/.342/.393 line.
What kind of season will Carlos Santana actually have for the KC Royals?
How Santana will perform for Kansas City in 2022 is much more a matter of time than it is numbers. Because he’s in his contract season, and unless he slumps miserably, his power and ability to get on base will make him a probable trade deadline centerpiece.
But why not deal him earlier, say when the MLB lockout ends? Trading Santana before the season will force the Royals’ hand with prospect Nick Pratto, whose 36 home runs, 98 RBIs and .265/.385/.602 line in a 2021 season split between Double-A and Triple-A reestablished him as the club’s first sacker of the future.
Kansas City, however, may not be ready to start the new season with Pratto at first. The more likely scenario is to give him a month, maybe two, at Omaha and then bring him up. If he swims, the club can move Santana; if he sinks, it might hang on to Santana until the trade deadline.
In any event, expect Santana’s numbers to be closer to Baseball Reference’s projection than FanGraphs’. But don’t plan on seeing him on Kansas City’s roster in September.
Carlos Santana will recover from his hip injury and post better numbers than he did in 2021. But he won’t last the season with the Royals.