Domingo Santana broke out in 2017, finishing as a top-20 outfielder in standard ESPN fantasy baseball leagues, ahead of players like Cody Bellinger, Christian Yelich, Andrew Benintendi and Andrew McCutchen. Was Santana’s 2017 season a fluke, or a sign of what’s to come?
Santana originally signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009 as an international free agent. After three mediocre minor league seasons in low and single-A, Santana was traded to the Houston Astros in a multi-player deal that sent All-Star outfielder Hunter Pence to Philadelphia.
In his first full minor league season with Houston, Santana batted .302 with 23 home runs, 87 runs scored and 97 RBIs in 119 games in high-A. He was promoted to double-A in 2013 and batted .252 with 25 home runs, 72 runs scored and 64 RBIs in 112 games. Although there was a bit of regression in his batting average and BABIP from 2012 to 2013, the Astros felt enough comfort to continue Santana’s ascension through the minors.
In 2014, Santana played 120 games with the triple-A Oklahoma City Red Hawks, where he would bat .296 with 16 home runs, 63 runs scored and 81 RBIs. His first major league action came in 2014, but in his six games and 18 plate appearances, Santana failed to record a hit and struck out 77.8 percent of the time.
Santana began his 2015 campaign in Oklahoma City. After 75 games played with a .320 batting average and 16 home runs, the Astros decided to trade the then 22-year-old and others to the Milwaukee Brewers for starting pitcher Mike Fiers and All-Star outfielder Carlos Gomez. Santana continued his success that season, batting .380 with 18 RBIs in the remaining 20 games of the season with the triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox.
In 2016, Santana began the year in the major leagues with Milwaukee, but only played in 77 games due to right elbow and shoulder injuries that landed him on the disabled list on two separate occasions. Santana went on to bat .256 with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs, putting him on a 162-game pace to hit 23 home runs with 67 RBIs.
2017 will be considered Santana’s breakout campaign. In 151 games, a 24-year-old Santana batted .278 with 30 home runs, 88 runs scored, 85 RBIs and 15 stolen bases. He managed to finish as a top-20 fantasy baseball outfielder and can be considered one of the biggest draft steals of the season.
Among qualified batters, Santana’s BABIP, or batting average on balls in play, ranked sixth highest with .363, and his strikeout rate ranked ninth worst at 29.3 percent. Out of the four professional seasons in which Santana played in over 100 games, he has registered a BABIP of at least .316 and strikeout rate above 28 percent. Santana fits in perfectly in this new era of baseball where sluggers are not afraid to strikeout, as guys like Aaron Judge (30.7), Khris Davis (29.9), Eric Thames (29.6) and Justin Upton (28.3) all managed to hit 30 or more home runs while striking out at least 28 percent of the time.
Due to his unproven track record and playing in Milwaukee, Santana’s cost is sure to be discounted on draft day. Do I think he will hit 30 home runs again? No, as his 30.9 home run to fly ball rate seems unsustainable, as it ranked third in the MLB behind only Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.
Do I think he will steal 15 bases again? Yes, as Milwaukee has finished within the top two in stolen bases in the last two seasons, suggesting that Santana will have no problem swiping double-digit bags.
Do I think he can score and drive in over 80 runs? Yes, as he spent the majority of the season batting fifth, and even spent seven of his last 23 games batting second. This suggests that Milwaukee will use Santana in multiple fantasy friendly spots in the top half of their lineup in 2018.
Finally, do I think he can bat above .275? No, as his BABIP ranked sixth highest in the MLB at .363, suggesting that luck was on his side in 2017. I understand his medium and hard contact rates are impressive at 39.7 percent and 48.6 percent respectively, but I anticipate pitchers to continue to make adjustments, as Santana batted .291 in the first half, and just .262 in the second.
Overall, I think Santana will be a solid fantasy asset and will finish the year batting around .260 with 25 home runs, 80 runs scored, 80 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. In my mind, he will finish as a top-40 outfielder in 2018. Feel free to let me know your thoughts on Domingo Santana and his outlook heading into the 2018 MLB season.
Featured image by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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