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2015 Shortstop Profile: Danny Santana

Santana hit .319/.353/.472 last season with 7 home runs, 70 runs scored, 40 RBIs and 20 stolen bases in just 101 games. But his inflated 2014 BABIP of .405 is scaring most people away in 2015. Can the young shortstop still offer value in 2015?

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Danny Santana was briefly discussed in Part Two of the FakeTeams Consensus Rankings. FakeTeams writers have Santana listed as the #18 shortstop, which is similar to consensus ranks at FantasyPros where Santana is listed at #16 in the shortstop ranks. I am partially to blame for the slightly higher rank at FantasyPros, as I list Santana at SS13...for now. Disclaimer: Santana is everything I like in a player. He is cheap, he has a pathway to playing time, and he has some power to go along with his plus speed. So with my rose-colored glasses on, I will do my best to not overlook Santana's blemishes. Feel free to let me know how you think I fared.

First off, apparently Paul Molitor wants to annoy us all. He has publicly stated that Santana will battle Eduardo Escobar for starting shortstop duties in Minnesota. Which makes no sense at all. Santana is younger, stronger, faster, and better at getting on base than Escobar. Escobar did have his best season as a pro in 2014, but he still didn't come close to matching Santana's production. This positional battle seems like a farce to me, but it's relevant news so I felt it worth sharing. For my part, I am drafting Santana as the presumptive starter unless Spring Training dictates I do otherwise.

Besides playing time, the primary concern with Santana is that he doesn't walk much. Oh, and he strikes out like a home run hitter. He walked just 4.4% of the time in 2014, and struck out 22.8% of the time. Neither number is good, especially for a leadoff hitter who needs to be getting on base plenty. This would be a huge concern if there were another considerable threat to Santana's playing time atop the Minnesota batting order. Alas, there is no such concern on the Twins roster. If you really think Aaron Hicks, Jordan Schafer, or Eduardo Escobar are serious threats to Santana's leadoff gig, I worry for you. Torii Hunter could be, but at this point in his career he's better suited for the heart of the order at his very advanced 39 years of age.

Now for some positive chatter. Santana has shown an ability to hit for a decent average over his professional career despite his shortcomings. Since 2012 he's hit .286, .297, and .268 in the minors, as well as .319 in his first MLB season. His on-base percentage (OBP) is similarly encouraging when compared to his primary competition, Eduardo Escobar. Santana's recent marks of .329, .333, and .311 in the minors are not extraordinary, but last year's .353 mark was very good and Santana has consistently shown an ability to get on base at a higher clip than Escobar, who has a career .300 OBP. Santana doesn't have to light the world on fire in this category to be the beneficiary of ample playing time. He could be starting for the Twins with a mark of .315 or so, and even at that number his counting stats can be useful--especially at the talent-depleted shortstop position.

The biggest question mark then is batting average on balls in play. Santana had an astounding .405 mark in the majors last season--a number he absolutely will not replicate. However, to say that this number will free fall into nothing seems a bit hasty. Santana doesn't walk much and strikes out plenty, sure--but he is an aggressive hitter who has posted BABIP lines of .296, .311, .337, .317, .322, .353, .377, and .405 since the start of his professional career. Those numbers are obviously trending upward, and speak to Santana's ability to control some of his own destiny with the bat in his hands. Steamer's projection of .314 seems fair enough, but it's not absurd to say that Santana could land around the .330-.340 mark given his last few years of success in this area.

The final point I see here is that you won't have to pay a premium price in order to acquire Santana's services in 2015. As mentioned above, he's being taken as the 16th to 18th shortstop in most drafts. He finished 9th at his position in both of my leagues last season (one with batting average and one with OBP). And while I fully expect his average and OBP numbers to drop significantly, a regression of 50 points in batting average still puts him at a .269 mark. That number mirrors his minor league numbers and seems very realistic. At that mark, and seeing the 511 plate appearances that Steamer projects, Santana is nearly a lock for 20 stolen bases and has 30 stolen base upside. Speed always plays in the fake game, and for a guy who isn't very expensive I sniff starter-worthy upside at a weak position in 2015. Take a chance on this won't cost you much and there is a decent chance you will make a profit.