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Danny Santana: Shortstop of the Future?

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Shortstop appears to be the weakest position in the Twins organization. Danny Santana is the closest legitimate SS prospect to the majors. But with a .691 OPS this season and 29 errors already (Alexei Ramirez leads all shortstops with 21), does Santana have a legitimate chance to be a franchise shortstop? Here’s a closer look.

Hitting
Here are Santana’s numbers the last 3 seasons:

Year PA Level BB% K% BB/K ISO OPS
2011 409 A 6.1 24 0.26 0.126 0.676
2012 547 A+ 5.3 14.1 0.38 0.124 0.739
2013 446 AA 3.9 16.3 0.24 0.086 0.691

Santana took a huge step forward in 2012, dropping his K rate significantly (leading to a jump in his BB/K ratio) which allowed him to increase his OPS by 60 points and raise his average from .249 to .286. He also maintained solid power for a SS despite moving to the Florida State League.

However, Santana has regressed this season. He has kept his Ks down, allowing him to maintain his .286 batting average, but his walks have dropped to a minuscule level and his power has disappeared. As a result, his BB/K ratio and OPS have returned to 2011 levels.

That being said, Santana has progressed throughout the season, increasing his walks each month (2 in April, 3 in May, 4 in June, 9 in July). In fact, his 9 walks so far in July are equal to the amount as he had in the first 3 seasons of the month combined. It turns out that Santana is no stranger to mid-season improvements in the month of July. Check out these splits:

Split PA Level BB% K% BB/K
April-June 2011 258 A 5.0% 22.5% 0.224
Post- July 2011 151 A 7.9% 19.9% 0.400
April-June 2012 299 A+ 4.7% 16.7% 0.280
Post-July 2012 250 A+ 6.0% 11.2% 0.536
April-June 2013 335 AA 2.7% 15.2% 0.176
Post-July 2013 166 AA 6.0% 18.1% 0.300

This is rather astonishing. In each of the past 3 seasons, Santana has made a significant improvement in his BB/K ratio starting in July. While his month of July might prove to be an aberration, due to this pattern the past 2 seasons I think it represents a legitimate progression in his plate discipline. If that is the case, 2012 could actually represent a step forward for Santana and he should be ready for AAA at the start of next season.

Basestealing

Danny Santana has great speed, but he has always struggled stealing bases. In fact, between 2010 and 2012, Santana never posted as SB% higher than 65%, and it dropped every year. However, Santana has made a big step forward in his basestealing this season:

Year SB CS SB%
2010 15 8 65%
2011 24 15 62%
2012 17 11 61%
2013 23 9 72%

So when did Santana turn a corner stealing bases? The answer, ironically, appears to be during July of 2012. Take a look:

Split SB CS SB% SB/162G
2011 24 15 62% 37
April-June 2012 9 7 56% 21
Post-July 2012 8 3 73% 24
2013 23 9 72% 33
July 2012-present 31 12 72% 30

Over the past year or so, Santana has looked like a 30SB 70+% guy. Over the past 3 years, just 8 SS have done that even once. And in case you’re wondering, Santana has continued that “every year I improve in July thing”: 9-10 SB in 24 games (68SB/162G).

Fielding

However, defense might be the most important factor for Santana going forward; as jdotmcmahon pointed out a few days ago, great defense alone has made Florimon a valuable player (http://twinsdaily.com/content.php?r=...Pedro-Florimon). Santana has the speed and arm necessary to play short, but he has always been error prone:

Year G E FLD%
2011 78 27 0.924
2012 85 18 0.95
2013 107 29 0.944

Errors and fielding percentage don’t tell the whole story, but it’s the best we have for minor league players. And as it turns out, Santana’s best fielding percentage of 95% would make him the worst shortstop in all of baseball. To make matters worse, Santana’s fielding percentage has dropped this season so much so that many are questioning whether or not he can stick at short.
However, Santana’s poor fielding numbers this season are the result of a dreadful start to the year:

Split E FLD%
Games 1-43 17 0.919
Games 44-107 12 0.961

Disclaimer: the FLD% is based off of Santana season’s average of 4.86 chances per game.

If we look at the Santana’s past 53 games (which accounts for 57% of his games at SS), he has improved his FLD% from last year’s .950 to .961. Once again, a step in the right direction.

More importantly, Santana was recently named by BA as the best defensive shortstop in AA. Many people on Twins Daily, including myself, have doubted whether or not he deserved such recognition. However, what we should take away from this is that BA believes Santana should be able to stick at SS in the majors. This praise, combined with Santana’s improving fielding percentage, makes me optimistic that he can be an above-average defensive shortstop.

Conclusion

Santana’s low K-rate should allow him to consistently hit in the .280-.285 range, which, combined with his basestealing, would be great for a SS. However, due to his lack of power (which has taken a turn for the worse this season), Santana will have to draw walks in order to post a quality OPS. He has increased his BB-rate during the second half of each of the last 3 seasons. If he can translate that success to the start of next year and continue to build on it, Santana could establish himself as a solid hitting SS at the major league level.

Although Santana’s season numbers for 2013 are discouraging, he has shown signs of progression. Combined with Santana’s history of mid-season improvement, this is a reason for optimism. If Santana can continue to progress as a hitter, fielder, and basestealer, he should be ready for AAA come next April, and might be starting on Opening Day in 2015, when he’ll be 24 all year. That will give Santana the chance to establish himself as the Twins’ franchise shortstop, although several other prospects could come nipping at his heels in the near future (Goodrum, Polanco, Levi Michael, Mejia, and a potential 2014 1st round pick).
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Comments

  1. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
    Thank you for the article. Lots of information.

    I believe something significant must come to pass before Danny is our 'franchise shortstop'. All the best to him.
  2. John Bonnes's Avatar
    Really interesting analysis. It's very heartening to see these trends appear when you look further into the numbers. I'll admit - prior to reading this, I didn't have a lot of hope for Santana.
  3. beckmt's Avatar
    Will have to prove himself in AAA next year to get my vote.
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