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The Store


The Past and the Future of Danny Santana

On May 23, 2010, I watched my first Beloit Snappers game - my first minor league game. In it, I saw a solid Brian Dozier play shortstop for the Snappers. After that game, Dozier was promoted to the Ft. Myers Miracle and Danny Santana was called up to the Snappers from Elizabethton. The next night I watched Danny Santana for the first time.

Four years later, Santana has been one of the better stories in the 2014 Minnesota Twins season. Despite playing just 23 games in centerfield in his minor league career (and just two games since 2011 in Beloit), he finds himself as the Twins starting centerfielder. I can’t help but wonder what the future might hold for the diminutive speedster.

Attached Image: Danny Santana MINNTWIN.jpg

[SIZE=2]Photo by Brad Rempel [/SIZE]


In 2010, Brian Dozier was 22 and looked polished. Danny Santana was just 19 years old and looked really rough around the edges. In his first Midwest League game, Santana went 1-5, struck out three times and had three errors in the field. And yet, I came away very impressed. Why? It was obvious Santana was anxious in that first game. However, he showed a very quick swing that despite his small stature suggested that he could become more than a slap hitter.

On defense, he made a couple of the more remarkable plays that I have seen, plays that should have been on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays – you know, had there been cameras in Beloit’s stadium. He showed great range and a powerful arm. And yet, he booted a couple routine ground balls. He also had a couple errant throws.

He returned to Beloit in 2011 and spent the full season there. In the games I saw, the tools remained clear. He posted a fielding percentage of .924. In 2012, he moved up to Ft. Myers and committed 18 errors for a .950 fielding percentage. Last year, he was in New Britain and had 32 errors and a .946 fielding percentage.

Three full seasons later, reports on his defense remain the same. They start with his great range and very strong arm. They always continue with “but he had a tendency to boot several routine plays.”

Offensively, it’s hard to look at his minor league track record and get excited about his potential. In seven minor league seasons, he has hit .274/.318/.393 (.711) with 90 doubles, 45 triples and 25 home runs.

More important are the numbers he has put up the last couple seasons. In 2012 in Ft. Myers, he hit .286/.329/.410 (.739) with 21 doubles, nine triples and eight home runs. Last season in New Britain, he hit .297/.333/.386 (.719) with 22 doubles, ten triples and two home runs. In those two seasons, he stole 47 bases, but he was caught 24 times (66%).

Santana’s minor league track record tells us that he will hit for some average, but he is not going to be a guy who gets on base via the walk often. He will not hit many home runs, but his speed will turn singles into doubles and doubles into triples. Beyond that, he can steal a base though he has a long ways to go to be a good base runner. He is a guy who can score from first on a double.

Through his first 25 big league games, he is hitting a remarkable .372/.406/.500 (.906) and has five doubles and two home runs. His Isolated Discipline (.034) is below even his minor league numbers. This is not a surprise. He also has 21 strikeouts in 87 plate appearances.

Can Danny Santana be a guy who hits .290/.330/.380 (.710) in the big leagues? If so, and he is able to play solid defense, he can be a very productive major league shortstop. Both these variables – offense and defense – are still question marks.

A funny thing happened along the way, however. Suddenly, Danny Santana is the Minnesota Twins' starting centerfield and would appear to be for the foreseeable future. Aaron Hicks has struggled again in a second extended opportunity to take a stranglehold on the centerfield job. Byron Buxton has missed most of the season with his wrist injury. Santana could very well be the team’s starting centerfielder for at least the next calendar year.

As many questions as I still have about whether Santana can ever play shortstop well enough defensively, he has generally looked at least adequate defensively in centerfield. His routes aren’t always perfect but his speed has generally been able to make up for it. The plays he struggles with the most have been those where communication comes into play. He and Josh Willingham have nearly run into each other in the left centerfield gap a couple times. We hold our collective breath when Santana charges in on pop ups that the middle infielders are also in pursuit of. Success with those plays takes time and communication, and it would appear Santana is going to get that time.

That isn’t to say that Santana should stop taking ground balls at shortstop. Let’s not forget, the centerfielder of the future remains Byron Buxton. Buxton could take over the job as early as next June.

Eduardo Escobar has taken over shortstop duties in the last four or five weeks. He has earned it. Can he continue in the role until Buxton takes over center and Santana moves in to the infield? In my opinion, Jorge Polanco won’t debut with the Twins until at least the end of the 2015 season. 2014 top pick Nick Gordon most likely will not be ready for four or five years. In other words, Danny Santana should continue to work at shortstop as well as in the outfield.

As the Twins enjoy an off day in Detroit on Thursday, give this topic some thought. What does the future hold for Danny Santana with the Minnesota Twins? What are your predictions for the rest of 2014, and what do you think will happen with him going forward?


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