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Article: What Will The Twins Do With Danny Santana?

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#1 Parker Hageman

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Posted 29 October 2015 - 11:49 PM

When evaluating things that had gone wrong in 2015, Twins general manager Terry Ryan indicated the play of Danny Santana as a disappointment for the organization.

“Santana was a huge piece, lead-off hitter, speed guy who would play adequate center field,” Ryan said during the Offseason Handbook interview. “All of a sudden we just couldn’t get him going.”

It is easy to forget looking back now that heading into the season, Danny Santana was counted on as being a significant contributor. In addition to being a table-setter atop the lineup, he was called upon to anchor the infield at short. While his time as a lead-off hitter was brief and the title of starting shortstop lasted just over two months, it likely cost the Twins some in terms of the standings. What went wrong with his year and is it too little, too late for the 24-year-old middle infielder?At the beginning of the year, Paul Molitor made it known that Santana was the guy he would write in at the top of the order. His speed was clearly a big factor but Molitor also felt that Santana, while not one to draw walks, would be pesky enough to find ways to reach base at a steady clip. Santana’s regular appearance at the top of the order would last 21 games. In that time the switch-hitter posted a .267 OBP while striking out in 24 of his 78 trips to the plate. He failed to even draw one walk in that stretch. That, combined with shoddy glovemanship in the field, brought the experiment to an end.

The Twins weren’t fooling themselves on what they believed Danny Santana could provide in 2015. After all, his .405 batting average on balls in play was an extreme rarity. “Historically my gut tells me that it's not sustainable because he didn't put up those kinds of numbers in the minor leagues," general manager Terry Ryan said October of last year regarding Santana's future. "If you're going to be true to yourself and what you know has happened with historically 95 percent of the players, you've got to expect a little bit of a back-off of those numbers, but that would be plenty good enough.”

Everyone anticipated regression. No one really thought there would be this much regression. But 2015 turned into a weird baseball version of Groundhog Day for Santana -- every day he would wake up, go to the ballpark and not hit. His aggressive tendencies prevented him from letting the count encroach upon three ball territory (he had 15 plate appearances reach three balls and managed just two walks). He chased after 43 percent of pitches that were out of the strike zone, well above the 30 percent MLB average. What he did put in play was mainly weak ground balls, a far cry from the line drive machine that arrived in 2014.

Santana, who had hit over .500 when swinging at the first pitch of the at-bat the prior year, decided to go ultra-aggressive in 2015, swinging almost 40 percent of the time at the first offering. The returns were not nearly as good as in his rookie season, posting an empty .222 average on those swings.

His two-strike approach varied radically between the two years as well. In 2014, six of his seven home runs came in two-strike counts. He collected another 16 extra- base hits and managed to hit a respectable .247 when in the pitcher’s kill zone. This past year Santana might as well have faced the final pitch from the dugout as he went back there momentarily. He hit .119 with two strikes and that was accompanied by a .280 OPS, the lowest OPS among hitters with 100 or more plate appearances with two strikes.

While pressure to perform and the competition adjusting to Santana’s tendencies -- not to mention carrying some of his fielding woes to the plate with him -- the Twins also felt there was a physical component to his swing that was affecting his production. After all, his line drive rate plummeted from 26% to 18% while his ground ball rate spiked from 49% to 58%. Meanwhile, the pitchers were attacking him in the same manner as before, he just was simply unable to do anything with those mid-zone fastballs. Something was not right.

In the first week of June, the Twins sent him to Rochester with a clear message to fix his swing. “For Danny Santana, it may very well be all in the hands,” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle’s Kevin Oklobzija wrote. “Or, rather, what his hands are doing when he's staring down the pitcher in the batter's box. There's too much movement, Santana believes. He thinks that's why his average with the Minnesota Twins tumbled more than 100 points from last year to this year.”

Whereas teammates like Oswaldo Arcia and Kennys Vargas have mechanics that just scream at you with movement, Santana’s mechanics were more like a whisper. There is a brief twitch from his front foot as he transfers his weight back and then exploded forward with his quick hands to meet the ball with minimal additional effort from any other part of his body. It was repeatable, balanced. However, for whatever reason, Santana added a new element to his chain in 2015. A minor yet notable change in his system that may have been a factor in the reduced and lower quality of contact.

Watch Santana’s swing from the left side from 2014 (top) compared to 2015 (bottom).

Posted Image

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Santana incorporated a new heel lift and in-turn on his front side as part of the loading process as the pitcher is releasing the ball. It is small, it is barely noticeable and yet it is likely playing a role in why his numbers dropped off so fast and so furious.

Download attachment: Danny Santana_2015 Lift.png
2014
Download attachment: Danny Santana_2014 Lift.png
2015



The intent is to generate power when loading the hips (ironically enough it worked wonders for Eduardo Escobar) but in Santana’s case the new movement is pertinent to his struggles as it creates just enough of a glitch in his swing to disrupt the system. Now he is moving while the pitch is coming, throwing off his timing ever so slightly; his head is changing planes and his hands are creating a different swing path (he is making more contact on top of the ball).

With the results of the two seasons as evidence it would seem like an easy decision to encourage Santana to work on returning to his previous swing this winter.

Santana is out of options which this makes it a vital off-season for him. Eduardo Escobar has done everything that has been asked of him and more to earn the starting shortstop position heading into 2016 but Santana has the potential to be a contributor as a utility infielder or a safety valve if Escobar regresses. The Twins do not necessarily need Santana to be a utility player but Brian Dozier’s second-half decline over the past two years suggests that some time off throughout the beginning and middle parts of the year could help extend his season. A combination of Dozier, Escobar and a version of Santana that closely resembles the 2014 model would give the Twins solid middle infield depth. At the very least, a solid performance would create some trade value.

The Twins say they want to get him going. What would you do with Danny Santana in 2016?

***For more discussion on how to build the 2016 Minnesota Twins roster, be sure to get a copy of the Twins Daily Offseason Handbook.***


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#2 tobi0040

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Posted 30 October 2015 - 07:02 AM

This is a no brainer.  Trade him and Ricky Nolasco for Clayton Kershaw

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#3 HitInAPinch

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Posted 30 October 2015 - 07:29 AM

What he was doing this year at the plate is odd:with that little heal-kick, is his front foot moving backwards?The whole concept of a leg kick, heal lift or slide step is to shift the weight forward.And, yeah, Santana didn't stop the hand movements at all this year.

 

But I also have another theory:he was more successful and relaxed when playing center-field last year.Going by positional splits, it's pretty close offensively.I didn't bother to look at defense, as SS is a lot tougher than CF.Santana does have an awesome arm at SS.

 

The Twins do have something of a shortage in the OF, until others prove themselves.As I"ve always said, I think Santana has a higher comfort level in CF and would return to his 2014 form if in CF.

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#4 birdwatcher

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Posted 30 October 2015 - 07:38 AM

Danny needs a hug. I'd hug him.

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#5 Parker Hageman

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Posted 30 October 2015 - 08:12 AM

But I also have another theory:he was more successful and relaxed when playing center-field last year.

 

 

While I don't know if that was necessarily THE REASON he seemed out of sorts this year, I do think there is some mental contributions to why he looked like he was pressing so hard at the plate. The struggles defensively likely carried over in some way. This year's swing appears to be him trying hard to drive the ball.  That combined with the fact that he was swinging more and chasing more, it seems to be something that Santana just needs to take some pressure off himself. 

 

"You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time." -- Jim Bouton, "Ball Four"


#6 TNTwinsFan

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Posted 30 October 2015 - 08:26 AM

That heel raise is throwing his timing off. Fix that and he's a better hitter, and fielder perhaps, as he may take the successes of hitting to the field with him.

#7 Mike Sixel

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Posted 30 October 2015 - 08:37 AM

He's not a SS, imo, and sending him to a team that will put him back in the OF is the right thing to do. There isn't room for him on this roster next year, and he's out of options. He should be traded.

But, I'd guess they keep him on the roster because they are afraid to lose him.....just like they kept Aaron Thompson on the 40 man.
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It's been a fun year so far, GO Twins. 


#8 Seth Stohs

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Posted 30 October 2015 - 09:18 AM

We know Molitor really likes the potential and the tools of Danny Santana. Since Santana is out of options, we know that - unless he's traded - he'll be on the roster. I think his ability to play adequately at SS, 2B and CF, he can prove valuable as a guy who gets 250 at bats, and if there's an injury, you don't mind him playing most everyday for 2 weeks if needed. 

 

I'd have him come spring training and have him take grounders at all three infield spots and all three outfield spots. 

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#9 Parker Hageman

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Posted 30 October 2015 - 09:20 AM

He's not a SS, imo, and sending him to a team that will put him back in the OF is the right thing to do.

 

 

I guess I don't quite understand this stance. He's got all the tools to be a shortstop (great reaction, good range, great arm) including being very good at the double play feed, but seems to have problems "finishing" plays as the Twins put it. I'd personally like to see if he can improve that this spring. One benefit to showing improvement is also increasing his trade value -- Twins can't keep dumping players with good tools who figure it out elsewhere.

 

Escobar is shortstop #1 right now but he's also been prone to cold streaks throughout his career. Having some form of insurance behind him would also be beneficial. 

 

 

 

 

 

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#10 Hosken Bombo Disco

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Posted 30 October 2015 - 09:21 AM

Don't sugar coat it. Danny was starting shortstop through late July! It's also a little concerning that TD posters were all over this last offseason and guys like Parker and red muppet guy can apparently identify swing deficiencies that you wonder if coaches can identify---partly kidding I'm certain the Twins coaches are doing this at a higher level but maybe Bruno has a little of the Ted Williams coaching style in him: "just go out there and hit. It's easy." without being able to help guys understand. We need to figure out why our best hitters slump so bad as the season wears on. All said, good suggestion that maybe Santana is meant to be a center fielder, or for this team a 4th outfielder who only gets in a couple games a week. He improved a ton in Center through the course of 2014. The time to trade him was last offseason.
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#11 stringer bell

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Posted 30 October 2015 - 09:23 AM

Utility IF/OF. If he hits, he could be the next Ben Zobrist, or going further back Toni Phillips. I also think the yoke of "regular SS" was too much for him. Let him fill in and if he hits, find a place for him almost every day.

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#12 Parker Hageman

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Posted 30 October 2015 - 09:28 AM

Don't sugar coat it. Danny was starting shortstop through late July!

 

 

Well...sort of...yeah. 

 

He was the starting shortstop through June 7 when he was sent down to Rochester. When he returned, they gave him a few more weeks of starts. 

 

http://www.baseball-...5-lineups.shtml

 

Ryan addresses this in the handbook interview -- I recommend picking up a copy!

 

 

 

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#13 Hosken Bombo Disco

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Posted 30 October 2015 - 09:30 AM

I'd almost take a regressed Escobar over a return-to-normal Santana in 2016. I'm guessing 2015 was an aberration for Santana and a lot of other young guys.

EDIT: what stringer bell said. Santana will be fine as a utility guy and fill in if necessary, and maybe he does find his hitting stroke again in a part time role.

Edited by Hosken Bombo Disco, 30 October 2015 - 09:33 AM.

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#14 beckmt

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Posted 30 October 2015 - 09:38 AM

You can't trade him now as he is at low value.Hope he improves in spring training and is at least a utility player.Fixing the pitching and bullpen will let you carry a 4th bat.


#15 DaveW

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Posted 30 October 2015 - 09:54 AM

Santana is an all around mediocre player, though I would keep him as a util guy over Nunez or any of the other real options.

<p>Aaron Hicks 2017 stats so far (5/17/17): .326 BA .464 OBP .616 SLG 1.080 OPS 7 HR 19 RBI 6 SB 22 BBs 1.8WAR

#16 Parker Hageman

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Posted 30 October 2015 - 10:19 AM

Santana is an all around mediocre player...

 

 

Mediocre results with above average tools.

 

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#17 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 30 October 2015 - 10:23 AM

I think the pretty obvious choice is to put Santana in the futility role and hope he figures it out. His flexibility on defense and his speed make him a good candidate for the role.

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#18 dgwills

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Posted 30 October 2015 - 10:29 AM

Sounds like he was a victim of his own success. He was very lucky his first year and that led him to take a bad approach at the plate. It's just too hard to overlook things that have worked for you in the past.  He'll still have value as a 4th outfielder/utility infielder going into next year. 


#19 Mike Sixel

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Posted 30 October 2015 - 11:14 AM

You can't trade him now as he is at low value.Hope he improves in spring training and is at least a utility player.Fixing the pitching and bullpen will let you carry a 4th bat.


He had negative value on the team last year, trading him for nothing would have made them better last year. There is little in his minor league career to indicate that will dramatically change, is there?

Why are we worried about losing Danny Santana, when you have:
Buxton, Rosario, Hicks, Arcia, Kepler
Escobar, Dozier, Polanco, (even Nunez), Gordon, and some other guys in AA or even AAA that could be utility guys

Where does Danny Santana fit in in HELPING this team win next year? Or are we punting next year also?
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It's been a fun year so far, GO Twins. 


#20 Mike Sixel

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Posted 30 October 2015 - 11:16 AM

I think the pretty obvious choice is to put Santana in the futility role and hope he figures it out. His flexibility on defense and his speed make him a good candidate for the role.



Sure, he can stand in a lot of positions, but he was the WORST fielding SS last year. In ALL of baseball. Have we already forgotten the adventures on defense in the OF?

He's a great athlete. That does not make him a good MLB player.

It's been a fun year so far, GO Twins. 




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