Jun 7, 2014; Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
.319 Avg./.359 OBP/.444 SLG. That is Danny Santana’s combined 2014 stat line through June 11, 2014, with 24 games coming at Triple A and 24 games with the Minnesota Twins. Those numbers are really really good, especially when you are talking about a potential long-term answer at shortstop for the Twins. However, they don’t tell the full picture of his season. With equal games at both levels, logic would suggest that his numbers are inflated by a great start in Rochester and his current time with the Twins is pulling those numbers down. But somehow and in some way the case is exactly the opposite, with Santana’s AAA numbers bringing down his season statistics. Santana had a .268/.311/.381 batting line with the Red Wings but now sports a crazy .370/.407/.506 batting line up a level with the Twins. He isn’t just succeeding at the MLB level, he is excelling, putting up basically 100 point increases across his entire triple slash. This begs the question, what is Danny Santana doing? Is he playing way above his ability? Or has he somehow found another gear to play at in the major leagues?
In the Twins game against the San Diego Padres back on May 21st, Santana went 0 for 4 with 4 strikeouts. Three of the K’s looked very similar, with Santana swinging through a breaking ball after falling behind on a count of 1-2 and two counts of 0-2. Up to that point he had been hitting a phenomenal .375/.444/.500 in his first nine games and I clearly remember thinking that this game was going to be when his numbers were going to start dropping back to earth. Rookies usually have it pretty good during their debuts since they can pounce on fastballs and build up some great averages before pitchers start to adjust their approaches to get them out. Ask Chris Parmelee and Josmil Pinto if you don’t believe it. Santana came out of the gates really well but those feeble-looking strikeouts made me think the scouting report on Santana was complete and he would struggle to adjust. But now, 14 games later, Santana’s stat line looks just as impressive, especially considering that he is mostly playing an entirely new position in center field.
Nonetheless, these numbers can’t last. Santana’s Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) for the Twins is sitting at .483. That means that Santana is getting a hit almost half of the times that he puts the ball in fair territory. His speed has some part to play in that high number because he can run out infield singles but it is still extremely unsustainable. For comparison’s sake, Santana’s BABIP was .377 with Rochester this year and if he can level out on even that relatively high number the Twins would be really happy. His numbers will fall when his BABIP starts to fall but until then maybe his 2013 Double A slash of .297/.333/.386 is a good place to hope he will end up and not anything lower.
In 9 of his last 10 games he has batted lead off and in those nine games as lead off hitter he has hits in 8 of them. His position at the top of the order seems like a great match but his position in the field is the opposite. Certainly his ability to be in center field has helped out the Twins with Aaron Hicks and Sam Fuld being down and out for various reasons but it isn’t the right position for him. He needs to get reps at shortstop to get a better feel for the game at the top level since his defense there has been suspect at times coming up through the system. Eduardo Escobar has certainly earned his playing time at the plate so it would make a lot of sense long term to flip him and Santana in the field so they can both still play. Escobar started the season as an emergency center fielder anyway and Santana hasn’t proved to be too much more than that as a defender in center. Santana has a great arm and is super fast but instincts could more than make up for that if Escobar happens to have any in the outfield. Doesn’t giving Santana a chance now to prove he could play shortstop for the Twins for the next 3-4 years outweigh maybe sacrificing some defense at both positions for a small adjustment period? I think so.
Wherever he plays, Danny Santana has proven himself to be a really exciting player and this start should keep him in the Minnesota Twins plans for the rest of the season. Hopefully the Twins find more time for him at shortstop and if his stats even out at a high enough level there should be no doubt about his status on the team for 2015 and maybe beyond. The Twins are looking for a stopgap at shortstop until new draftee Nick Gordon arrives and Danny Santana has a great shot at that job.