The final piece of the Hunter Pence trade is on its way up to the big leagues.
The Astros announced yesterday that they will be bringing Domingo Santana up to the show to help inject their outfield and lineup with some more youth and thunder. Jareds.Got.Moxy takes a closer look at what fantasy owners can expect from the young outfielder.
Santana entered the year as a top 10 prospect for the Astros, after being a PTBNL in the aforementioned Hunter Pence trade a few years back. Santana is a big boy – checking in at 6 foot 5 inches and about 225 pounds, currently only 21 years old (he turns 22 in just over a month). In fact, he was one of the youngest players at the AAA level this year before getting the call to the major league club. His power was always his calling card, sporting a very high ISO and the ability to drive the ball with his mature frame. But what can we expect from him in fantasy leagues?
As is the case with many young prospects, particularly hitters, Santana is going to be challenged significantly in the big leagues. He sports a very high career K rate, but has made some minor strides to improve this from last year in AA (29.2% in 2013 to 27.5% in 2014). While he does strike out a lot, he also has the propensity to take a walk (9.7% in 2013 to 11.1% in 2014) and as you can see, has improved in this area this season. What does concern me is his contact rate of 69%, which leaves a lot to be desired and will certainly put a cap on what we can expect from him in the batting average department.
There are a couple numbers that do point to some reasons for optimism, though. Firstly, let’s see how he’s been able to strengthen his batted-ball profile from AA to AAA (as Scott Strandberg mentions in his writeup of Santana from May 30th at Fangraphs.com):
- 2013 (Double-A) – 16.5% LD, 41.4% GB, 42.1% FB
- 2014 (Triple-A) – 26.4% LD, 52.9% GB, 20.7% FB
Significant improvements in the line drive department, with reductions in his fly ball percentage and growth in ground balls. What a difference a year makes for Santana, as these are major improvements worth taking note of. Are they sustainable? We can only hope so – but it’s not realistic to expect him to maintain his 2014 AAA levels in the MLB.
As mentioned above, his isolated power rating is something that gets him into our radars in fantasy leagues, as he does offer some nice upside in the home run department.
- 2012 (High-A) – .234 & 23 HR
- 2013 (Double-A) – .245 & 25 HR
- 2014 (Triple-A) – .197 & 13 HR (20+ HR pace over a full year of at bats)
Despite the drop in ISO from 2013 to 2014, we’ve also seen his average jump over 50 points (.252 to .304) and his BABIP also improved significantly (.316 to .406) – likely a result of the batted-ball results referenced earlier.
The .406 BABIP rate from his 2014 season at AAA is incredibly high – and should not be expected to continue in the majors. What’s important to know however is that Santana does have quite a high career minor league BABIP (.374) – so we can safely assume he’ll be able to maintain a .300+ number in the major leagues thanks to making hard contact. But, as I mentioned above, his high K rate and low contact percentage limit his batting average upside to something in the .230 – .250 range over the course of his career.
Oliver projects him to be about a 22 HR, 80 RBI hitter with a sub-.225 average and single-digit steals – and this is just about what fantasy owners can expect from Santana over the course of a full season. A decent comparison would be the recently promoted C.J. Cron – a guy with power but a low batting average, low contact rate and high strikeout tendencies (who many were describing as “A Poor Man’s Mark Trumbo”). With improvements in the contact department as he gets more experience under his belt (remember, Santana is just 21 years old), he could mature into a 25+ HR, 90 RBI, .260+ average hitter in his prime (think Corey Hart, Nick Swisher, Carlos Quentin as fair comparisons for upside).
For now, expectations must be kept in check for Santana. He’s young, he’s fairly raw, and he’s going to be tested significantly by the best pitching that baseball has to offer. The Astros will likely plug him into the lineup just about every day the rest of the way, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him hit 5-8 HR, drive in 20-25 Runs, score 18-22 times and steal a couple bags while hitting .210 – .235 (depending where his BABIP and LD% come in).
He should be owned in AL-only and dynasty leagues, on the radar of keeper league owners in need of power. However, he shouldn’t be someone counted on in standard 10 or 12-team leagues for at least a couple years until we see what he’ll do over a full season of at bats.
Way too early 2015 projections: 23 HR, 72 RBI, 65 Runs, 7 SB, .228 AVG
Sources: Fangraphs.com, Baseballreference.com, Thebaseballcube.com