Breaking Down the Domingo Santana Trade (Fantasy Baseball)
Post-holiday gloom. It’s definitely a thing. There are way too many leftover cookies, the house is a mess, and fantasy football playoffs just wrapped up. You’re in a sad, sad state, probably draped in some ugly (but not on purpose) sweater that you got from Grandma, while you ponder what life’s meaning is right now.
The one silver lining is that you can now ramp back into full fantasy baseball mode. But get ready to be depressed again, because the MLB offseason is moving at a snail’s pace. As neither Bryce Harper nor Manny Machado have yet to sign—and don’t appear to be doing so anytime soon—that means guys like A.J. Pollock and Mike Moustakas are potentially months from also signing.
And that, my friends, leaves us with Domingo Santana qualifying as worthwhile news. Now, some people may not remember how useful he was as a fantasy asset way back in 2017. He had a shiny .278/.371/.505 triple-slash, which helped produce a fantastic 127 wRC+. For comparison’s sake, Javier Baez’s wRC+ was 131 when he was runner-up MVP in 2018. Santana’s 2017 bWAR was 3.3, which was two full wins above Harper (GASP!) in 2018. When you add it up, he was the 22nd best outfielder in 2017.
As you are more aware, 2018 was a year to forget for the 26 year-old. He only played in 85 big league games, finishing with just five homers and 20 RBI. He had a very rough start to the season, played in the minors all of August, and had only 24 regular-season plate appearances in September/October for the Brewers. This trade, which sent him to Seattle for Ben Gamel and Noah Zavolas, was written on the wall. Gamel, going to the loaded Brewers’ outfield, is not worth discussing from a fantasy perspective as of now.
When you dig deeper into why his 2018 was so poor, the writing is also on the wall. This hypothetical wall (courtesy of FanGraphs) is littered with bad news:
- His walk rate slightly dropped, his K rate increased 3.5 points, and his ISO dropped 80 points.
- His line-drive percentage dropped four percent from 2017, which coincided with a four percent increase to his ground-ball rate.
- His HR/FB rate was a too-good-be-true 30.9% in 2017, and that regressed to 13.2% in 2018.
- His oppo rate decreased dramatically from 28% in 2017 to 19.7% in 2018.
- The scariest thing about his peripherals is that his BABIP in 2017 was a well above-average .363, and that increased to an unsightly .386 in 2018! And he still put up terrible numbers!
FanGraphs has him slated as the starting left fielder of the
wayward confusing intriguing Mariners. Even on a depleted team, he figures to bat no higher than sixth, unless Edwin Encarnacion gets moved. He put up his great 2017 batting in the fifth spot in the order the majority of the time, so being low in the order does not necessarily mean a drop in production. He also gets a full-time playing spot now, as some guys named Dylan Moore and Kristopher Negron are backing him up in left field. That’s a little bit different than fighting for playing time with Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, Ryan Braun, and Eric Thames. He will get an extensive amount of time to work out his 2018 kinks and show that he can still produce. Despite how bad his 2018 was, he was only a below-average hitter (in terms of wRC+) by 3%. This shows that Santana’s floor, while below average, could be much worse. Of course, the Mariners could make more moves, but the outfield of Santana, Mallex Smith, and Mitch Haniger is young and has a ton of upside. Assuming they make more moves, Santana probably will keep his starting spot. He has shown that he is not the best outfielder, so playing for an AL team may mean more turns at DH instead of riding the pine.
The AL West’s pitching is likely a bit worse than the NL Central. The Athletics do not have any intimidating starters, and the Astros are without Lance McCullers, Charlie Morton, and Dallas Keuchel (most likely), leaving their rotation in a much different situation headed into 2019. The Angels’ staff can’t seem to stay healthy, and the Rangers signed Lance Lynn to be their ace, which shows you all you need to know about their pitching staff. We’ll give Santana a bump here.
However, much of the upside of moving to Seattle is negated by his home park, T-Mobile Park (wow, I miss Safeco). His old digs, Miller Park, is typically perceived as a hitter’s haven, but it actually ranked in the middle of the pack in both runs and homers in 2018. However, Seattle ranked 27th (really bad) in runs and 15th in homers (not so bad), so obviously this is not ideal for him.
All-in-all, it’s hard to trust that he can rebound from his miserable 2018, but maybe I’m suffering from recency bias. His combined 2016/2017 stats are as follows: 41 homers, 117 RBI, 122 runs, and 17 stolen bases. However, a fun nugget in there is that he only played half of 2016. If you prorate his numbers to a 150-game season (which he played in 2017), those two-year numbers jump to 51 homers, 144 RBI, 154 runs, and 19 stolen bases. You can certainly make the case that the league had trouble figuring him out during that timeframe, and then solved him in 2018. I’m more likely to believe that case, and it looks like Steamer believes that as well. Steamer is currently projecting Santana for 19 bombs, 68 runs, 66 RBI, and seven steals, which seems like an accurate line. He should see a bump in ISO levels but a big drop-off in BABIP, which filters through to the fantasy stats you care about.
His current FantasyPros ECR is the 142nd best hitter and 231st overall player, which means you’re drafting him at the back end. There are a wide variety of opinions, as his range is from 193 to 358. Guys being drafted around him include Jeurys Familia, Yonder Alonso, and Adam Ottavino. I think I would prefer those guys right now over Mr. Santana. Given his less potent offense, porous home park, and unsustainable peripherals from his great 2017, I tend to see him as falling outside the top 250. But maybe that’s just my post-holiday blues.