Deep Dive: Is Domingo Santana The Real Deal?
Oh, how time flies! It feels like just yesterday the fantasy baseball community couldn’t get enough of Domingo Santana. The year was 2017 and Santana introduced himself in a big way to the fantasy baseball scene. 2017 was such a good year that it led to an inflated draft price entering the 2018 fantasy baseball season. The inflation made no sense especially after the offseason the Brewers had.
The Brewers went out and acquired Yelich via trade, Lorenzo Cain via free agency, and already had Ryan Braun entrenched in an everyday role. The playing time crunch was apparent but ignored by most of the fantasy community. Entering the 2018 season, Santana was set up for failure from the start and for some reason, it was widely ignored. That was likely due to what he flashed in 2017 and the belief that talent would win out. Although the talent was never in question, the lack of consistent playing time and overall opportunity caused Santana to come up way short of expectations in 2018. Santana went from breakout to bust rather quickly.
Now we fast forward to 2019 and Domingo Santana was traded to the Seattle Mariners. This was great for Santana as it opened up an everyday opportunity for him there. This turned him into a popular sleeper pick as 2019 draft season came around. He then got off to that hot start and was arguably the hottest commodity in fantasy baseball and a very popular sell high candidate.
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Domingo Santana Breakdown
Santana has become one of the most valuable picks of the 2019 fantasy baseball season. It begs the question, was 2017 an outlier? Was 2018 a lost season due to lack of consistent playing time paired with struggles and growing pains? Let’s take a look and see who the real Domingo Santana is.
Domingo Santana got off to an absolutely scorching start to the year. Since then, the hype has died down but the production has been pretty steady. I feel a lot of people haven’t noticed, but he has quietly been a very solid fantasy contributor this year. He is ranked 27th overall in roto formats and 47th overall in points formats. Yes, you read that correctly. That is overall not just in the outfield ranks. The crazy part is he is only 81% owned in Yahoo formats, 86.5% in ESPN leagues, 93% in CBS leagues and 96% in Fantrax leagues. This should go without saying, but Santana should and needs to be universally owned.
Santana is currently producing in all categories with 45 runs, 17 home runs, 58 RBI, and has chipped in 5 steals. He has sneaky double-digit steal upside but that’s more from his skill because he’s only in the 46th percentile of sprint speed. I won’t argue with the results though and neither should you. He currently has a triple slash of .283/.349/.508. He’s been so great yet I still receive so many questions about him this year. We are going to dive deeper and see if we can answer those questions and hope to put you at ease with you thoughts on Santana. Let’s get to it.
Domingo Santana has always had an aggressive approach to the plate. He currently has a K rate of 28.7%. That’s a bit higher than you’d expect from such a solid hitter but it’s actually a career-best mark. He has a league average walk rate at 8.8% so although he does have a bit of swing and miss in his game, he has a pretty patient approach. Speaking of swing and miss, let’s check out his plate discipline metrics compared to league average this year.
These metrics pretty much fall in line with what he’s producing on the surface but a few things do stand out. The very first thing that stands out to me, is the great O-Swing% (or chase rate) of only 27.1%! That’s 3.8% below league average. On the flip side, you notice his contact percentages are a tad lower than league average across the board which leads to the swing and miss in his game I mentioned previously. This is further backed by the slightly above average swinging strike rate of 13.4%. All in all, nothing is all that alarming here. I am a huge fan of a player who pairs a good walk rate and a good chase rate. It shows he has a good approach and a solid batting eye. If he can continue to improve the contact rates he’d take his game to an even higher level.
If you actually look at Domingo Santana’s breakout year of 2017 and compare it to 2019, you’ll notice he actually has a slightly improved plate approach with only a few changes. That in itself is very encouraging. In 2017 he has a higher walk rate by 3.2% and a negligible difference in chase rate but otherwise, he’s improved just about everywhere else. Every single contact percentage has risen across the board and he’s done this while slightly bringing down the swinging strike rate and K rate.
What you see is some growth in the plate approach. A full-time role and unlimited opportunity to prove himself has allowed him to build upon those successes from 2017 to this point in the 2019 season. I like what I’m seeing so far. Let’s keep digging.
Statcast Data and Batted Ball Profile
Well, as if those plate discipline metrics weren’t encouraging enough, the statcast data and batted ball profile sure are. His current production and his expected stats are pretty much in line with one another.
As you can see, his BA of .282 and an xBA of .284 are only 0.02 points apart. This couldn’t get much closer and shows the batting average isn’t a fluke. The wOBA of .366 and xWOBA OF .383 also suggest it’s legitimate with a chance and room to actually slightly improve. And as if that wasn’t enough optimism for you, take a quick look at his SLG and xSLG. With a SLG of .503 and an xSLG of .546, which is top 7% in the league, it falls in line with the likelihood of some growth in the power department as well. Keep in mind that a factor that plays into the difference in the SLG and xSLG is the home park. It’s well known that T-Mobile park isn’t a very favorable ball park for hitters.
All in all, the statcast data backs up every aspect of what he’s done to this point on the year. It’s very impressive and reason to believe in this being who he is. If you take a look at his 2017 statcast data, you’ll notice he has taken the step forward across the board as well which was first indicated in the plate discipline metrics. Let’s not quit while we’re ahead, let’s jump right into the batted ball data.
The first thing that jumps out at me is how Domingo Santana has improved his hard-hit rate. The hard-hit rate is up to 46.5% which is well above league average. The next thing that stands out is that Santana added some loft to his swing with a launch angle of 12.8 degrees which is a career high. With the change in launch angle, there’s a noticeable change in the batted ball data. One thing I truly harp on is tangible change. I love seeing an improvement that is accompanied by tangible change.
The launch angle change has led to career-best marks across the board. His GB rate improved to 39.3%, FB rate is at 26.1% and an LD rate of 32.2%. Not only are these career-best marks, but they’re all well above league average. The change in launch angle has proved to be a very good and positive change.
That BABIP definitely stands out as well and people may look at it as unsustainable. Even I am very wary buying into such a high BABIP, but he has a career BABIP of .360 so regression may not be coming too much in the BABIP department. He can attribute that in part to being a solid all fields hitter. He sprays the ball around almost evenly across the board. It’s actually pretty refreshing to see someone who still hits to all fields and does it with success. It’s a lost art in today’s game.
Rest Of Season Outlook
I believe Domingo Santana is a stud. He is a top 50-60 player the rest of the way who provides five-category upside. He has done everything to prove 2017 was not a fluke and that 2018 was the outlier. Santana has been given an everyday spot in the lineup and has run with it. He has become the type of player you plug into your lineups weekly and leave in without thinking.
If you’re looking to sell high you’d have to aim high. Maybe pair him and go after a top two or three round caliber player. Even then you may not be upgrading him by a ton because he has produced basically as a top two or three round player himself this year. Everything in the numbers and metrics backs up that he should continue to be a solid piece to your fantasy teams. I don’t think he’s viewed in the light he should. Unfortunately, I don’t believe you’ll get the value you deserve if you were to try to dangle your Santana share on the trade block.
With that said, I would likely hold on and enjoy the ride. The crazy part is I feel the perceived under appreciation he is currently receiving and the lack of belief in him being this good because you may be able to buy high at a reasonable price. I love what he’s shown us thus far and I’ve bought in. I believe it’s time you should buy in too.
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