If you were offered a 23-year-old ballplayer with both shortstop and outfield eligibility, who hit .319/.353/.472 with seven homers and 20 steals in 430 plate appearances…would you keep him? If you were a hot dog…would you eat yourself? These are important questions. The player is Danny Santana, whose rookie season with the Twins was useful to fantasy owners despite his May arrival and lost time with a leg injury. Santana is going to be an on-the-fence decision in a lot of shallow keeper leagues, which makes him worth discussing for the purposes of this keeper post.
If your league keeps just a handful of players, say five or so, then Santana is not going to enter your field of vision. But if you’re in a league that keeps 10 or more players, he gets interesting. Part of it is his successful rookie year, but he’s also bringing some extra value to the table thanks to his age (23), his dual eligibility in most formats (SS/OF), and what was probably a low price to acquire in 2014. I’m guessing many leagues had him on and off waivers for the better part of the 2014 season, and yet he ended up ranking 11th on the Razzball player rater among shortstops. So what’s his value going forward? Is he worth keeping for 2015?
As Grey mentioned in his top 20 shortstops post earlier this week, Santana wasn’t even getting full time at bats until July. So his numbers could have been even better with 600+ plate appearances under his belt. Another positive is that Santana used his speed to get on base and help in the stolen base category. Almost 20% of his hits were infield hits and his stolen base percentage was a very solid 83% (20-for-24). The wear and tear of his first season and a leg injury didn’t slow him down as the year progressed. He ended up swiping six bags in August and another eight in September. He’s a switch-hitter who saw both righties and lefties well, and smacked line drives at a 26% clip. When it was all said and done, Santana was worth 133 wRC+ in 2014, ranking second only to Hanley Ramirez among shortstops with at least 400 PA.
What does the future look like? Santana enjoyed a BABIP north of .400 in 2014. Some of that is the type of player he is (speed, liners, grounders), but it’s also fair to expect the number to regress. Both his walk and strikeout percentages were below average. If they don’t improve, it will be impossible to expect the same .300+ batting average and would in turn keep his steals and runs in check. He also never hit more than eight homers in the minor leagues, so power’s not his game and it’s hard to realistically project him for double-digit homers down the road. Now that we’ve got all the buzzkill realism behind us, he’s still a really nice player. Santana could easily end up in the top 12 again next year barring a sophomore slump. Steamer is projecting 72/7/51/24/.271 for 2015. I’m not one to argue with robots, but that projection is for a .326 BABIP, and I could see that number being a bit higher. Aside from homers, I think Santana will beat that projection in runs, steals, and average…especially if he can improve his approach as the Twins’ everyday leadoff hitter.
The possibility for 30 steals from middle infield without leaving us high and dry in power is valuable. The 23-year-old’s position flexibility and low price in most leagues makes him a legit keeper option.