In reference to the recent Baseball Prospect Retrospective Project, a reader recently asked me how I rated four players who had surprisingly good 2014 seasons: Danny Santana of the Minnesota Twins, Jacob DeGrom of the New York Mets, Matt Shoemaker of the Los Angeles Angels, and Collin McHugh of the Houston Astros. That's a good question, so I'll address those four in the next few days, starting today with Santana.
Santana has played 97 games for the Minnesota Twins this year, hitting .319/.355/.477 with 19 steals in 386 at-bats, excellent for any rookie but especially one who was relatively unheralded pre-season. I wrote reports for Santana in the 2012, 2013, and 2014 additions of the Baseball Prospect Book, with grade breakdowns of C, C, and C+. Here are the reports for your perusal.
2012: The Twins signed Santana from the Dominican Republic in 2007. He is one of the better athletes in the system, with above-average running speed, arm strength, and athleticism. He’s strong for his size, too, and can occasionally surprise you with his power. The biggest issue here is simple rawness. Although he made some progress with the strike zone last year, he still swings at bad pitches too often and remains more hacker than hitter. He has the arm strength and range to be a fine defensive shortstop, but gets sloppy on routine plays. He spent time at second base and center field last year, and his long-term position is still in question. He may be groomed as a utility player. Santana’s work ethic and makeup have also been questioned, although he is young enough to outgrow those issues. Grade C, with potential to improve.
2013: Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2007, Daniel Santana has five years of minor league experience on his resume, but is still just 22. He made some progress last season, cutting down his strikeout rate at the plate while adding some defensive refinement. He will show unexpected pop at times, but is impatient and it will be interesting to see what he does against better pitching. Santana is being groomed as a utility guy, spending time at shortstop, second base, and center field. I think second is his best fit but versatility is always helpful. Grade C.
2014: The Twins signed Santana out of the Dominican Republic in 2007. Although he hasn’t received much attention outside of Minnesota circles, he has some skills and is a good bet to see major league action some time in 2014. A switch-hitter, he is a line drive guy with some occasional pop to the gaps. He runs quite well and is increasingly adept at using his speed on the bases. His biggest weakness is impatience: he seldom draws walks, hampering his value as a tablesetter. He does bunt well. Santana’s range and arm play well at shortstop, though he needs to cut down on routine errors. He can also play second base if needed, and fits the profile of a utility infielder. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is something about Santana that makes me think he could exceed expectations at some point. I’m gonna stick a "+" on his rating to reflect that. Grade C+
ANALYSIS: Santana blossomed this year, completing the process of turning his tools into skills. Although I couldn't exactly articulate why, I picked up on this possibility last year, even though it wasn't particularly apparent in his statistical profile, which was almost the same in 2013 as it was in 2012. It was a hunch that panned out, I suppose. There were a few makeup complaints about Santana early in his career but he outgrew those concerns.
Santana is rather impatient and he's never really hit this well before. His BABIP this year is unsustainably high at .400, yet he's remained effective the entire season and the pitchers haven't figured him out yet; he is as hot now as he was back in June.
Bottom line: Although I think he's a little over his head right now and some backsliding will occur, I think Santana is mainly for real and will continue to play well, if perhaps not quite this well. I wish he drew more walks, but his combination of increasing power, speed, and defensive versatility should make him a valuable property going forward.