Fantasy Baseball Prospects: Astros’ Domingo Santana Somewhat Unheralded

In somewhat the same thread as the Chicago Cubs, the Houston Astros completely changed course for the franchise over the last few years, and now they are mostly rebuilding from within. They have already seen some of this come to fruition as George Springer and Jon Singleton have made their mark on the team this year, with varying levels of success.

Another big bat that has come up for the Astros is Domingo Santana, the Dominican Republic native that was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies back in 2009. He was one of the pieces, along with Singleton, that was traded to the Astros in 2011 in exchange for Hunter Pence.

Background

Santana is a very big right-handed bat. Depending on the publication, Santana weighs anywhere between 200-230 pounds (though I’d guess he’s towards the upper limit) and stands 6-foot-5. His stature is just scratching the surface of his impressiveness, though.

Santana signed with the Phillies just before the 2009 season as a 16-year-old, and actually ended up on their Rookie ball team later that year. In 37 games, Santana slugged over .500, an impressive mark for any 16-year-old baseball player.

His first full pro season came in 2010 as a 17-year-old. As could be expected, Santana struggled. His OPS was just .663, but he managed to draw 52 walks between Low-A Williamsport and Single-A at Lakewood. Those 52 walks came along with 149 strikeouts, so it’s not like he was Victor Martinez down there. He had a monster 35.8-percent strikeout rate, but also a very solid 12.5-percent walk rate. It was 2011, though, where he really started to make hay.

The 2011 season saw Santana start at Single-A Lakewood again, before moving to Single-A Lexington after the trade to Houston. It’s important to remember that at this point, Santana was still just 18 years old. Even guys who get drafted out of high school aren’t asked to play a full year of pro baseball until they’re 19. As an 18-year-old at Single-A, Santana’s walk rate dropped to 6.9-percent, but his strikeout rate also dropped, finishing at 28.9-percent. He managed 39 extra-base hits – 12 of them home runs – and all in all put up a very good 18-year-old season.

The next two years, the 2012 and 2013 season, were even better for Santana.

2012

Santana was promoted to High-A Lancaster for the 2012 season, and finished the year clubbing 23 home runs, adding 26 doubles, while cutting down his strikeout rate again (down to 28.2-percent) while jacking his walk rate way up, getting up to 10.5-percent. Santana was now walking enough where his strikeout rate wouldn’t destroy his batting average, and in fact, he hit .302 that year.

2013

Last year, the strikeout rate was back up, but just a shade for Santana at 29.2-percent. His walk rate dropped a bit, too, going down to 9.7-percent. He did have 25 home runs, though, along with 23 doubles, making it 48 home runs and 49 doubles in two years. He also played the entire 2013 season at Double-A, so Santana had been progressing steadily for years, and had been performing well at every level.

2014

This year was a full year at Triple-A for Santana, and while he had struggled at times when being promoted a level, Santana most certainly did not in 2014. He did have just 16 home runs, but he still had 27 doubles, and he improved his rates again: in 513 Triple-A plate appearances, Santana walked 12.5-percent of the time while his strikeout rate was back down to an even 29-percent.

For his last three years in the minors, going from High-A to Triple-A (1514 plate appearances), Santana had a 10.9-percent walk rate and a 28.8-percent strikeout rate. He can live with those numbers as long as he’s mashing the ball, which he’s shown he can.

Fantasy Outlook

Again, a reminder that Santana just turned 22 years old, but next year will be his seventh professional baseball season. After his full season in Triple-A, and subsequent stop for a cup of coffee in July and August, it would seem that he’s ready for a full-time MLB gig. There really isn’t that much blocking him at either corner outfield position for Houston, as left and right field see names like Alex Presley, L.J. Hoes, Robbie Grossman, and Jake Marisnick taking time. Those latter two names are the only real blockers, but neither has really been able to solidify themselves as at least average Major Leaguers.

Santana does have 18 steals over his last two seasons but that’s not his game at all. There is power in the bat of this kid. He’s certainly no Kris Bryant, but Santana is more than capable of a .260 season with 15-20 home runs if he does get a full year with the Astros next season. He just needs to remain consistent with his plate approach.

There’s not a lot of fanfare among fantasy owners with regards to Santana. It’s been the likes of Springer, Singleton, and Correa that have gotten most of the press. That can be a good thing for the draft position of Santana next year. He’s not by any stretch a plug-and-play outfielder in 12-team fantasy leagues next year, but a bench flier at the end of drafts isn’t a bad gamble, either.

*As always, thanks to Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, and The Baseball Cube for their resources

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