Twins

Danny Santana Has Transformed as a Player Since Leaving Minnesota

Sep 27, 2019; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers first baseman Danny Santana (38) is congratulated in the dugout after hitting a two run home run in the first inning against the New York Yankees at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Twins enter Spring Training seeking a replacement for Marwin Gonzalez. Although Luis Arraez is ticketed for the role, Gonzalez played so many positions over the past two seasons that it may be difficult for one player to cover them all. They are also trying to find depth in the infield. In the wake of Royce Lewis‘ injury, everyone on the roster steps up a spot, diminishing the options at the lower levels.

This could lead to a potential reunion with Danny Santana. According to Dan Hayes of The Athletic, the Twins are interested in bringing Santana back on a minor-league deal. Whether it makes sense from a baseball perspective is up for debate, but Santana’s return could be a feel-good story.

Santana was one of the surprising contributors of the Twins march through the 2010s. He had a strong rookie season in 2014, joining a team that was mired in the basement of the American League Central. He slashed .319/.353/.472, with seven homers and 40 RBI, and finished seventh in the American League Rookie of the Year Award voting in 2014.

But he lacked discipline at the plate. Santana struck out 98 times in 430 plate appearances in his rookie season and drew just 19 walks. With a BABIP of .405, regression hit Santana hard, and he was designated for assignment in 2017.

Santana was traded to the Atlanta Braves in 2017 and received 171 at-bats in the next two years. But he had his real breakout with the Texas Rangers. After only 28 at-bats with Atlanta in 2018, he found his old form and raking in Arlington.

Santana hit .283/.324/.534 with 28 homers and 81 RBI in 2019. He also stole 21 bases, a career-high. Any team would want that kind of offensive output, but he was also used all over the diamond. The 30-year-old played everywhere but catcher in 2019. In 2020 he was limited to 15 games before undergoing elbow surgery, opening up an opportunity for the Twins to add him in Spring Training.

When Santana is right, his offensive ability is superior to Gonzalez’s. The former Houston Astros utility man didn’t match the .274/.349/..467 line with 39 HR and 158 RBI during his final two years in Houston, hitting .248/.311/.387 with 20 homers and 77 RBI.

Santana would join a loaded lineup, and Minnesota could catch him after his rebound in Texas. While he can produce at the plate, Santana can also give the Twins a late-game option on the base paths.

The Twins have been last in stolen bases for each of the past two seasons. Now the MLB is deadening the baseball, meaning Minnesota can’t be as homer-reliant as they’ve been in the past.

Santana can also play in the outfield, which currently has a log jam of left-handed hitters. While Arraez was used in left field during the 2019 season, Santana played 374.2 innings in the outfield. He’s a switch-hitter who would break up the all-lefty crew of Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Alex Kirilloff, and Jake Cave.

What Santana also brings is a redemption story wherever he lands. Back in 2017, it appeared his career was at a crossroads. Two years later, he put up massive numbers for the Rangers and looks like a player on the verge of putting everything together.

Santana probably won’t be an All-Star, but he could be a very good player if he learns how to put everything together—and offer the Twins great value on the free-agent market.

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Sep 27, 2019; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers first baseman Danny Santana (38) is congratulated in the dugout after hitting a two run home run in the first inning against the New York Yankees at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

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