The Cleveland Indians beefed up their outfield today, as they have signed outfielder Domingo Santana to a one-year deal. We take a look at the new Indians outfielder, and what he may bring to Cleveland.
Indians Sign Domingo Santana
Santana signed a one-year deal with Cleveland, and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that the 27-year old will make $1.5M USD in 2020. Rosenthal also reported that Santana received a club option for 2021, and he would make $5M should Cleveland pick it up.
Last season with the Mariners, Santana posted a .253/.329/.441 slash line, while hitting 21 home runs and 42 extra base hits (20 2B, 1 3B, 21 HR). It was just the second time in his MLB career that Santana hit the 20 home run plateau, as the only season where Santana also hit that mark was 2017. That season was a career year for the 27-year old, as Santana posted an .875 OPS and smacked 30 home runs for the Brewers in 2017. However, the following season was less than stellar for Santana, as the additions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain, the emergence of Jesus Aguilar, and a slump at the plate squeezed Santana out of the lineup. The Dominican Republic native was sent down to the Minors in June of 2018, and was not recalled until September.
Seattle acquired him back in December of 2018 from the Brewers in exchange for outfielder Ben Gamel and minor league RHP Noah Zavolas. In 2019, Santana had a strong first half, posting an .850 OPS and hitting 18 home runs. However, the second half was none too kind to Santana, as he dealt with elbow inflammation, and the 27-year old only batted .128 and hit just three home runs and four extra base hits during that time.
Santana Versus Fastballs and Breaking Balls
As far as last season went, Santana performed just fine against fastballs, as he batted .286 and slugged .507 off of them. The 27-year old has traditionally hit well against fastballs in the past, and last year’s numbers were about normal for him. In addition, 11 of his 21 dingers were off of fastballs. However, the problems for Santana came when pitchers went to the breaking balls against him. While his numbers against all breaking balls weren’t horrendous (.204 AVG, .388 SLG, 8 HR), the Dominican native struggled with the curve in 2019.
Santana batted just .122 of the curve (he saw the pitch 10.7% of the time in 2019), and his Whiff% and Put Away% rates both went up last season when comparing the numbers to 2017.
|Year||Pitch||% Pitch Seen||AVG||SLG||Whiff%||Put Away%|
Santana’s Strikeout Problems
Another problem for Santana last season was the amount of times Santana struck out in 2019. Santana’s 32.3% K% rate was the third most among outfielders (min. 450 PA) in MLB last season. The only two outfielders with a higher K% rate in 2019 were Wil Myers (34.3%) and Teoscar Hernandez (33.0%). Those numbers look worse for the 27-year old when looking at his post-All-Star numbers, as his 44.4% K% rate was the worst among all outfielders in the Majors after July 9 (min. 100 PA). This wasn’t the first year that Santana has struggled with the strikeout, but considering the hitting ability the former Mariner possesses, this move may very well be worth the risk. But, how does the Indians’ outfield stack up with this move?
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Indians Outfield in 2020
When we went over the Indians’ chances of competing in the AL Central this season, we were a bit concerned about Cleveland’s outfield. Not because they’re lacking bodies, as with the addition of Santana, the Indians now have 10 players who can play the outfield on their 40-man roster. Rather, we were concerned with with regards to how much production Cleveland can get from their outfield this season.
Santana should help in that regard, as he has some pop and can provide some depth in the outfield for Cleveland. However, his defensive inefficiencies (first percentile in OAA according to Baseball Savant) could mean he moves to the DH slot. Oscar Mercado is a lock to start in the outfield, and then there’s Franmil Reyes, who hit 37 home runs last season between the Padres and Indians and spent most of his time with the Indians in the DH slot. But over the winter, Reyes dropped almost 20 pounds in the hopes that he can man an outfield spot in 2020. If Reyes can earn a spot in the field after Spring Training, that would possibly leave one spot open in the field, provided that Santana slots in as the Indians’ DH. Greg Allen, Jordan Luplow and Delino DeShields would be among the options that Cleveland would have for that final spot.
With the addition of Santana, the Indians now have some more options, as the 27-year old does give Cleveland a bat with some pop and can do some serious damage at times. It may not be a sexy move, but it certainly doesn’t hurt by adding the former Brewer and Mariner.
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