Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’17 — #16 Domingo Santana


I’m writing this piece on Monday, March 20, 2017 which is decidedly not 16 days away from Opening Day. In fact it is 14 days away, a day reserved this season for Hernan Pérez. Unfortunately I got busy with real life and my brain misfired in thinking that I had indeed posted on Saturday. But it’s hard to post what was apparently never written.

I digress, and will also be writing on Pérez later today, but let’s first give proper attention to…

Domingo Santana.

As a quick reminder, because certain aspects of player acquisition can get muddied in one’s brain, Santana first came to the Milwaukee Brewers organization in 2015. He was the MLB-ready piece in the multi-player deal with the Houston Astros which sent Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers down south.

The deal went down at the deadline that year and Santana would make his Brewers debut on Friday, August 21st. All he did that night was contribute a two-run home run in a 10–3 Milwaukee win. Santana finished the Brewers portion of his 2015 with a .231/.345/.421/.766 slash line in 145 plate appearances across 38 games. It was said at the time of the trade that while he had little left to accomplish at the Triple-A level, he still was an unfinished ballplayer.

The Brewers hoped that 2016 would give the 23-year-old Santana (he turned 24 on August 5 last year) a chance to do a lot of that remaining growth. In fact, his potential led new General Manager David Stearns to trade away starting left fielder Khris Davis to clear an everyday job for the young Dominican. That job turned out to be right field in order to take advantage of his throwing arm, a move requiring Ryan Braun to move back to left field where Braun was better as a defender. Win-win-win, right?

Well, Santana’s mind was likely willing but his flesh turned out to be disagreeable.

First missing a few days in Spring Training last year with a strained shoulder and neck, Santana would suffer his first significant injury at the beginning of May. He was out with tightness in his right (throwing) shoulder, specifically in his lat. It was a frustrating injury because Santana said that he didn’t feel it at the plate but he couldn’t throw due to it.

Santana would return to the starting lineup on May 11 (after nine days of issues) but would last just a week in his availability as he was again scratched from a game on May 19 and finally ended up on the 15-day Disabled List. Santana was activated on June 3 but missed a game on June 9 with elbow soreness, likely to have been a cascade injury. A trip back to the disabled list began immediately.

That DL stint would finally begin to show signs of dissipating on July 24 when he began a rehab assignment with the Class-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, but that would be a mirage as the next day Brewers Manager Craig Counsell stated that Santana experienced a “big setback.” Santana would finally resume his rehab assignment the second week of August before being healthy enough to be activated on August 19.

Finally healthy, Santana was able to show some of that long-awaited growth. Here are some of his stats from each half of last season.

1st half: 40 G, 150 PA, 30 H, 8 2B, 4 HR, 21 BB, 52 K, .234/.347/.391
2nd half: 37 G, 131 PA, 33 H, 6 2B, 7 HR, 11 BB, 39 K, .280/.344/.508

The authority with which Santana was driving the baseball was apparent too, but for the entire season, and not just with the eye test. MLB’s Statcast tool also tracked Santana as generating batted balls with the highest speed off the bat in the big leagues through the first three weeks or so of the season, and he would finish the year 8th overall in baseball. More importantly to his finish is that Domingo Santana finished the season healthy.

So when he was available to play, he did so at a quality level. It’s getting more of that availability that could provide the biggest leap forward in terms of his development.

Make no mistake about it, however. Despite being just 24 entering the 2017 regular season, and by no means a old hand, Santana needs a strong season. There are a bevy of outfielder prospects in the Brewers’ system right now, with a full contingent assembled at Triple-A to open the season including the Brewers’ consensus top prospect. At some point someone is going to be seriously pushing for playing time. If Santana is forced to deal with more injuries it could not only push up the timetable for one of the other young outfielders, but it could end up pushing someone past him if he misses significant time. That’s the business of baseball.

For right now, right field belongs to Domingo Alberto Santana. He aims to keep it that way for many years to come. That quest is underway already and a healthy, productive 2017 is what will get the job done.

Looking to catch up on this season’s BBtJN? Just click on a name below:

#59 Carlos Torres
#57 Chase Anderson
#56 Ryan Webb
#54 Michael Blazek
#53 Jhan Mariñez
#52 Jimmy Nelson
#51 Damien Magnifico
#50 Jacob Barnes
#47 Jett Bandy
#46 Corey Knebel
#45 Tyler Cravy
#41 Junior Guerra
#38 Wily Peralta
#37 Neftalí Feliz
#35 Brent Suter
#33 Tommy Milone
#29 Yadiel Rivera
#28 Jorge Lopez
#27 Zach Davies
#26 Taylor Jungmann
#25 Michael Reed
#24 Jesús Aguilar
#23 Keon Broxton
#22 Matt Garza
#21 Travis Shaw
#18 Eric Sogard