The Rangers had some “out of nowhere” production in 2019 that fans, experts, and I didn’t quite see coming. A few notables included the emergence of Lance Lynn, Hunter Pence’s improbable comeback journey, and the rise of Nick Solak. However, one breakout took the organization by storm in 2019: Danny Santana.
A month after his seventeenth birthday, the Minnesota Twins signed Santana as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic and spent six years in the minor leagues. In those six minor league seasons, Danny didn’t strike the baseball world by storm but had snippets of success. In his 2014 inaugural season with the Twins, big league club Danny hit .319, higher than any minor league season which earned him seventh in the 2014 AL rookie of the year voting. For the next four seasons, Danny Santana couldn’t get his on-base percentage over .281 or an OPS over .606. Santana talked a couple weeks ago about the journey to a successful 2019 season. “For me, [it was] one of the best moments. I took advantage of the opportunity. It’s a moment I’ve been waiting for years.”
On January 9th, 2019 the Rangers decided, “Hey, let’s give this guy a shot.” Danny started in the minors and once he got call up after the Odor injury, he started but hardly slowed down. Santana earned career highs in home runs, OPS, slugging, hits, and at-bats. Chris Woodward talked about the difficulty of not if Danny Santana is starting, but where is Danny Santana starting. That’s the question that looms around the Rangers heading into 2020. Santana said on multiple occasions that he likes the versatility, but as human beings a simple structure means better performance. The Rangers want to use Danny Santana’s versatility, but not exploit it.
What’s next for Santana?
There are also some tweaks that Rangers manager Chris Woodward wants to see out of Santana in 2020. Danny ended the season on a positive note with a half-way decent September, but it followed a dismal August. August became the month Santana had the most at-bats and games played. However, during the month, Danny hit .195 with an on-base percentage of .214 and accumulated 27.1% of his season’s strikeouts in that lone month. There could be a couple of reasons for that, but one thing stood out for the coaching staff. Danny Santana is an aggressive hitter and pitchers started to attack this. Woody wants to see Santana start catching himself and hold upon his swing on pitches out of the plate. The staff doesn’t necessarily want him to lose his aggressiveness and let strikes through, but the staff wants to see Danny in more control of his at-bats. It’s an aspect Danny is working on and something he learned about himself. “[I learned] to control myself better during the game. I was more aggressive than I am now.”
Where does Danny Santana go from here? As it stands, Santana is the Rangers starting center fielder on opening day, and I could see him as a number two or cleanup hitter in the Rangers lineup (in between Joey Gallo and Willie Calhoun). The Rangers will continue to explore Danny’s defensive possibilities, but if the club doesn’t make any significant moves, then Santana’s stapled spot is center field. Staying in one place is a preference to Santana, but if he has to play utility man, he’s okay with it. “Every ballplayer’s dream is to play one position, not that I want to be the team’s utility player. But I would like to play one position,” Danny said during the Rangers foundation banquet.
I’d say in Spring Training, watch for Danny to become more patient at the plate to try to adjust his plate discipline. If Santana can limit his chase rate then the Rangers have another consistent bopper in the lineup. With this powerful group, DJ Michael “Grubes” Gruber will need to keep the Natural on one-push speed dial with the home runs this season.
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Thank God for this year full of blessings 🙏 thank the @rangers for the opportunity to allow me to be part of that great team more grateful 🙏 thanks to the fans 🙏 thanks to my family for always being there is with me no matter what happens🙏 2020 we go for more 🙏 Gracia Dios por este año lleno de bendiciones 🙏gracias a los @rangers por la oportunidad de permitirme ser parte de ese grandioso equipo mas q agradecido🙏gracias a los fans 🙏gracias a mi familia por siempre estar hay conmigo pases lo q pase🙏 2020 vamos por mas 🙏
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