A large part of the Milwaukee Brewers’ success last year was young players making the leap. One of those guys was Domingo Santana.
In his age 24 season, Domingo Santana raked opposing pitching to the tune of 30 home runs while adding 15 stolen bases. He finished with a slash line of .278/.371/.505 and a wRC+ of 126 in over 600 plate appearances. That put him in the top 15 among outfielders, driving much of Milwaukee’s offensive success.
Was Santana’s production for real?
A lot of this production was legitimate, too. His BABIP was right around career numbers, though admittedly high for league average. But, there’s a reason that a player’s BABIP tends to be higher than league average.
The most obvious examples are Dee Gordon’s flash-like speed or Aaron Judge’s absurd hard contact rates. Thus, Santana’s solid OBP and slugging percentage was believable while his power would continue to grow. The possibilities for Santana were endless in the upcoming years, hence the excitement for the 2018 season.
Fast-forward through an offseason of transactions and Santana’s stock is as low as ever. He’s on pace for a meager six home runs and his slugging percentage is below his OBP. That resembles a speedy, no-power hitter, and Santana is not the next Billy Hamilton or Jarrod Dyson. His wRC+ of 81 is a far cry below his 2017 season, and even worse, isn’t near a league average hitter (100).
While Santana’s defensive issues are appearing to get better, he’s still a liability in the outfield. The player that allowed the Milwaukee Brewers to give up uber-prospect Lewis Brinson is now dead-weight.
Can he turn it around?
Looking at his peripherals, they are all right around career averages. His strikeout and walk rates aren’t drastically different. Additionally, his BABIP is a little high, fostering the not so lethal batting average and on-base percentages. The largest issue is Santana’s ground ball rates.
A high GB% can cripple a hitter’s production. Enter Santana’s 11% increase, now top 10 in GB% at 55.3%. This spike is fueling his plummeting isolated power, now at .061 after finishing at .227 just a year ago. A potential star who’s power should be entering its prime is now one of the four weakest hitters in the league.
This shouldn’t be happening to a 25-year old like Santana, and that’s the scariest part. There could be many answers to Domingo’s hitting profile suddenly changing.
Maybe there’s a lingering injury that’s affecting his swing. Opposing pitchers may have figured out how to beat Santana. Or, maybe this is the new Santana. A potentially detrimental hitter and fielder doesn’t belong within a whiff of the major leagues. Regardless, the Milwaukee Brewers and their right fielder need to figure it out quick. If they can, it can unlock the elite offense that the Milwaukee Brewers featured in 2017 and have been lacking since.