What’s Next For Domingo Santana?
By Jason Burke
A few days ago when the Astros were busy landing Evan Gattis, one commenter asked if I could see Houston possibly trading Domingo Santana to his beloved Orioles. I told Steve I would look into the possibility, so here we are.
First, let’s look at what the Astros are working with in terms of outfield depth. With Gattis likely manning left, Dexter Fowler (he hasn’t been traded–yet) in center, and George Springer in right, we have our starters. It’s likely that Robbie Grossman and Jake Marisnick will be the extra outfielders out of camp with Alex Presley being in that mix as well. At first glance, there is no room for Santana.
Domingo received a brief stint in the majors last season, accumulating a grand total of 17 at-bats. In short, he didn’t impress. In those 17 ABs Santana struck out 14 times and failed to get a hit. He did walk once, so his on-base percentage was slightly above triple zeroes.
In his minor league career, Domingo Santana has a strikeout rate of 34.6 percent over six seasons, including a 33.6 percent mark in Triple-A Oklahoma City. Currently, the 6’5″ right fielder is ranked #3 in the Astros farm system. MLB Pipeline describes the righty as, “…an average defender [with] a strong arm. Big and physical, he fits the prototypical profile for a power-hitting right fielder.”
With the showing he had in Houston last season, it’s likely Santana will receive more time in the minors in 2015 before getting the call. The problem is, the more time he’s in the minors, the more time his competition has to sneak up on him. That competition consists of Teoscar Hernandez (#9, AA), Derek Fisher (#10, A Short), Brett Phillips (#12, A Advanced), Preston Tucker (#17, AAA) and Danry Vasquez (#19, A Advanced).
While most of these players are still a year or two away, Tucker could compete for a call-up alongside Santana when the time comes. The best-case scenario for Domingo Santana would be if Dexter Fowler were to be traded, which would likely move Jake Marisnick into center field, and would necessitate one more outfielder in Houston. If such a trade were to happen, the timing could be the difference in who gets the call. If it’s before the season, Santana probably heads the list, but if it’s around the trade deadline, it could be either Tucker or Santana, depending on who’s having the better season. In this scenario, I imagine that Houston would promote one of these two over Presley because of their upside.
This all comes back to my friend Steve. Would the Astros trade him? It’s possible. His value isn’t as high after his brief big-league stint, so the timing may not be right, but if the right offer came around a trade could definitely happen. The player that was suggested in this swap was Baltimore starter Miguel Gonzalez. At first blush, Gonzalez would be a great candidate to fill the fourth spot in the rotation, with Brett Oberholtzer sliding down to number five. Gonzalez has a career 3.45 ERA in three seasons with the Orioles, to go along with a 30-21 record.
The problem with Gonzalez comes from his home run rate, with the righty giving up 1.4 home runs per nine innings pitched, or 62 allowed in three seasons. Camden Yards has a home run rate of 0.936, which is just under one per game, while Minute Maid Park gives up the long-ball at a higher rate of 1.173.
Is he worth Domingo Santana? In my opinion, no.
But this does beg the question: would you trade Domingo Santana? The audition, if we can even call it that, was brief. Do you still believe in him, or would you like to flip him before he hurts his value even more? If you want to trade him, what kind of a deal would you be looking for?
In the coming months all eyes will be on Jeff Luhnow, and every move will be scrutinized. Let’s hope that he makes the right decision.