Domingo Santana Rankings Debate: Comparing RotoBaller's Rankers

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We continue our series of articles debating the overall ranking of some of the most fantasy-relevant players of the 2018 baseball season with a player that may be on the move soon. Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Domingo Santana is an early pick sure to garner a lot of attention after his breakout season.

RotoBaller's expert writers have come up with our consensus rankings for mixed leagues, but that doesn't mean we agreed on everything. In this space, we'll hear from rankers with the biggest differences of opinion on a well-known player and have them defend their position against each other.

We press on with one of 2017's waiver wire darlings, Milwaukee Brewers OF stud Domingo Santana. Jeff Kahntroff will defend his position that Santana is a top-50 pick, while Nick Mariano holds that he doesn't belong in the top 75. Let's get ready to rumble!

Editor's Note: Our friends at RT Sports have best ball leagues with no in-season management. Just draft your team, and that's it! Use your phone for this casual draft by getting emails or texts when you're on the clock. Sign Up Now!

 

2018 Draft Rankings Debate - Domingo Santana

Rank Tier Player Position Kyle Nick Pierre Jeff Harris Bill
62 5 Domingo Santana OF 49 87 60 48 70 66

 

Jeff Kahntroff's Ranking: #48 overall

My initial Domingo Santana ranking was based on his projected role as an everyday outfielder for the Brewers. With their recent acquisitions creating a logjam of sorts, and the trade rumors brewing, his ranking is subject to change. Milwaukee is an ideal place for Santana, and thus a move would likely lower his ranking. However, for purposes of this debate, I am considering Santana an everyday player for the Brewers.

Last year Santana posted a .278/30/88/85/15 line in just 151 games (only 139 starts). Those numbers placed him as the 48th player in 5x5 leagues according to baseballmonster.com.  I ranked him at exactly 48th because I think his expected value equals his 2017 performance. Even though he has some red flags, those are offset by his room to outperform his 2017.

Room for Upside

Santana is only 25 years old. The Brewers added Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain, in what should be an improved lineup.  Santana should increase his counting stats due to additional playing time, as he started only 139 games last year. Further, he clobbered 30 homers despite a low fly ball rate. If he starts hitting the ball in the air more, his fantasy value could improve.

The Red Flags

Santana had some 2017 stats that would be red flags for most. However, a closer look reveals they may not be as ominous as they first appear:

  • His .363 BABIP: While a .363 BABIP leading to a .278 average despite a 29.3% k-rate might scream regression, Santana has posted a high BABIP throughout his major and minor league careers. Why should that change now?
  • His 30.9% HR/FB rate: Despite this extremely high rate, Santana’s career rate is 29.3% in an admittedly small sample. However, even if his HR/FB ratio declines, Santana has the ability to significantly improve his fly ball rate. Thus, he could maintain his lofty home run total, or even improve it.
  • His Major Jump in Stolen Bases: Santana stole 15 bases in 2017 after only stealing two in 2016. This risk is real. While he has speed, is only 25, and Milwaukee has shown a willingness to run, there is a decent chance this number takes a hit. His stolen base totals in the minors were not that high, and one would not expect him to be getting faster.

Conclusion

Santana finished as the 48th-ranked player last year. While his lofty BABIP and HR/FB ratios on their surface would seem to indicate a regression candidate, a further look indicates that may not be the case. These risks are offset by a potential for more playing time, a potential to hit more balls in the air, a history of high BABIP, and youth. Because there is upside and downside pulling evenly in each direction, maintaining him at his 2017 finish seems reasonable. If it appears that he will not have an everyday role or he gets traded to a worse situation, I will lower his rank accordingly. While some may ding him for his lack of defensive abilities, that only presents a buying opportunity for you as a savvy fantasy owner.

 

Nick Mariano's Ranking: #87 overall

Admittedly, a portion of my bearishness is based on the current playing-time fiasco in Milwaukee. I really don't think that Santana ends up getting squeezed from Milwaukee's lineup if the status quo holds, but I have to bake in that either Milwaukee is somehow dumb enough to only play him four or five times a week, or more likely, that he gets traded. What if he goes to a crummy offensive environment? Sure, Cleveland is a fun, fitting target, but we can't just put that down in pen. I don't like risk early. And while he didn't draw 150-plus starts, he still got over 600 plate appearances, so I'm not in on projecting more volume either. But let's just get into it already:

Can the Homers Last?

I realize I was basically handed a blueprint for what I should say by Jeff in his "red flags" section, but I don't think the massive HR/FB rate was painted quite red enough. Santana's 30.9% HR/FB mark was the third-highest in the Majors, bested only by Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge (pray that the Bleacher Creatures all own padded gloves). Let's go to Baseball Savant and sort by "Average Exit Velocity on Fly Balls and Line Drives" (minimum 100 batted ball events) and you'll see Judge and Stanton at Nos. 1 and 2, but where's Domingo? Well, he's down at No. 122. Danny Santana had a higher mark, so Control+F won't even make it simple. Given Santana's low fly-ball rate over his first two seasons, I contend that it's far more likely that he repeats what he's done, posting a solid-but-not-incredible exit velocity, which brings that HR/FB rate down and limits him to say 23-25 homers. That's solid, but not astounding.

Why Pay For Ceiling?

Alex Chamberlain is going to kick down my door and wag his finger at me for going on like this, and we're piggybacking off of the prior point a bit, but I believe that we just saw his 5x5 ceiling. Not necessarily his power, average, or speed ceiling, but the combination of all three. Even that's stretching it, because I cannot see his HR/FB rate, BABIP, or stolen-base rate climbing given his gaudy peripherals. I realize sprint speed isn't everything, just like judging a running back or wide receiver on 40-yard dashes is getting old, but Santana's 27 feet/second sprint speed was just 37th out of 51 right fielders. Guys like Michael Saunders and Hunter Renfroe scored higher, which doesn't line up with this guy regularly scooping 15 bags a year. Yes, I know Saunders stole 21 bases in 2012, but '17 Saunders definitely did not. I will grant that Milwaukee's aggression on the base paths is a gigantic factor, but I'm wary of over-projecting beyond raw talent and many are talking about his speed like it's a given.

The Swing

It's extremely tempting to take a young bat on the rise and project growth. In doing so, we also tend to (rather subconsciously) raise the floor too far. Santana is exciting and has a swing that delivers liners a la Daniel Murphy, but his contact rates mirror those of Joey Gallo, Aaron Judge, Mark Reynolds, Chris & Khris Davis, etc. I'm not here to knock whatever's working for him, but he's skating on thinner ice than folks may realize. We're not ranking for points leagues so I realize K's may not scare anyone away, especially in this era, but his 70.3% contact rate and 51.9% O-Contact rate were both respectively the ninth-worst marks in their category for a qualified hitter in 2017. The good news about his lesser uppercut is that he rarely ever pops up (his 2.1% IFFB rate was fifth lowest in '17) and he can generate high BABIPs. He makes loud enough contact to be a force, but I think the magnitude of his pop has been overstated. Looking at the hard-hit rate is good. Checking on specific exit velocity on fly balls and liners is better. And if he does have to leave the Brew Crew, he'll most likely take a hit not just on his power profile, but the number of steal opportunities as well. So yeah, I'm letting other folks draft him high this season.

 

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