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Domingo Santana to the Mariners - Fantasy Impact

The wheeling and dealing in Seattle continued just days before Christmas with the Mariners acquiring right fielder Domingo Santana from the Brewers.

In the team's fourth trade in the month of December and their eighth trade of the offseason, Seattle sent outfielder Ben Gamel and reliever Noah Zavolas to Milwaukee for the 26-year-old Santana. After having a career-year in 2017 with 30 home runs, 15 steals and an .875 OPS, Santana struggled last season while posting career-lows in home runs (5), steals (1), RBI (20) and OPS (.740). There are some signs that Santana can bounce back in 2019, but he'll have to fight for playing time as the fourth outfielder behind Jay Bruce, Mallex Smith and Mitch Haniger.

Santana and Gamel are most likely the only two players in this trade who will see time in the majors this season, but will they have any fantasy value?

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Santana Claus is coming to town

As mentioned before, 2018 was not a good year for Santana. Despite adding Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich in the off-season, the Brewers went with Santana as their Opening Day right fielder and moved Ryan Braun to first base in order to keep all their hot bats in the lineup. Santana took advantage of this opportunity to hit .237 with a .321 on-base percentage and a .269 slugging percentage through the month of April. Things picked back up for Santana in May as he posted a .292 average and .846 OPS over 81 plate appearances, and it appeared that he could be on his way back to his 2017 form. But then a 4-for-24 slump in June that saw him hit only two extra-base hits while striking out 12 times sent him down to Triple-A for almost two-and-a-half months until he returned with the September roster expansion. Utilized primarily as a pinch hitter and defensive sub, Santana managed to hit .409 with a 1.367 OPS over 24 plate appearances, but clearly, Milwaukee was ready to move on from the 26-year-old.

That's the story of the fall of 2017 breakout star Domingo Santana. Can he rise back up to those levels in 2019? Well, there are some numbers that suggest yes, while there are others that suggest he may be more in line to repeat his 2018 performance. One possible indicator that he can rebound in Seattle is the precipitous drop in his HR/FB rate last year. From 2015 through 2017, Santana has posted a rate of over 27 percent each season. Last year, despite matching his 27.7 percent fly ball rate from 2017, his HR/FB rate dropped from 30.9 percent to 13.2 percent. With all of his other batted ball tendencies remaining more or less the same, that suggests an uptick in power in 2019. On the other hand, his rate drop likely stemmed from his swinging wildly at a career-worst rate. His 30.9 O-swing percentage and 15.8 percent swinging strike rate were the highest since his debut season in 2014. While he made contact on 48.2 percent of his swings outside the zone, he didn't seem to be making good contact that often as he posted a 48.2 percent groundball rate — the second-highest of his career — and his soft-hit ball rate increased slightly to 12.4 percent.

Ultimately what is going to decide the fantasy fate of Domingo Santana is playing time. Over five seasons in the majors, Santana has made 288 of his 320 defensive appearances in right field. The best player on the Mariners' entire roster in 2018 was right fielder Mitch Haniger. With Haniger firmly entrenched in right, Bruce and Smith manning the other two outfield spots and Edwin Encarnacion at designated hitter, there's not going to be much playing time for Santana in Seattle, barring injury. Our 2019 rankings have Santana in the tier of outfielders like Max Kepler, Jay Bruce and Randal Grichuk. He'll probably be worth a pick late in drafts, but owners shouldn't be too excited about his 2019 prospects. He should be able to put up numbers that — when extrapolated across a full season of play —could come close to matching his 2017 numbers, but he just isn't going to have enough time at the plate to provide any kind of value in fantasy. That being said, Haniger owners should keep an eye on Santana if Haniger goes down for an extended period with an injury.


What's Brewing in Milwaukee?

Now let's take a look at what Milwaukee is getting back in this deal. Like Santana, Gamel had a career-best season in 2017 and followed it up with a disappointing performance in 2018. Gamel's ISO dropped to a career-low .097 after a career-high .138 in 2017, as his ground-ball rate jumped to a career-high 47.2 percent. While his power dropped off significantly from 2017, Gamel greatly improved his plate discipline to the best numbers of his (albeit short) career:

Year O-Swing% Swinging Strike% BB% K%
2016 27.6 9.5 10.5 28.1
2017 28.4 8.6 6.5 22.2
2018 26.5 7.9 10.6 20.8

Like Santana before him, Gamel will have some difficulty finding playing time in a crowded Milwaukee outfield. Realistically, barring injuries that propel them into starting roles, Gamel's final fantasy value will likely be comparable to Santana's, with the main differences being walks versus power. If for some reason you find yourself in a position this spring where you have to choose between Gamel or Santana come draft day, you are in a ridiculously deep league. You should also go with Gamel, as his plate discipline suggests the potential for better overall numbers, and playing in the National League should give him the potential for a few more plate appearances as a pinch-hitter.

And now a quick look at Milwaukee's new prospect Zavolas. A 22-year-old righty reliever, Zavolas went 5-2 with two saves, a 3.03 ERA and a 9.5 K/9 over 38 2/3 innings between Single-A Everett and Single-A Advanced Modesto after being drafted in the 18th round this year. In 33 career appearances at Harvard, Zavolas made 21 starts and finished his collegiate career with a 9-7 record, 4.61 ERA and 8.37 K/9 over 138 2/3 innings. There isn't a whole lot to project off of at this point for Zavolas, but more likely than not if he does make it to the majors he will have very minimal potential fantasy value.