Domingo Santana entered the 2017 season as a bit of an unknown for the Brewers. In his first two years with the team, he had dealt with injuries, as well as different slumps as he tried to adjust to the majors. The potential flashed a few times, but it wasn’t sustained. With three outfield prospects on the verge of making it to the major leagues, there wasn’t a lot of time for Santana to take claim to a job for himself. A slow start could cost him a full-time job for good. Santana needed to prove himself, and he needed to do it somewhat quickly in 2017.
The season started out a bit slow for Santana. In the first month of the season, he only recorded a .197 batting average and .310 OBP. The power did come out, though. He hit five home runs in the month of April, and put together a .465 SLG with a wRC around average at 98. Once May hit, Santana really started to heat up. He recorded a hit in 19 of 25 games, and reached base safely in 22 of 25. That led to a .322/.413/.467 batting line with a 132 wRC+. The power dropped a little with only 3 home runs, but he improved overall with a much better plate approach, more than doubling his hits between April (14) and May (29). With Ryan Braun on the DL, he helped step up to cover the lost production, securing the job in right field, as well as a spot at #5 in the batting order.
That development continued throughout the rest of the season as he sustained the numbers he put up in May. Though he cooled down a little in June, he still recorded a 112 wRC+. July was better, as his stats jumped again with a .333/.408/.578 batting line and 154 wRC+. He did struggle through August (98 wRC+), but once the playoff chase hit its full stride in September, so did Santana. His last month may have been his most impressive, recording a batting line of .301/.383/.663 with 8 home runs, 19 RBI, and a 165 wRC+.
One of the things that Domingo Santana was known for this season was coming through in Sunday games. It wasn’t confirmation bias here, as Santana did have better games on Sunday. His stats: 25-for-67 (.373 BA), on base 36 times in 81 PA (.444 OBP), and put together a .836 slugging percentage. 9 of his 30 home runs were hit on Sunday, and 24 of his 85 RBI came on Sunday. His best Sunday game may have been on April 30, when he hit two home runs against the Braves and drove in all four runs in a 4-3 win. It could be the result of a small sample size, but 81 plate appearances is generally significant enough to say that something was going better for him on Sundays this season.
Santana was a strong, dependable fixture in the Brewers lineup all season. He played in 151 of 162 games, only behind Orlando Arcia in games played. His 607 PA led the team, and he was second in hits with 146. He also was among the leaders on the team in RBI (2nd with 146), doubles (2nd, 29), home runs (3rd, 30), RBI (2nd, 85), stolen bases (3rd, 15), batting average (2nd, .278) and OBP (3rd, .371).
It wasn’t all good for Santana though, as there are still many aspects of his game to work on. He also led the team in strikeouts with 178, though that also came with 73 walks. His outfield range is limited, he’s generally not going to impress with his defense in the field, and did see some late-game replacements for defense. In his four years in the majors covering 2,214.1 innings, his UZR/150 sits at -14.1, and it was at -4.9 in 2017 (1,211.1 innings). He’s never going to be an impressive defender, but as long as he can improve to an average defense, he will have value.
With a strong 2017, Domingo Santana has solidified his spot on this team for 2018 and potentially beyond. He began to meet his potential as the power numbers came through, and he became one of the most reliable hitters that the team had all season. At 25 years old, he still has plenty of room to grow and develop even further. If Santana can sustain this production, he’ll be a dependable hitter in the Brewers lineup for years to come.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs.