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Milwaukee Brewers 2018 Preview by Position: Right Field

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After a winter full of trade rumors, Domingo Santana will look to build on his breakout 2017.

Milwaukee Brewers Photo Day Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images

Domingo Santana was the best offensive player for the Milwaukee Brewers last season. He led the club with 607 plate appearances, 88 runs scored, 3.2 base running runs, and a 126 wRC+. Santana drove in the second-most runs with 85, he hit the third-most home runs with 30, and stole the third-most bases at 15. Among Brewers with at least 100 PA, he ranked fourth with a 12.0% walk rate and third with a .371 on-base percentage. The 25 year old right fielder was also remarkably consistent at the plate, generating a 98 wRC+ during his worst two months (April and August) in 2017. By wins above replacement, he added somewhere between 3-3.4 victories to Milwaukee’s ledger last season.

And Slingin’ David Stearns spent the whole winter trying to trade him.

Early on in the offseason it was reported that Stearns and company were “shopping” their young, controllable outfielder, and rumors along those lines continued to emerge throughout the winter. But a slow trade and free agent market has continued into the spring and the start of the 2018 season, and Milwaukee has yet to receive an offer they’ve deemed suitable enough to convince them to part with Santana even as Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich were added to the fold. So, as things stand now, Domingo will reprise his role as the starting right fielder in 2018.

Despite the excellence he displayed at the plate last season, there are some warts about Santana’s game that helped contribute to the lack of interest during the offseason. Most glaring is the fact that he’s been very poor defensively in the outfield during his time in The Show. Domingo has a strong arm that fits well in right field, but some interesting routes and late breaks have cost his teams plenty of runs over the years. Since debuting in 2014, Santana’s defensive ‘contributions’ have totaled -19.4 Fielding Runs Above Average and -20 Defensive Runs Saved. He’s clearly a corner outfielder so perhaps the 27 games he’s played in center can be excused, but while playing right field last season he still was quite a bit worse than average - DRS says he was worth -5 runs, while FRAA valued him at -7.6 runs.

Even though he’s taken a stellar rate of free passes, Santana also struggles quite a bit with strikeouts. He whiffed 178 times last season, or 29.3% of his plate appearances. Only eight qualified hitters were set down on strikes more often. Santana didn’t offer at many pitches outside the strike zone (26.5% O-swing), but he was among the worst in the league at making contact on pitches inside the strike zone. His Z-contact (or zone contact percentage) was a mere 78.9%, which was the 10th-lowest mark among qualifiers. He also swung-and-missed 13.7% of the time, tying for the 14th-highest swinging strike rate. At least when Santana did make contact, it was often high-quality - 39.7% of the balls he put in play registered as “hard contact” and he boasted a 27.4% line drive rate, helping to contribute to his .363 BABIP.

Santana has regularly contributed on offense since joining the Brewers in 2015; he’s posted wRC+ marks of 111, 111, and 126 at the MLB level across the last three seasons while suiting up for the Cream City Nine. With that kind of track record at such a young age, Domingo has certainly earned the right to be a regular starter for in the MLB, whether it’s with Milwaukee or elsewhere. When Santana isn’t in the lineup, though, Christian Yelich looks to be the primary backup just like he is in center field. He’s never played the position during the regular season and doesn’t have the arm strength typical of a right fielder, but Craig Counsell has praised his early work in right during spring. He should be able to hack it out there, at the very least as well as Santana. Hernan Perez could also see some time in right field, and he’s graded out as a positive contributor defensively out there since taking up the position in 2016.

In the Minors

As has been mentioned in the previous outfield posts, Keon Broxton and Brett Phillips look to be the first line of defense down in AAA in the case of any injury that occurs in the outfield. Kyle Wren is also headed to the Sky Sox, and former first-round pick Clint Coulter is still hanging around. Further away are guys like Corey Ray, Trent Grisham, Tristen Lutz, and Demi Orimoloye, among the several others who make up Milwaukee’s strong stable of outfield depth.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs

Poll

Will Domingo Santana still be a Brewer by the end of the regular season?

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  • 69%
    Yes
    (166 votes)
  • 30%
    No
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