5/22/2014 9:05 P.M. ET
Speedy Santana a versatile asset for Twins
Switch-hitting prospect shows making of top-of-lineup fixture for Minnesota's future
By Bernie Pleskoff / MLB.com
Twins switch-hitting prospect Danny Santana is a very exciting player to watch. He has a knack for making things happen. Take your eye off him when he's at the plate and you may miss a triple. That's his specialty. Not many players are capable of hitting triples with the frequency of Santana.
Santana came to the Twins as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2007. After having played parts of seven seasons in the Twins system, Santana reached the Major League club on May 5, 2014.
Santana is No. 10 on the Twins' Top 20 Prospects list.
Santana is versatile enough to play shortstop, second base and the outfield. While he has a deep set of tools, speed may be his most prominent skill, resulting in extra-base hits. In fact, in his 2013 season at Double-A New Britain, he smoked 22 doubles and 10 triples. The year before at Class A Advanced Fort Myers, Santana hit 21 doubles and nine triples.
Santana comes to the plate with an extra-base hit mentality. He looks to drive the ball to the gap and take off running. He realizes he is not a home run hitter, but he seems very content with drives to the gaps for extra bases. That approach is perfect for Target Field, his new home park.
Santana is not very big at 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds. He is only 23. Looking forward, he may have some further muscle development. If he gains a bit more strength, some of those drives could go over the wall. But in his Minor League career, he has only 25 home runs in 2,138 at-bats. Home runs are not his game. He is more of a leadoff hitter who lets the bigger guns drive in the runs. But he must get on base.
Santana has a short, compact swing. He hits a tad better as a right-handed batter against left-handed pitching, but he is efficient and effective hitting both ways. In addition to finishing his swing with good hitting mechanics that allow him to drive the ball to the gaps, he also finds success when he beats the ball into the ground and lets his speed take over.
Santana would benefit from seeing more pitches, being more selective and taking more walks. He struck out 94 times last season, his most as a professional. He walked only 24 times, missing opportunities to inflict more damage. He has to do a better job of spoiling pitches when he is hitting with two strikes.
If he were to become more selective, his on-base percentage would increase and he would have more opportunities to steal bases. In his Minor League career, he has stolen 117 bases in 170 attempts. He is still learning to improve his basestealing technique by reading pitchers better and getting a better jump off the base. His basestealing, like the rest of his game, is a work in progress.
Even with his lack of patience, Santana projects to be an excellent hitter for average. His hitting ability comes right behind his speed as his most advanced tools.
Santana has good range at shortstop. He has a quick first step and good anticipation. His arm is extremely strong and accurate. If there is any concern about his defense, it is in rushing himself and not taking the proper time necessary to plant his feet and react naturally. The team's coaches are working with him to slow down his entire game, both on offense and on defense.
Because he can play the outfield, Santana is a valuable player to have on a 25-man roster. Since his promotion to the Twins, he has played games in center field as well at shortstop and served as the designated hitter. He is playing extremely well for the team while offering his club roster flexibility and defensive options.
The Twins continue to make progress as they await the arrival of prospects like Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. Santana is another in a deep list of players who could change the complexion of the franchise for the future.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.