Danny Santana has been electric since joining the Texas Rangers from the minors. Can Santana force his way into the lineup long term?
Since being promoted to try and fill the void created by an injured Rougned Odor, Danny Santana has been nothing short of phenomenal. The 28-year old infielder has swung a hot bat for the Texas Rangers in his first 14 games for the club which has some fans calling for a long-term role with the big league club even when the team is fully healthy.
Since joining the Rangers, Santana has appeared in 14 games at a mixture of 2nd base and 1st base. His bat has been as hot as anybody’s in that time period hitting .345 with a .912 OPS. He’s come up with some timely hits and driven in 9 runs for a Rangers offense that is garnering a reputation as being potent. So how can Texas keep this offensive weapon in the lineup for the foreseeable future?
The biggest problem isn’t necessarily keeping Santana with the big league club, but rather finding a way to keep his bat in the lineup consistently. Right now he’s starting with regularity because of the injuries to Rougned Odor and Ronald Guzman. But when they return, keeping him in the order means replacing a regular starter.
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Some fans wanted Santana to replace Rougned Odor with Odor off to another slow start at the plate. Rougie is hitting just .158 so far this season and has an on-base percentage on just .250 through his first 15 games. While yes, Odor has struggled mightily, the Texas Rangers have made it clear that Odor is their long-term choice to fill the spot at second inking him to a lengthy extension just a couple of offseasons ago and investing heavily in his development.
Guzman Gets Shorted?
When Santana hasn’t gotten in at the 2nd base, he’s played at 1st base. However, his 3 appearances at 1st for the Rangers are the only 3 of his career. While he currently is errorless at the position, it doesn’t look like a natural fit and he would require some major development at the spot. That’s where Ronald Guzman has a clear edge as he’s established himself as a freak at first with his lanky 6’5″ frame.
At the plate, Guzman was underwhelming in 2018 posting just a .235 average and an OPS of just .722 in 128 games. His average is at .231 through the 9 games he’s played in 2019 but his OPS is currently over .900. To me, if Texas feels Santana can hold his own at first base, this would make perhaps a little sense as Guzman probably could benefit from some time in Triple-A to continue his development. It also would help lighten the lefty-heaviness of the order with Santana being a switch-hitter.
Could Delino Get the Boot?
In terms of offensive production and potential, Santana for Delino DeShields probably makes the most sense. Delino is off to another rough start at the plate in 2019 after a poor 2018 campaign. Last season Delino hit just .216 in an injury-shortened season and never could quite find his rhythm at the dish. Despite a .192 average to start this season, he seems to be hitting the ball harder and has the support of manager Chris Woodward.
While Santana right now is a better hitter than Delino, he wouldn’t be able to keep pace defensively in center field. You could theoretically try Gallo in center with Santana in left field but I doubt that’s an experiment that the Texas Rangers want to try.
Despite Delino struggling, I’m also a believer in riding out elite athleticism like his for as long as possible. No, he’s not going to be a .300 hitter, but with his elite speed, he adds an important element to the lineup. Texas won’t nor should they, pull the plug on Delino anytime soon.
Where Does That Leave Us?
So clearly, we’re pretty much back to square one when it comes to finding at-bats for Santana. I don’t think the Rangers have any interest on pulling the plug on one of those three starters to try and get Danny more at-bats no matter how hot he is.
I do think they will find a way to keep him on the roster once the team is fully healthy but Logan Forsythe is making that a tougher decision with his recent performances. Perhaps Santana finds himself as a part of an early-season trade to a club who needs that extra utility man, but right now the Rangers will continue to try and fit him in an offense that statistically is performing among the best in the game.