Domingo Alberto Santana
Height: 6'5" Weight: 229
Bats/Throws: Right / Right
Born: 08/05/1992 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Offseason home: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Acquired: In trade from the Milwaukee Brewers, for Ben Gamel & Noah Zavolas (12/21/2018)
MLB Debut: 07/01/2014
Free Agent after: 2021 season
16 games into the season, who would you predict would lead the American League in hits? How about RBI? If you said Domingo Santana, you are either eerily prescient, a time-traveler from the future, or just lying. Expected to be a less-than-full time player to start the year, sharing left field with Jay Bruce, Santana has made it nearly impossible to leave him off the lineup card. He's batting 90 points above his career average and 200 points over his career OPS. Clearly, that's not sustainable over the full season, but he is shaping up to be a brilliant acquisition, having come to the M's in a relatively under-the-radar trade with Milwaukee for Ben Gamel.
Last season, Santana was squeezed out of a starting job by the Brewers' tremendous outfield of Christan Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, and Ryan Braun and found himself back in the minors for a while. “I think I was just trying too hard,” he said. "I knew it was a great group of guys. I thought I had to be as good as they are. I put so much pressure on myself and that was the reason everything went down."
One area Santana is not excelling at this season is defense. He leads all Major League outfielders in errors so far and occasionally has looked lost tracking down a fly ball. With the overall defense as problematic as it has been, the lack of a full bench is showing its deficiencies with no one to go in as a late-inning defensive upgrade; that said, Santana has more than made up for the unearned runs he's responsible for by producing with the bat.
How many people besides Don Corleone have the same name as where they’re from? Domingo was born and currently resides in Santo Domingo, DR, but he was named for his father, who signed with the Houston Astros but never made the bigs. The journey was more successful but no less easy for the son.
At 14, Santana went to live with a “buscon,” or a scout running a DR baseball academy, and when he signed with the Phillies in 2009 for a $330k bonus the buscon took nearly a third of it. (With the rest, Santana bought his mother an apartment and a car.) In 2011, Santana was the player to be named later in the Hunter Pence trade, and three years after that he made his major league debut. It wasn’t exactly auspicious. In four games—the first against Hisashi Iwakuma and the M’s—he went 0-13 with 11 strikeouts.
Traded to the Brewers, he broke through in 2017 with a .278/.317/.505 line, including 29 doubles, 30 homers and 15 stolen bases, but the breakthrough proved temporary. He started 2018 abysmally (.237/.321/.269 in April), and by June not only had he lost the right-field slot to new acquisition and eventual NL MVP Christian Yelich, he was sent back down to the minors for the rest of the summer. When he was recalled in September, it was mostly in a pinch-hitting role. Can he rebound in Seattle? He’s got pop and patience. And he’s still only 26.