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Atlanta Braves Player Review: Danny Santana

Danny Santana went to Spring Training with the Atlanta Braves in 2018 on a minor league contract. He didn’t make the Opening Day roster but did have a three-week stint in the big leagues starting in late June. Santana spent most of the season at Gwinnett but a significant opportunity never did present itself for him in Atlanta, given that the Braves were actually trying to win baseball games.

Santana appeared in 82 games for Gwinnett where he hit .264/.294/.497 with 16 home runs. He walked just 15 times in 342 plate appearances which was pretty much in line with his career numbers.

The Braves promoted Santana to Atlanta on June 22. He was designated for assignment on July 19 and replaced on the roster by Michael Reed. He appeared in 15 games while going 5-for-28 at the plate with three doubles.

Santana elected free agency at the end of the regular season and will likely seek opportunities elsewhere in 2019.

Bottom Line, what did he do in 2018? Not a lot at the major league level. He spun his wheels at Triple-A waiting for an opportunity but was unable to take advantage when he did get the call to Atlanta. In those 32 major league PAs, he put up a 57 wRC+. That’s bad, but not really any different than the 50 wRC+ he managed in 2017, or the 60 wRC+ the year before that.

Will he be on the roster in 2019? He elected free agency at the end of the season so it is doubtful we see him in Atlanta in 2019.

What is he going to do next year? Santana will likely be looking for a minor league deal with an invite to spring training where he will have the chance to compete for a major league job. But, it’s not clear how or why he’d win a major league job at this point, as he’s going to be 28, has a career wRC+ of 80 that hasn’t been above 60 since 2014, and hasn’t really been a good defender anywhere other than corner outfield in his career.

Highlight of 2018: Despite not being on the roster for very long nor being any good, Santana found himself in all sorts of high-leverage situations during his three weeks with the team. Specifically, his average leverage index was 1.33 for the season, which led the Braves. Only four players with 10 or more PAs in 2018 had a higher average leverage index on the year, and only one of those (Cliff Pennington) had more PAs than him. This, of course, makes it brutal that he was, again, so bad as a major leaguer. Of the 45 players to get a PA with the Braves this year, he was 35th in batting WPA despite his low PA count, and five of 10 players lower than him by this metric were starting pitcher.

But, he did have a few shining moments. In particular, he hit this game-tying RBI double after the Braves had tossed away a couple of leads against the Reds.

While the Braves wouldn’t score again in the inning, they would go on to win the game thanks to an Ozzie Albies walkoff homer.

Lowlight of 2018: Putting up a sub-.300 OBP in Triple-A? Honestly, pretty much everything except for that highlight above.

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