No. 2: Danny Santana, Minnesota Twins
Sep 26, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Minnesota Twins short stopDanny Santana
(39) receives congratulations from teammates after scoring in the sixth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Danny Santana quietly put together one of the most impressive performances by a shortstop in 2014, but was widely overshadowed by the production of fellow rookie Jose Abreu – and the fact that Minnesota was irrelevant for much of the season.
In his first big league season, Santana played both shortstop and centerfield, with a majority of his time actually coming in the outfield. Despite the movement, he hit .319/.353/.472 in 101 games. He clubbed 41 extra-base hits, including 27 doubles and seven triples, and stole 20 bases. Debuting for the club in May, Santana got off to a rock-solid start in the big leagues, posting a .375 average in the first month of his career.
He never hit below .271 in any month during his rookie campaign and saved arguably his best performance for the final month of the season. Santana hit .337/.358/467 in September, stealing eight bases without being caught. He finished the season posting the third-highest batting average on balls in play (0.405) since 1961, only topped by Reggie Jefferson in 1996 (0.408) and Rod Carew in 1977 (0.408).
He is the perfect leadoff hitter, whose on-base ability and speed make him a nightmare for opposing pitchers. Minnesota, however, does expect some regression this season, as general manager Terry Ryan said last fall:
"Historically my gut tells me that it’s not sustainable because he didn’t put up those kinds of numbers in the minor leagues. If you’re going to be true to yourself and what you know has happened with historically 95 percent of the players, you’ve got to expect a little bit of a back-off of those numbers, but that would be plenty good enough."
At 24 years old, Santana is now locked in as the Twins’ everyday shortstop. He posted a 3.47 range factor at the position in 2014, committing just two errors in 120 attempts (.983 FPCT). He’ll be faced with his first full season at the position and, with that, will likely endure a number of hiccups throughout the season.
Despite all that, evaluators still expect Santana to put together another impressive performance in 2015.
Next: No. 1