The Brewers announced today that they’ve optioned outfielder Domingo Santana to Triple-A Colorado Springs. In a related move, the club has elected to promote Brad Miller, whom the team acquired from the Rays just under two weeks ago.
It’s been quite the fall from grace for the soon-to-be 26-year-old Santana, who last season enjoyed a breakout campaign headlined by 30 homers, 15 stolen bases and a .278/.371/.505 batting line. That hardly seems like a fluke on the surface, considering Santana’s .362 xwOBA ranked just outside the 10th percentile among 546 hitters with at least 50 batted ball events. His hard contact rate (39.7%) and plate discipline (12% walk rate, 26.5% chase rate) also supported the argument that Santana was simply a very good hitter.
Santana’s struggles this season have been well-documented. He appears to have taken a step backwards in nearly every facet of his game. Certainly the power has mysteriously disappeared, evidenced by a mere three homers and .354 slugging percentage. But equally alarming is the fact that his walk rate has dropped off significantly; his 8.5% clip so far would be the lowest of his career by a full two points (not including an 18 PA cup of coffee in 2014). Santana’s batting average has also dropped a full 31 points even despite a marginal increase over last year’s gaudy .363 BABIP. His one stolen base thus far puts him on pace for a dramatic drop-off from the 15 bases he stole in 2017.
One of the biggest differences in Santana’s game this year is his batted ball profile. His line drive rate has plummeted from 27.4% last season to 22.8% so far in 2018. Those lost liners have all turned into ground balls, and as a result Santana’s hit the ball on the ground more than half the time this year. He’s also been chasing quite a few more pitches outside of the strike zone; his chase rate of 30.8% is a large jump from last year’s 26.5% clip.
The move likely means more playing time for Jesus Aguilar, who’s been a revelation for the Brewers this season. Aguilar, who came to Milwaukee last year after being designated for assignment by the Indians, has been one of the top ten best hitters in baseball this season. However, due in part to the return of Eric Thames to the lineup, Aguilar has sat on the bench twice in the past week. The removal of Santana from the active roster should help clear up a bit more playing time for a hitter who has certainly earned it with his 16 homers and .975 OPS.