Monday, June 15, 2015

Santana's Struggle Is Polanco's Opportunity

Danny Santana was supposed to be the answer at shortstop.

He blew everyone out of the water with his performance throughout the 2014 season. However, the 2015 season has been an entirely different story. He's looked lost at the plate and struggled on the field to the point where the Twins demoted him to Triple-A.

Many fans of the Twins minor leagues might have expected this kind of regression from Santana in his sophomore season. During his minor league tenure, he hit .274/.317/.393 so he surprised with his big offensive jump at the big league level. A lot of this can be contributed to his .405 BABIP.

New manager Paul Molitor and the Twins front office were committed to Santana being the team's shortstop to start the 2015 campaign. To say he struggled, would be an understatement. His BABIP dropped to .300 and he hit .218/.235/.291 while looking over-matched. 

There were also more defensive struggles as he adjusted to playing shortstop regularly for the first time at the big league level. Last season, Santana got the majority of his playing time in center field as the Twins were looking to get outfield production. There have always been questions about Santana's ability to stick at shortstop as he has a career .933 fielding percentage in the minors.

Santana's struggles to start the year might have opened the door for another younger player. Jorge Polanco has seen very limited action over the last two season's in Minnesota including his first start at shortstop last week. Because of Eddie Rosario's paternity leave, it was a short call-up for Polanco but another learning experience under his belt. 

Polanco has spent this entire season with the Southern League's Chattanooga Lookouts. He's roughly three years younger than the other hitters in the league and that hasn't stopped him from putting up some career best numbers. Through 56 games, he hit .316/.361/.433 with 17 extra-base hits and 13 steals. His four home runs also put him three behind his career high from 2014.

While Santana tries to rediscover some of his rookie magic, Polanco might have surpassed him on the Twins shortstop totem pole. Polanco is regarded as a better defender and he's compiled better offensive numbers throughout his minor league career. If Polanco continues to play well this season, it seems likely he will be the one starting at shortstop for the Twins in the foreseeable future. 

It was fun to watch Santana's performance last season but his time might have already be run out in Minnesota. 

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