Luis Santana – The next Jose Altuve?
So the title of this article is pretty bold, especially since we just wrote an article on how Jose Altuve is on pace to become a Hall of Famer. As I’m sure most of you know, the Astros recently completed a trade with the Mets sending JD Davis for 3 prospects, one of which being Luis Santana.
So Who is Luis Santana?
Santana, 19, is listed at 5’8 (and numerous sources state his size is overstated), 175 lb right handed second baseman hailing out of the Dominican Republic. Santana has generally been underrated based on his size, as until recently, there had not been significant success for diminutive players in the major leagues, though he did receive a solid signing bonus.
He was a 2018 Appalachian League All-Star and winner of the Sterling Award . Let’s take a look at a couple of the scouting reports on him:
Santana is a tenacious, fiery competitor with a small but strong, bulky build. Santana was one of the most difficult hitters to strike out in the DSL. Santana has a compact swing with great hand-eye coordination to barrel balls consistently. He’s an excellent fastball hitter who takes an aggressive swing but also shows good selectivity at the plate. While Santana isn’t tall, his strength enables him to put a strong charge into the ball, although he will probably always have a hit-over-power profile. Santana is an offensive-minded second baseman who could be an average fielder, with solid-average speed and an average arm. He’s not flashy in the field, but he committed just six errors in 65 games, which is an unusually low total for a DSL middle infielder. – Badler, Baseball America
but can surprise with pop, steady and reliable with glove, can swipe a base, need to see at higher levels but good intuitive feeling with this one; ETA 2021.— John Sickels (@MinorLeagueBall) December 20, 2018
Why the Jose Altuve Comparison?
When you search for Luis Santana scouting reports, both the reports and the comments are littered with Jose Altuve comparisons. From a physical perspective, it’s easy to see the correlation, both are international free agents who are well below the average height in the major leagues, and both play second base, and that’s where most of the comparisons end.
In AstrosFuture’s recent top 3 second baseman post, I dug in a bit further and honestly was shocked at how similar their results were for their age 17-19 seasons in Rookie Ball. Jose Altuve got slightly further (21 games in A-, but I’m going to remove those as his stats were not particularly good (may have been advanced slightly too quickly)
Luis Santana (age 17-19): 140 games / 611 PA - .329/.426/.465 – 64 BB / 52 K
Jose Altuve (age 17-19): 149 games / 603 PA - .320/.394/.461 – 62 BB / 58 K
Those are some of the most similar stats that I have seen, from sample size, spitting distance in all areas on the triple slash, as well as plate discipline.
The first item to note, is how remarkable the bat control and zone discipline that both players exhibit. Unfortunately, I don’t have the O and Z contact information from the minor leagues (I couldn’t find it, if it is publicly available). Having more walks than K’s, and a K% under 10 is great to start, even before taking the actual performance into consideration (never been below 121 wRC+ and has been as high as 165 wRC+).
Both are limited in power/speed based on size, but make the most of what they have, with Altuve having a larger quantity of Stolen Bases, but Santana not being a slacker in this arena either.
Batted Ball Profile
It’s tougher to gauge this across multiple seasons, especially in the minors, but I wanted to look at the comparison of their batted ball profiles – just because they’re getting similar results does not mean they’re getting them in the same fashion. Just an note, I couldn’t find the 2007 numbers for Altuve on the batted ball profile, so this is reflective of his 08-09.
Altuve – 51.3% GB / 33.9% FB / 14.8% LD
Santana – 50% GB / 27.2% FB / 22.8% LD
Interestingly, both have high ground ball profiles, with Santana having an advantage in an increased number of line drives in comparison. Let’s look at where they are hitting the ball
Altuve – 45.3% Pull / 25.8% Center / 29.0% Opp
Santana – 47.8% Pull / 24.7% Center / 27.6% Opp
Again, an extremely high level of similarity. There is no hard hit data that I could find to compare at this time.
It’s unfair to compare any prospect to a Super-star player who is trending towards being a Hall of Famer. That’s an unrealistic expectation to put on any player, and Santana is definitely not a headlining prospect, although Fangraphs recently noted they were very bullish on him and would have included him in the top 20 Mets prospect list this year.
I think looking at their overall hitting profile, there are 2 things that stand out, Santana has been slightly more successful with a better line drive rate and taking more walks. They have had eerily similar careers to this point, both from an output perspective as well as the batted ball profile that lead them to achieve it.
When I read about Santana, I assumed a number of people would slap the Jose Altuve comparison on him just due to him being a short second baseman, but I think the comparison is far more warranted than just the surface level.
Santana has had success in stealing bases, but has not been the SB threat that Altuve was during his minor league career. This could be more of an indication of the play style of the managers they were playing under, especially in a limited sample.
I do want to note, there is a small sample size of data to utilize here, and obviously, the details you can normally gather for an analytical approach are not always available with minor leaguers.
When the Davis trade happened, it seemed to be resounded league wise as a major steal by Luhnow. For me, doing the research, it only reinforced that thought process, and truly made me happy with the return we received.