Dennis Santana: 2021 Breakout Pick

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If you’ve been watching the Dodgers this Spring, you’ve probably been impressed by Dennis Santana by now. If you’ve been watching the Dodgers for years, you’ve probably already seen him do great things.

If you haven’t yet, you will in 2021. With Joe Kelly not on track to start the year on the roster, the Dodgers have a new need for a RHP out of the pen. Mix that with the Kolarek and Floro trades and Santana already looks locked in to one of the 26 spots.

We think we’ve seen enough. Santana is breaking out this year and we’re breaking down why.

Highlights:

  • Santana’s Career Quick Recap
  • Santana’s Arsenal
  • 2021 Hopes
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Santana’s Career

Santana has been with the Dodgers since he was 18 all the way back in 2014. Almost always a top prospect, two injuries dramatically setback the young up and comer. He followed a pattern of doing well one season, and regressing with the promotions.

His best year so far was 2018. He pitched in AA and AAA to the tune of a 2.54 ERA in 10 starts. He had 65 strikeouts in just under 50 innings. He only went 1-3 thanks to 6 unearned runs on top of his 14 earned. He was finally MLB ready before quickly going down with one an injury after 1 major league appearance.

He came back in 2019, but wasn’t as ready as he was before. Despite that, he received the call up and got crushed in only 5 MLB innings. He appeared in 12 games in 2020, but 4 homers soiled what would’ve been a decent 17 innings. Now he looks to truly breakout in 2021 after putting on some good muscle.

His Arsenal

Santana is traditionally a starter, so he works with 4 different pitches. Normally we would break down his usage, but with such a stark difference in stuff from what we saw last year, we think he’s going to change up his breakdown from last year.

Still, we assume his primary combo is his sinker and slider. Rumor has it, he’s hitting as high as 97 MPH on the gun this spring after putting on some weight. He was already in the 73rd percentile in fastball spin, but with the increase in velocity we’re assuming he’ll tick up this year.

That would probably mean his slider also sped up to somewhere around 87 MPH while spinning more. That alone should be a disgusting combo. But mix in his change up and now a 4-seam fastball in the upper 90s. Overall, Santana has the chops to be a starter for most clubs, but is ready to be an effective swing arm for the Dodgers now. And either his changeup got disgusting, or he may have added a curveball to the mix.

Hopes For 2021

We obviously have extremely high hopes for Santana this year. Joe Kelly isn’t on track for opening day at the moment leaving the perfect roster opening for the RHP to fill. Mix that with David Price likely moving to the pen, and it seems that the Dodgers will likely have another year of using almost double digit starters.

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So we see Santana pitching around 80 to 100 innings this year. We think he’s going to have as many as 5 starts, but will mostly pitch in long relief out of the pen. He’s likely to only see low leverage innings for now, but that’s how Graterol and Gonzales started last year.

We see Santana finishing the year with an ERA in the high 2’s with more than a strikeout per inning. We think his control is better and will show, dramatically increasing his strikeout to walk ratio. It’s a little early to say as far as wins and losses, but we’re predicting Santana walks away with 5+ wins this year with only 1 to 2 losses.

He should pitch in middle innings this year giving him a few innings for the Dodgers to come back when they’re behind, or more likely protect the big lead he was given. In both cases it will be very hard for him to lose games, but much easier to get a W next to his name. We even think he’ll have his first multi-inning save this year.

Overall, we think the 25 year old is locked into a roster spot after impressing this much this spring. He’s definitely one of our top Dodger names to watch in 2021.

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