Santana having breakout season with Rangers

June 13th, 2019

BOSTON -- For all the scouting reports and video research, there are players who still turn heads with breakout performances that are not projected based on their previous numbers.

has been one of them for the Rangers.

Signed to a Minor League contract in January, Santana caught the Rangers' attention during Spring Training. He had made an impression with the Twins in 2014, when he hit .319 as a rookie. But his production had dropped since then, and he joined the Rangers after batting .199 over parts of two seasons with the Braves. The Rangers saw potential that told a different story than his statistics.

"When we met him in Spring Training, I didn't know him at all," manager Chris Woodward said. "[Bench coach Don Wakamatsu] was like, 'I don't know what it is. There's something about him. He's got a lot, a lot of talent.'"

Santana batted .280 in the spring and separated himself with his ability to play multiple positions. When it came time to finalize the roster, there wasn't a spot for Santana -- yet. Woodward encouraged him to stay ready in Triple-A ball. The team was impressed by the way he took the news.

"We decided we were not going to bring him up right away," general manager Jon Daniels said. "So we called him and we told him, 'Listen, you literally couldn't have done anything more to make this club. But for a variety or reasons -- none of which have anything to do with you -- we're going to ask you to start in Nashville.' Big smile, 'I get it, no problem at all. I appreciate the opportunity. I'll be ready.'"

Santana didn't have to wait long in Nashville, where he hit .343 in nine games. The Rangers called him up from Triple-A on April 13. He has played first base, second base, shortstop, left field and center field. On Thursday, he made his first start for the Rangers in right.

"We call him up, and it's amazing what he's done," Woodward said. "Honestly, it's pretty remarkable. It's not surprising now that I've got to know him and see him every day and watch him take BP and watch him prepare and watch him work. We wouldn't be where we are without him. I don't know how many wins that is, but it's quite a few, significant."

The 28-year-old Santana entered Thursday's game at Fenway Park with a .297/.335/.486 slash line, with four home runs and 17 RBIs. He is the only player on the Rangers with two four-plus hits games. Santana credits adjusting the movement of his hands on his swing for some of his success. He also has been given a boost by Woodward, who described Santana as "one of my favorite players."

"I am very confident now," Santana said through an interpreter. "I have to thank the manager, Chris, because he has shown trust in me."

Santana has proved he does not shy away from big matchups. He went 4-for-5 with two runs and an RBI against Red Sox ace Chris Sale on Tuesday.

"Those are the kind of guys you want. Those are championship pieces," Woodward said. "And it's cool that we got him the way that we got him, because he kind of came out of nowhere in a lot of people's eyes in Spring Training. … He's one of our best players."