Wednesday, July 6, 2016

By Robert Cunningham, Staff Writer - 

Author’s Note: The following player data was pulled via FanGraphs on June 30th, 2016.

Hector Santiago, who has one more year of arbitration control in 2017, has had another inconsistent season, so far, in 2016.

Santiago creates uncomfortable at-bats for his opponents, as evidenced by his .241 Batting Average Against (BAA) and elite, low 14.7% line drive rate. He is an unconventional pitcher insofar as how he gets hitters out through poor quality of contact.

Unfortunately Hector’s actual results reflect his peripherals and he has been punished by right-handed hitters (RHH’s) taking him long this year in addition to walking too many batters.

Santiago’s Slugging % Against (SLG) righties this year is a full 150 points higher than against lefties. "Through the magic of hit distribution most of these home runs against RHH's have occurred at home, oddly enough.

So these results really lead us to ask the question of whether or not Hector has any amount of significant trade value?

Although it is clear that Santiago’s actual results are a major negative factor in determining his value we also need to consider left-handed pitcher scarcity in the potential 2016 trade deadline market.

When you examine the potential trade candidates you get a short list of left-handed starters that include names like Rich Hill, Drew Pomeranz, CC Sabathia, C.J. Wilson, and maybe Matt Moore and Francisco Liriano if the Rays and Pirates continue their recent slides.

This initially seems like a lot of competition but when you look at their splits you discover that only Rich Hill (and Wilson in 2015), Francisco Liriano, and Matt Moore are actually better than Hector against left-handed hitters (LHH’s). Notably only Hill and Liriano have higher groundball rates vs. LHH’s than Hector.

It is this relative scarcity combined with the short-term team and price control that will give Santiago some level of value at the trade deadline because there are a lot of projected playoff teams that have a significant number of LHH’s in their lineups and some of their opponents want and need a lefty to combat them.

In order to determine which team(s) might be a good fit we need to first address Hector’s greatest weakness which is the long ball against RHH’s.

To make a long story short the author started off by examining park factors to see which parks suppressed right-handed power but after some deliberation decided to examine where and how far the home runs Santiago coughed up this year actually landed.

The unsurprising part of this answer is that most of the home runs hit off of Hector ended up going over the left field fence. The surprising part was by how far which was an average of about 400 feet per ESPN’s Home Run tracker:

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This simply means that when Santiago gives up a home run over the left field fence it goes so far that NO stadium in the League can contain it based on the average true distance it travels. In case you were wondering Anaheim has the greatest left field fence distance at 347 feet.

In turn this means that any team that wants to use Hector as a starter will have to live with the fact that he will give up home runs to right-handed hitters barring a change in his mechanics and/or repertoire of pitches. What it also could mean is some teams might rather use him in a relief role where his stuff might play up better and his exposure to right-handed hitters might be reduced.

So in order to build a list of potential suitors we need to build two lists, one for teams that view him as a starter and another for teams that view him as a back-end reliever or left-handed specialist.

To begin we need to understand where Santiago puts balls in play. Below are his batted ball splits for 2016 (i.e. what he is actually doing this year):

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Beyond his elite low LD% rates, Hector generates 55.9% groundballs against LHH’s and a lot of those are pulled to the 2B/1B side of the mound. Additionally, against RHH’s, he generates 51.1% flyballs and approximately 40% of those are pulled out to the left field side.

To see this visually here are Santiago’s 2016 spray charts versus left-handed and right-handed hitters, courtesy of FanGraphs:

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Based on the numbers and the graphs it would make the most sense for an acquiring team to have at least an average or better defensive left fielder and second baseman. Looking at the batted ball distribution further it would also make sense if the acquiring team had at least a shortstop that was average or better defensively as well.

Below is a list of teams that have a left fielder, second baseman and shortstop that are average or better, or project to be average or better, defensively and likely need a left-handed starter:

Red Sox

These four teams represent the best fits to handle Hector’s batted ball distribution based on how he’s performed year-to-date as a starting pitcher.

The second list is also based on Santiago’s batted ball distribution but instead of team’s that need a starter this list focuses only on teams that need a back-end left-handed reliever:

Red Sox

These three teams represent the best fits to handle Hector’s batted ball distribution based on how he’s performed year-to-date and also have a need for a left-handed reliever in their bullpen.

This indicates that the Giants, Rangers, Royals, Red Sox, and Cubs could have some level of interest in Santiago as either a starter or reliever. Let’s examine each case further to determine who is really a match.


Primary Need(s): Corner OF, Back-End Reliever/Elite Closer, 3B
Secondary Need(s): Mid or Back-End Starter, Back-Up Catcher

The Giants are already becoming a recurring theme in the Trade Candidate series first with Escobar and now with Santiago.

Matt Cain has been injured (hamstring) and not performing well so far this season. He’s set to return after the All-Star Break but the Giants are probably concerned about his performance level in a playoff race.

Hector likely wouldn’t be that much of an upgrade over Cain although he’d play well into their infield defense versus left-handed hitters. The Giants would probably have more interest in Santiago as a reliever and as rotation insurance in case of an injury.

Giants Likely Trade Target(s): 3B Yunel Escobar, LHP Hector Santiago, RHP Huston Street, C Geovany Soto, and RHR Fernando Salas

Angels Likely Trade Target(s): AA 2B Christian Arroyo, AA LHP Andrew Suarez, AA RHP Tyler Beede, A+ RHP Phil Bickford, A+ 1B Chris Shaw, A+ RHP Jordan Johnson, AAA RHP Clayton Blackburn, OF Jarrett Parker, AAA LHP Adalberto Mejia, AA RHR Chase Johnson, A RHP Michael Santos, AA RHR Ray Black, AAA LHR Steven Okert, AAA RHP Joan Gregorio, and A+ RHR Ian Gardeck

Trade Scenario(s):

1) Angels trade LHP Hector Santiago to the Giants in exchange for AAA LHP Adalberto Mejia

- Angels absorb Santiago’s remaining $2.5MM 2016 salary

- Mejia is a lefty with good control, a low 90’s fastball, average slider and plus change up with a ceiling as a #3 or #4 starter

2) Angels trade LHP Hector Santiago, 3B Yunel Escobar, and C Geovany Soto to the Giants in exchange for AA 2B Christian Arroyo, AA LHP Andrew Suarez, and AA RHR Ray Black

- Angels absorb Santiago’s, Escobar’s, and Soto’s remaining $2.5MM, $2.7MM, and $1.4MM 2016 salaries

- Arroyo, the Giants #1 prospect, could best be described as the ‘Kole Calhoun’ of middle infielders meaning he does everything above average but nothing spectacularly well

- Suarez is a solid left-handed starter with good control and mid rotation upside

- Black is a flame throwing right-handed reliever with elite closer written all over him


Primary Need(s): Front-End Starter, Back-End Left-Handed Starter
Secondary Need(s): None

The Rangers have done remarkably well so far this year considering that three of their five starters are on the Disabled List.

Darvish is starting a rehab assignment but Holland is experiencing shoulder inflammation and could potentially be out for a significant period of time and Colby Lewis has a lateral strain that may keep him out until late August.

If you’re not concerned about Yu’s overall health he and Hamels make up two-thirds of a playoff starting rotation. Behind them though is an unreliable cadre including the aforementioned Lewis and Holland and the ineffective Martin Perez.

You’d have to think that the Rangers are considering adding not only a frontline starter but also a left-handed starter that will give Texas options in the 2nd half and the playoffs.

Clearly Arlington Stadium is a hitter’s park but it is particularly good for left-handed hitters making a starter like Santiago a bit more valuable in that environment because he can keep the ball on the ground against them.

If the Rangers decide to go big and get a frontline ace type pitcher it still seems possible that they would try to add a second  back-end, left-handed starter like Hector to add some balance to their rotation.

Rangers Likely Target(s): LHP Hector Santiago, RHP Matt Shoemaker, RHR Huston Street, RHR Joe Smith, LHP Jose Alvarez, and RHR Fernando Salas

Angels Likely Target(s): AAA OF Lewis Brinson, 2B Jurickson Profar, AA RHP Luis Oritz, AAA 3B/OF Joey Gallo, A+ RHP Ariel Jurado, AA 2B Andy Ibanez, AA OF Ryan Cordell, LHR Andrew Faulkner, AAA RHR John Fasola, A RHP Pedro Payano, AAA 2B Drew Robinson, AA RHR Adam Parks, and AA LHP Frank Lopez

Trade Scenario(s):

1) Angels trade LHP Hector Santiago to the Rangers in exchange for AA 2B Andy Ibanez

2) Angels trade LHP Hector Santiago and RHR Joe Smith to the Rangers in exchange for 2B Jurickson Profar

- Angels absorb Santiago’s and Smith’s remaining $2.5MM and $2.8MM 2016 salaries

3) Angels trade LHP Hector Santiago and RHR Joe Smith to the Rangers in exchange for AA RHP Luis Ortiz, A+ RHP Ariel Jurado, and AA LHP Frank Lopez

- Angels absorb Santiago’s and Smith’s remaining $2.5MM and $2.8MM 2016 salaries

- Ortiz is a young righty with good control and mid-rotation upside

- Jurardo is also a young righty with good control and mid-rotation upside

- Lopez is a lefty who could be a #4 or #5 starter but might have to move to the bullpen


Primary Need(s): 3B, Frontline (Two-way) Starter or LH Middle Rotation Starter
Secondary Need(s): Back-End Closer Type or RH Middle Reliever

The Royals, another recurring team in this Trade Candidate series, definitely could use either a frontline starter and/or a left-handed mid or back-end rotation starter.

There have been rumors, as reported by Jeff Passan, that the Royals have grown tired of Yordano Ventura’s antics on the field and have quietly inquired about trading him with at least two other teams even though this was shot down by an anonymous Royals executive just two weeks later.

Personally the author believes that if the Royals stay within striking distance of a wild card spot they would rather trade for another starter and move Ventura to the back-end of their bullpen where his fastball will play up better and it would limit his exposure to brawl situations on the field.

As stated in the Yunel Escobar article the Angels are a good trade partner for the Royals right now in terms of how much cash we can absorb for 2016 and perhaps 2017 and the type of players they need right now.

Royals Likely Target(s): 3B Yunel Escobar, LHP C.J. Wilson, LHP Hector Santiago, RHR Huston Street, RHR Joe Smith, and/or RHR Fernando Salas

Angels Likely Target(s): AAA RHP Kyle Zimmer, AAA RHP Miguel Almonte, A+ LHP Foster Griffin, AA 1B Ryan O’Hearn, AA OF Bubba Starling, AAA 3B Hunter Dozier, AA LHP Matthew Strahm, AA RHP Pedro Fernandez, AA LHP Eric Skoglund, AA RHP Glenn Sparkman, A+ RHP Josh Staumont, OF Reymond Fuentes, AA RHP Alec Mills, AAA OF Jorge Bonifacio, A SS Marten Gasparini

Trade Scenario(s):

1) Angels trade LHP Hector Santiago to the Royals in exchange for AA LHP Matthew Strahm

- Angels absorb Santiago’s remaining $2.5MM 2016 salary

- Strahm is a near-ready MLB prospect with excellent control and mid-rotation upside

2) Angels trade LHP Hector Santiago, 3B Yunel Escobar, and RHR Joe Smith to the Royals in exchange for AA RHP Alec Mills, AAA RHP Miguel Almonte, AAA OF Jorge Bonifacio, and A+ RHP Josh Staumont

- Angels absorb Santiago’s and Escobar’s remaining $2.5MM and $2.7MM 2016 salaries

- Mills is a near-ready MLB starter with front or mid-rotation upside due to his excellent control

- Almonte if he develops has a chance to be a mid-rotation starter but has a high floor as a power reliever in the back-end of the bullpen

- Bonifacio is a power hitter but is limited defensively to LF, DH, or 1B due to a fringe throwing arm and defensive skills

- Staumont has a huge arm but significant command issues making him a lottery ticket

Red Sox

Primary Targets: LHP/LHR Hector Santiago, and RHP Matt Shoemaker
Secondary Targets: LHR Jose Alvarez, RHR Joe Smith, C Geovany Soto, and RHR Fernando Salas

When it comes to a likely suitor for Hector Santiago, the Red Sox and the Green Monster don’t immediately strike you as a particularly good environment for the left-hander to pitch in.

However, as was discussed at the beginning of the article, Hector’s long distance home runs he gives up against right-handed hitters wouldn’t stay inside of any stadium in baseball.

In fact Santiago may provide more hidden value to the Red Sox when you look at their 2015 park factors:

 photo HS5_zps8ddjthok.png

You can see that Fenway coughs up singles, doubles, and triples to left-handed hitters approximately 4%, 21%, and 24% higher than MLB average.

The advantage of having Hector pitch here is that he has an aforementioned elite, low line drive rate which is #1 in all the Majors. What that means is Hector puts the ball on the ground or high in the air but not often in between.

This low line drive rate is also important against right-handed hitters at Fenway because they too hit singles and doubles at an average 3% and 10% more than the MLB average.

Batting Average on Balls In Play is primarily driven by how many line drives a pitcher gives up and to a lesser degree how many groundballs they give up. Hector’s pitch movement and ability to force hitters into poor contact allows his team’s defense to make outs as long as the ball isn’t going out of the yard.

As a back-end starter Santiago would provide some value to a Red Sox team that really needs pitching. How much value is certainly debatable but in his last three starts he has a 3.44 ERA albeit with a bad walk rate (which is one of Hector’s two bad pitching traits).

The other angle, of course, would be to bring in Hector as a back-end reliever. Boston’s bullpen isn’t bad but it hasn’t been great and lately they’ve been overworked. Santiago has previous relief experience, is effective at getting left-handed hitters out, could act as injury insurance in case a starter goes down, and if he moves to a relief role he could probably dial up his velocity a tick or so which may make him more effective all-around.

Red Sox Likely Target(s): RHP Matt Shoemaker, LHP Hector Santiago, RHR Joe Smith, RHR Fernando Salas, C Geovany Soto, and LHR Jose Alvarez

Angels Likely Target(s): AA 2B/OF Yoan Moncada, AA OF Andrew Benintendi, LHP Henry Owens, AA 2B Mauricio Dubon, A+ RHP Travis Lakins, AA RHP Ben Taylor, AA LHR Luis Ysla, AAA RHR James Shepard, A RHP Marcus Brakeman, AA Utility INF Tzu-Wei Lin, A 1B/DH Josh Ockimey, AA LHP Jalen Beeks, AAA RHR Kyle Martin, AAA RHP Aaron Wilkerson, and AAA Corner INF Jantzen Witte

Trade Scenario(s):

1) Angels trade LHP Hector Santiago to the Red Sox in exchange for AA LHP Jalen Beeks and AAA RHR Kyle Martin

- Angels absorb Santiago’s remaining $2.5MM 2016 salary

- Beeks is an under-the-radar lefty with a mid-90’s fastball and a solid changeup who may wind up as a mid or back-end rotation starter

- Martin is a right-hand bullpen piece who lives in the mid-90’s with his fastball

2) Angels trade LHP Hector Santiago, RHR Joe Smith, LHR Jose Alvarez, and C Geovany Soto to the Red Sox in exchange for AA OF Andrew Benintendi, AA LHP Jalen Beeks, and RHR James Shepherd

- Angels absorb Santiago’s, Salas’, and Soto’s remaining $2.5MM, $1.4MM, and $1.4MM 2016 salaries and send $3MM to cover part of Santiago’s 2017 arbitration salary

- Benintendi is a very promising young OF with excellent projected contact ability

- Beeks is as above

- Shepherd is a right-handed reliever with good control who, like Santiago, creates poor quality of contact

- This is an example of the Angels trading more players than they get back for the one prime prospect in Benintendi


The Cubs, this year’s fan-determined team of destiny, certainly aren’t hurting for help as they sit atop the standings.

Although their playoff rotation seems to be set, Chicago’s bullpen is another matter with only Hector Rondon able to battle left and right-handed hitters.

Now clearly the Cubs are a team primed to go after an elite reliever like Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller or even a lower-tier reliever such as Sean Doolittle.

However acquiring one of those guys still won’t solve all of their woes as they could also use a good left-handed reliever and that is the most likely role they would want to fill if they decided Hector Santiago was a fit.

The odds of that seem pretty low when looking at the broader picture and the potential relievers that they can find and choose from in the market even if it is relatively scarce in left-handed relief.

Cubs Likely Target(s): LHR Hector Santiago and LHR Jose Alvarez

Angels Likely Target(s): AA OF Ian Happ, AA OF Billy Mckinney, AAA OF Mark Zagunis, C Willson Contreras, AA 2B Chesny Young, AAA RHR Corey Black, A+ RHR Trevor Clifton, A+ RHR Daury Torrez, and A- LHP Jose Paulino

Trade Scenario(s):

1) Angels trade LHR Hector Santiago to the Cubs in exchange for AAA OF Mark Zagunis

- Angels absorb Santiago’s remaining $2.5MM 2016 salary


To be perfectly clear this may not be the best time to sell Hector Santiago.

His 2016 year-to-date results have been inconsistent and the Angels may want to gamble that he’ll improve in the 2nd half increasing Hector’s value and then try to move him in the offseason where the list of available trade suitors will likely be larger or at the trade deadline next year.

That being said Billy Eppler has firsthand experience with UCL injuries and if the asking price is met or the offer really provides an impressive injection of talent he will pull the trigger in a heartbeat.

Out of all the teams discussed in this submission of the Trade Candidate series the Royals and the Red Sox seem like the most likely trade suitors followed by the Giants and the Rangers. The Cubs seem unlikely but if they get frustrated with the Yankees demand for Kyle Schwarber in trade they may turn to a more creative and sensible solution.
Love to hear what you think!

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