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Why Domingo Santana’s defense is most concerning for the Mariners

Mariners OF Domingo Santana has struggled in his transition to left field from right. (AP)

Defense has been an especially prevalent complaint about the Seattle Mariners this season, and they have three players ranked in the bottom seven in the league in defensive WAR: left fielder Domingo Santana, center fielder Mallex Smith and shortstop Tim Beckham.

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Shannon Drayer, Mariners insider for 710 ESPN Seattle, talked to John Clayton on Thursday and explained that while the defensive issues of Smith and Beckham aren’t exactly welcome, Santana’s performance in the field is what is most alarming.

“It’s a problem and it’s one that they’ve got to evaluate not just for now but for the future,” Drayer said about the defense of Santana, whose minus-10.1 defensive WAR (per Fangraphs) ranks 3.4 points lower than second-worst player in the MLB. “When you look at what he has done defensively, there’s no two ways about it – by WAR and by defensive runs saved, he right now is the worst defensive player in baseball.”

Drayer explained that while Smith is second-to-last with a minus-6.7 defensive WAR and Beckham is seventh-worst at minus-3.8, Smith’s past and Beckham’s future make their defense easier to digest.

“It’s a little bit scary when you look at that list, but you look at them a little bit differently. Mallex has a track record of being a decent defender, so you look at what he is right now and you say that’s fixable. You look at the metrics and you know he’s a very good athlete. You look at Tim Beckham, and right now he is essentially a placeholder because J.P. Crawford is the future shortstop of this team.”

As for Santana, the Mariners are trying to determine if he has the ability to play the outfield going forward or if he is bound to be a designated hitter for the rest of his career. And if that future is in Seattle, it will most likely have to come in left field due to All-Star Mitch Haniger having established himself in right and Daniel Vogelbach appearing to be the front-runner at DH.

Left field, however, has proven to be a difficult transition for Santana, who has played 292 of his 352 career MLB games in right.

“You brought him in to be a piece of this team hopefully for the future,” Drayer said. “When you look at the defensive numbers right now, unless there is something that drastically changes, you’re looking more at most likely a potential DH rather than an outfielder.”

You can hear Drayer’s full segment breaking down the Mariners in the player embedded in this post, or you can download the podcast at this link.

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John Clayton on 710 ESPN Seattle
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