Rangers Acquire Dennis Santana, Designate Hyeon-jong Yang

The Rangers announced they’ve acquired right-hander Dennis Santana from the Dodgers in exchange for left-handed pitching prospect Kelvin Bautista. To create 40-man roster space for Santana, Texas designated left-hander Hyeon-jong Yang for assignment. Texas optioned Santana to Triple-A Round Rock.

The Dodgers designated Santana for assignment last week. The 25-year-old saw big league action in each season between 2018-21. Across 40 2/3 MLB innings, Santana has only managed a 6.42 ERA/4.88 SIERA with worse than average strikeout and walk rates (18.7% and 11.9%, respectively). He’s fared particularly poorly this season, allowing eleven runs (ten earned) on eighteen hits and eleven walks with just eight strikeouts across fifteen frames.

To Santana’s credit, he has induced ground balls at a robust 54.9% clip in 2021. That’s a new development but not all that surprising for a pitcher who leans primarily on a 95 MPH sinker. Santana, though, throws an extremely high-spin sinker. Unlike with four-seam fastballs, sinkers tend to fare better as low-spin offerings, since higher-spin heaters can resist gravity and be less likely to dive down towards the bottom of the strike zone.

Nevertheless, Santana’s three-pitch mix (he throws a slider and changeup with relatively equal frequency) has long intrigued scouts. Entering the year, Baseball America ranked Santana the Dodgers #19 prospect, praising his repertoire but questioning his command. The Rangers will now attempt to actualize that upside. Santana is in his final minor league option year, so he can be sent back and forth between Arlington and Round Rock without being exposed to waivers for the remainder of this season. While all 32 of his MLB appearances have come in relief, Santana has started the majority of his minor league games, so it’s possible the Rangers could try to lengthen him back out as rotation depth.

Yang loses his roster spot after eight appearances (four starts). Signed to a minor league deal over the winter after a lengthy, successful career in the Korea Baseball Organization, the 33-year-old was selected to Texas’ MLB roster in late April. Yang struggled in 29 big league innings, working to a 5.59 ERA with a subpar 15% strikeout rate and an elevated 11.8% walk rate. The Rangers will have a week to trade him or place him on outright waivers.

Bautista signed with the Rangers as an amateur out of the Dominican Republic during the 2017-18 international signing period. Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs ranked Bautista the #62 prospect in the Texas farm system last month, noting that the diminutive southpaw throws in the mid-upper 90s with a promising but inconsistent curveball and subpar command.