I had heard a lot about Dennis Santana coming into the season and liked what I saw on video, but I like him even more now that I’ve seen him in person. I’m not sure he’s a starter long-term, but he has the skill set, athletic ability and stuff to be a Major League pitcher.
Editor’s note: I am not a scout (#notascout). I am an amateur when it comes to evaluating players and do not do this for a living. I don’t claim to be a pro, I just want to pass along the information I see to the people. All ratings in the charts below are on the standard 20-80 scouting scale, where 50 is roughly average, 80 is elite and nearly unattainable (think Giancarlo Stanton‘s power), and 20 is unacceptably poor. Enjoy.
Dennis Santana Scouting Report
|DOB: 4/12/96||Age: 21||Ht: 6’2||Wt: 160||Bats: Right||Throws: Right||Position: SP/RP|
|Type of pitcher: Power with some pitchability, decent slider, changeup needs work, might be reliever, FV/Risk grade as reliever|
Date seen: April 7, 2017 at Stockton Ports (Banner Island Ballpark)
Outing results: 3 2/3 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 61 pitches, 43 strikes, 5/3 GO/AO, 1 WP
Weather: Cool, breezy, night game, might have hampered velo
How acquired: Signed out of Dominican Republic as shortstop for $170,000
Physical description: Lanky, some athleticism, frame to add some good weight
Strengths: Improved command/control from last season, slider misses bats at times, better feel for pitching, gets good arm-side run on fastball, keeps ball down
Weaknesses: Fringy changeup, doesn’t use lower-half, slider is a bit slurvy, changeup velo doesn’t differ from fastball that much
Key statistics: 3.12 FIP in 111 1/3 innings pitched in Midwest League in 2016
Summary: Signed out of the shortstop capital of the Dominican Republic, San Pedro de Macoris, Santana converted from the position to the mound after his first professional season that saw him hit just .198/.312/.256 for the DSL Dodgers in 2013. His arm talent was much better than his potential at the plate, so the Dodgers made the conversion. So far, so good.
Santana works with a low-90s fastball that touched 95 in this outing. He sat more in the 91-93 range for the duration. A note: It seems he’s added a little velocity since his first outing of the season. That isn’t surprising as the night he pitched was a little chilly (for April in Stockton, at least), but he still made due with what he had. The fastball was a little straighter than I expected, but he also showed some of the sinking, arm-side run that makes it a potential plus pitch. His main offspeed pitch is a slurvy breaking ball in the 81-84 MPH range. He got some swinging strikes with it, but also froze some of the Stockton Ports’ hitters. It has a big 10-4 break, but he gets good spin on it. It’s more effective against righties than lefties right now. He’ll need to tighten it up against southpaws if it’s to be a better swing-and-miss pitch. His changeup had sinker-like action and velocity. It sat in the 87-89 MPH range and even touched 90. It’s a solid pitch on the surface, but the velocity difference from his fastball isn’t as wide as a traditional changeup. Its improvement will likely determine whether he sticks in the rotation long-term or ends up in the bullpen. He’s poised on the hill and doesn’t get rattle easily.
His delivery is interesting. He stands on the first base side of the mound and has a traditional wind-up. But when he comes forward to deliver the pitch, his body is facing the third base dugout and he’s throwing across his body. This requires a little more effort, but it isn’t noticeable on the surface, as it looks like Santana is loose and not stressing when he pitches. He doesn’t bend his back much or incorporate his lower-half in his delivery, yet he’s still able to generate plus velocity (and has some reach-back velo, as noted above). His release point is low-three-quarters and helps him get some natural sink on his fastball. It also accounts for the “wideness” of his slider.
He’s all elbows and kneecaps, as Vin Scully used to say, on the bump. It’s hard for me to see how he was ever really a shortstop. He’s athletic, but he’s really lanky and didn’t handle a comebacker that well in the game. But his frame is conducive to adding some good weight that could help him withstand the rigors of a starter’s workload. He logged more than 100 innings last season (almost 5 IP/GS, 3.7 IP/RP), so that’s a good sign the Dodgers envision him as a starting pitcher until he proves he can’t handle it.
Future: At 21, there’s no need to rush Santana. He’s in his third season of pitching, so there isn’t a lot of mileage on his arm. And the Dodgers have been pretty solid at converting position players to the mound in recent years (Kenley Jansen, Pedro Baez, Blake Smith — yes, he made it to the majors with the White Sox) and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Santana make it to the bigs as a reliever. His fastball could play up, and if he tightens the slider there’s an outside chance of him being a late-inning, high-leverage reliever because of his poise. If not, he should be a solid middle relief-type. His improved command/control (while still not plus) has increased his chances of reaching the majors. I ranked him No. 33 coming into the season, and he’s enjoying success in the California League so far. I’d expect him to make a not-insignificant jump up the rankings come midseason.