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Dodgers 2018 top prospects: No. 12, Cristian Santana

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Cristian Santana hit .363 with 22 extra-base hits in 54 games between Ogden and Great Lakes in 2017.
Photo credit: Tomo San | LA Dodgers

2017 saw a number of breakouts from Dodgers prospects, but perhaps the most unheralded was that of Cristian Santana. Santana torched the Pioneer League before moving on to the Midwest League, becoming the Loons’ top offensive performer. Few could have guessed that Santana’s season would end in a California League playoff cameo, and his offense prowess might put him at that level to start 2018. How Cristian balances his aggressive approach with the need to adapt to more polished pitching at the higher levels will determine just how high his star continues to rise.

Visually, Santana appears to be the best mixture of physical prowess and athletic twitchiness in the organization. Some prospects are more physically imposing (DJ Peters comes to mind), while others have the edge on athleticism (Jeren Kendall the leader), but few prospects marry the two like Santana at the age of 21. Listed at 6’2, 175 lbs., Santana has a football body that could carry 215 lbs. with ease and little loss of quickness, and he already looks to have filled out some.

That athletic twitchiness is on display at the plate, where Santana’s aggressive approach has not kept him from producing big numbers in both friendly and tough hitting environments. Santana tracks the ball well, which allows him to consistent take big hacks at the plate. His swing profile isn’t as consistent at this stage of his development, but has sufficient leverage and the long length combined with his strength gives him plus power.

Santana is a free swinger and could use better selectivity at the plate. His willingness to chase pitches might partly be the reason he hasn’t developed a pull profile, as Santana currently sprays the ball to all fields. His power has also played to all fields thus far, but he could tap into even more game power by refining his approach on balls in the inner half to pull.

Santana’s 23.3% strikeout rate in Low-A is likely a better indicator of where his plate discipline is at this stage in his development, but I don’t think he will always be a serious strikeout risk. Santana makes a lot of contact, often too willing to roll over on pitches away in the zone, especially from right handers. His platoon split is rather large at the moment and Santana also needs work on breaking balls from right handers. His athletic skills should allow him to make the necessary adjustments, and it’s important to remember he has just 180 regular season plate appearances in full season ball.

I haven’t been able to evaluate Santana defensively, though he has the athletic tools that should help him stick at third base. His error totals at third are fairly high but are almost meaningless in a player at this age and level of play. He has experience at all infield positions, but likely has already outgrown the middle infield. His athleticism should also allow him to transition to the outfield if need be.

I gave Santana a fairly conservative ceiling score of 65, though I think he could develop into a key performer for the Dodgers if he can stick at third base with his offensive tools. His ability to track pitches gives him a jump on other free swingers in the organization and hope for improvement in his selectivity that should increase his in game power and floundering full season walk rate. Because it’s hard for me to evaluate a player’s willingness to put in the necessary development work at the lower levels, I tend to keep ceiling figures lower for these guys until we have enough points of references to see improvement (or lack thereof).

Santana’s quick rise in 2017 should have him primed to return to the California League to start 2018, and the challenge is probably most needed to get the most out of his development. At this point, I don’t believe Santana needs adjustments to swing length because of his sufficient bat speed, but instead continue to refine his pitch recognition (especially right handed breaking balls) and selectivity. Santana is still a ways from Los Angeles (again just 174 regular season at bats in Great Lakes), but his rise could time perfectly with the need for a regular third baseman that can provide middle order power. Should he continue to scorch the ball in the California League, expect his breakout to extend to the national prospect stage.

2018 top Dodgers prospects

12 Cristian Santana 3B 21.01 LoA 55 40 65 excellent build, loose athlete, chance for + power long swing, chance for swing and miss, raw
13 Edwin Rios 3B/1B 23.11 AAA 55 45 60 big raw power, strong, productive hitter, arm strength avg bat speed, fringy at 3rd, mistake hitter
14 Starling Heredia LF/RF 19.02 LoA 55 35 70 man-child physique, huge raw power, upside still raw at the plate, serious swing and miss
15 Morgan Cooper RHSP 23.06 NA 55 50 55 good frame, + BB with BB manipulation, production injury history, longer arm action, ceiling more #3
16 Gavin Lux SS 20.04 LoA 55 50 55 should stick at SS, athletic, plate discipline at age overall offensive ceiling, some hit struggles early
17 Jordan Sheffield RHSP/RP 22.10 HiA 55 45 60 electric arm, + present fastball and CV, athletic production doesn't match stuff, likely reliever
18 Imani Abdullah RHSP 20.11 LoA 55 45 60 excellent frame, upside, feel for spin on CB 17 a redshirt year, limited exposure, little stiff
19 Kyle Farmer C/3B 27.07 MLB 50 50 45 good feel for hit, offensive profile at C, utility more productive bench bat then starter, age
20 Caleb Ferguson LHSP 21.09 HiA 50 45 50 K production, 3 pitch mix, command, feel for spin upside more mid rotation, maxed out frame
21 Connor Wong C/2B 21.10 LoA 50 45 50 versatile talent, good athlete for a C, solid power prod some swing and miss, build not projectable
22 Josh Sborz RHSP/RP 24.03 AA 50 45 50 high floor, command of three pitches, competitive stuff has backed up this season, likely reliever
23 James Marinan RHSP 19.06 ROK 50 40 55 projectable frame, flashes + SNK, chance for +CH slurvy BB, more middle than upper rotation upside
24 Devin Smeltzer LHSP 22.08 HiA 50 45 50 high pitchability, 3 pitch mix, throws nothing straight fringe avg velo, 4th or 5th starter ceiling
25 Matt Beaty 1B/LF 24.11 AA 50 45 50 excellent feel for hit, career production, game pop limited ceiling, future defensive home
26 Andrew Sopko RHSP 23.08 AA 50 50 45 3 pitch mix, pitchability, command, deceptive velo can be fringy, bottom rotation upside
27 Ariel Sandoval CF/RF 22.05 HiA 50 35 60 livey athlete, raw power, arm, 2nd half production too raw at plate, noisey set-up, high swing and miss
28 Tim Locastro SS/2B/CF 25.09 AAA 50 45 45 good bat to ball skills, high steal rate, versatile fringe pop, stretched at SS and CF, upside
29 JT Chargois RHRP 27.04 AAA 50 40 55 heavy life on SNK, GB ability, arm strength limited track record, long injury history, age
30 Jake Peter 2B/SS 24.11 AAA 50 45 45 fluid LH swing, arm strength, versatile utility/bench upside, ? on overall pop
31 Yaisel Sierra RHRP 27.01 AAA 50 40 50 good velo, SL will flash +, quick arm command, incon. release, FB can be straight
32 Wilmer Font RHSP/RP 27.10 MLB 50 40 50 excellent K production, rise on FB, + SL age, previous command issues, upside
33 Ibandel Isabel 1B 22.09 HiA 50 30 60 ++ raw power, physical build, strength huge swing and miss, poor defender, raw
34 Mitchell Hansen CF/RF 21.11 SS 45 40 55 chance for 5 tools, upside, projectable frame struggling to break full season, swing and miss
35 Errol Robinson SS 23.06 AA 45 45 50 smooth infield actions, throwing arm, solid athlete better long speed than SB threat, off. ceiling
36 Johan Mieses RF/CF 22.09 AA 45 40 55 impressive arm, defensive ceiling, raw power serious swing and miss concerns
37 Omar Estevez 2B/SS 20.01 HiA 45 40 55 added defensive versatility, some feel for hit production stagnated at Hi A, power potential
38 Donovan Casey CF/RF 22.01 SS 45 45 50 twitchy athlete, production, solid bat to ball skills ceiling more 4th OF than starter, power ceiling
39 Edward Paredes LHRP 31.06 MLB 45 45 45 K production, tough on LHH, + SL age, one pitch reliever, LOOGY upside
40 Rob Segedin 3B/LF 29.05 MLB 45 45 45 hit vs lefties, gets most of tools, avg pop bench bat upside, limited defender, upside
41 Drew Jackson SS/2B 24.09 AA 45 40 50 elite athlete, + to ++ speed and arm strength offense improving but limited ceiling, utility upside
42 Wills Montgomerie RHSP/RP 22.10 LoA 45 40 50 spin rate, durable build, flashes + velo and CV uneven production, command wavers
43 Cody Thomas RF 23.06 LoA 45 35 55 great build, good athlete, chance for above avg pop still raw, swing and miss concerns
44 Jesen Therrien RHRP 25.00 AAA 45 45 45 SL flashes +, good command and K production TJ wipes out '18. middle relief/ROOGY upside
45 Carlos Rincon RF 20.06 SS 45 35 55 big raw power, physical upside, bat speed pretty raw offensively, serious swing and miss
46 Kyle Garlick CF/RF/LF 26.02 AA 45 45 45 productive, feel for hitting, avg pop 4th outfielder profile, age, fringe speed
47 Luke Raley LF/RF 23.06 HiA 45 40 50 muscular build, chance for above avg pop just avg bat speed, possible swing and miss
48 Luis Paz 1B/C 21.09 SS 45 40 50 power production, bat speed, strong build ? on ultimate defensive home, avg athlete
49 Riley Ottesen RHRP 23.05 LoA 45 40 50 good velo, will flash + SL, arm speed poor college production, likely reliever only
50 Rylan Bannon 3B 21.11 SS 45 45 45 college/pro production, good feel for hit, game pop skills over tools, ceiling, possible utility upside
51 Leo Crawford LHSP 21.01 LoA 45 40 50 solid production, command of 3 pitch mix fringe velo, not as projectable, likely back end
52 Zach Reks LF/RF 24.05 HiA 45 45 45 feel for hit, on base skills, productive - power, age, 4th OF profile
53 Romer Cuadrado LF/RF 20.08 SS 45 35 55 excellent frame, chance for + raw power development lagging behind age, swing and miss
54 Ryan Moseley RHRP 23.06 LoA 45 40 50 chance for ++ snk, big groundball potential struggles with command, results don't match stuff
55 Jared Walker 3B/RF 22.02 LoA 45 40 50 + size/athleticism combo, chance for hit/power, + arm raw, buggy whip swing, error prone in IF
56 Zach Pop RHRP 21.06 NA 45 40 50 good life/velo combo on FB, solid build, poss. CH mid relief profile, SL loses shape in low slot
57 Corey Copping RHRP 24.03 AA 45 45 45 good SL, bulldog mentality, decent production FB velo avg to fringe, middle relief ceiling
58 Shea Spitzbarth RHRP 23.06 AA 45 45 45 agressive mound demeanor, arm strength, CV middle relief upside, maxed out frame, size
59 Layne Somsen RHRP 28.10 AA 45 45 45 tough overhead BB, production, athletic limited mid relief ceiling, age, avg FB velo
60 Tony Gonsolin RHRP 23.11 HiA 45 40 50 arm speed, flashes + SL, solid K production lithe build, not quite late relief upside
61 Alfredo Tavarez RHSP/RP 20.04 LoA 45 35 50 king sized frame, arm strength, K production still raw mechanically, repeating arm slot, command
62 Aneurys Zabala RHRP 21.03 LoA 45 40 50 will flash ++ arm strength, some feel for spin relief profile, command, limited physical upside
63 Michael Boyle LHSP 23.11 HiA 45 40 45 pitch movement, pitchability, 3 pitches no plus pitch, fringy velo, #5 starter/swingman
64 Jefrey Souffront 2B/3B 20.11 ROK 45 35 50 some feel for hit, quick bat, mature plate approach distance from the majors, build not projectable
65 Jacob Amaya SS/2B 19.02 ROK 45 35 50 chance to stick at SS, good athlete, some feel for hit distance from majors, offensive ceiling
66 Ronny Brito SS 19.00 SS 45 35 50 infield actions, long athlete, chance to hit ? on overall offensive potential, far from majors
67 Logan Crouse RHRP 21.04 LoA 45 35 50 size, projectability, athleticism in delivery, arm action Fringy present velo, lots of projection left
68 Chris Mathewson RHSP/RP 21.10 HiA 45 40 45 SNK/SL mix, solid production, command back of rotation, middle relief upside, fringe velo
69 Adam Bray RHSP 24.11 HiA 45 40 45 durability, feel for spin, good command fringe starter upside, upside, avg K potential
70 Brian Moran LHRP 29.06 AA 40 40 45 funk in delivery, tough in LHH, K potential limited ceiling, fringe velo, age
71 Nolan Long RHRP 24.02 HiA 40 40 45 long frame, athletic for size, FB flashes + long levers to control, command, likely reliever
72 Mike Ahmed 1B/3B 26.02 AA 40 40 45 productive in '16, swing plane, avg pop bat speed, age, limited upside
73 Nathan Witt RHRP 21.11 ROK 40 35 50 good build, projectable, arm strength project arm, distance from majors, relief upside
74 Travis Taijeron LF/RF 29.02 AAA 40 40 45 good career power production, physical build age, defensive upside, swing and miss concern
75 Jacob Scavuzzo LF 24.02 AAA 40 40 45 solid tool profile, still a chance for upside game going backward, struggling hit tool
76 Max Gamboa RHRP 22.04 ROK 40 35 50 excellent arm strength, + to ++ velo, good frame production does not match stuff, incon. SL
77 Dean Kremer RHRP 22.03 HiA 40 40 45 decent athleticism and frame, K production, sink on FB was hit hard in HiA. Homer prone, no + pitch
78 Moises Perez 2B 20.08 LoA 40 40 45 loose athlete, some feel for hit offensive ceiling, lower on defensive spectrum
79 Isaac Anderson RHSP/RP 24.07 HiA 40 40 45 versatile arm, some SNK on FB, avg SL no plus or above avg tool, low ceiling, taxi arm