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Dodgers 2018 top prospects: No. 4, Dennis Santana

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MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers-Media Day Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

When I had to leave Dennis Santana off the 2017 prospect list due to a lack of information, I had a feeling I was missing out on a top-20 guy. What I did not expect was to see the combination of stuff and performance during the year to make him the No. 44 prospect and best arm behind Walker Buehler. Santana’s heavy sinker and power slider allow him to exceed the traditional ceiling of the typical low-slot arm, with surprising control of that movement to boot.

As a former middle infielder, Santana’s plus athleticism comes as no surprise. He is a fluid mover and looks a bit bigger than his listed 6’2 160-lb. frame. He has an extremely quick arm and generates some of the most electric natural movement on his pitches in the entire organization. Despite his athleticism, Santana does not always repeat his delivery, with his arm slot occasionally dropping to low three-quarters, flattening out his sinker and slider.

While Santana has the repertoire to work deep and games, and has generally proven durable, he did show fatigue and a drop in stuff during the middle of his Double-A call up last season, and he had to be shut down in 2016 after exceeding 105 innings. As a former infielder lacking in consistent arm conditioning, this is not concerning at this point, and Santana’s form rebounded through Tulsa’s deep playoff run.

When healthy, Santana can run his heavy fastball up into the mid 90s, reaching as high as 97 mph. His sinker has late life and is tough for hitters to square, helping him to a 51% ground ball rate. Even when fatigued, Santana’s sinker had enough movement in the low 90s that his can pitch almost exclusively off it for stretches and avoid hard contact. Despite the life and low arm slot, Santana throws the pitch for strikes and shows enough command to both sides of the plate to suggest his higher Double-A walk rate was not indicative of his true ability.

Santana will flash a real plus slider that isn’t quite in the realm of Buehler or Yadier Alvarez’s versions but generates plenty of swing and miss in its own right. He can play with the shape and speed of the pitch, sometimes appearing to have 11-5 curve shape. The slider is less consistent than the sinker, as he will lose command and shape when fatigued and dropping his arm slot too low.

Santana will throw a changeup that is effective from his slot with plus fade. He generally doesn’t need the pitch given the life on the other two offerings, but increasing the use of the pitch during 2018 should prepare him for the eventual jump to the major leagues.

So far Santana has defied the traditional tropes on the sinker-slider profile. His velocity-movement combo gives him more swing and miss than the typical player of his ilk, but he has also shown advanced command for his experience level that you don’t normally see from harder throwing sinker-slider guys.

Santana will just turn 22 during the 2018 season, and his return to Tulsa feels like the best fit for his progress. He surprised with his dominance in the California League over the first half, but needs to prove his uneven Double-A debut had more to do with mid-season fatigue than any issues with more advanced hitters. Given how frequently Santana could work deep into starts and hold his stuff during the California League, I’m confident Santana can continue to develop as a starter and I generally don’t subscribe to the theory that low-slot, sinker-slider guys are destined for relief duty.

While Santana has the arm strength and velocity for the modern game, his ceiling likely resides in the first division number three starter territory with enough bat missing ability to feature in a playoff rotation. He’s had a taste of Double-A and dazzled in the Texas League playoffs, but he’s not quite knocking on the big league door. Santana’s 2018 goal should be to earn a mid-season call up to Oklahoma City, with an opportunity to break into the Los Angeles rotation some time during the 2019 season. While competition for roles on the Dodgers’ staff has become increasingly more fierce, few players on the current 25-man roster can boast the natural arm talent of Dennis Santana.

2018 top Dodgers prospects

RK NAME POS OD AGE LEVEL OVERALL RISK CEILING PROS CONS
RK NAME POS OD AGE LEVEL OVERALL RISK CEILING PROS CONS
4 Dennis Santana RHSP/RP 21.11 AA 65 50 65 elite SNK, arm strength, flashes + SL, CH longterm stamina, release will drop, flatten pitches
5 Jeren Kendall CF 22.02 LoA 65 45 70 elite athleticism, ++ speed, + arm and d, productive swing and miss concerns, a little stiff at the plate
6 DJ Peters CF/RF 22.04 HiA 60 45 65 excellent athlete/size, + game power, offensive ceiling swing and miss concerns, might end up in OF corner
7 Yadier Alvarez RHSP/RP 22.01 AA 60 45 65 swing and miss SL, consistently + velo, loose arm poor command, FB doesn't miss bats, relief profile
8 Dustin May RHSP 20.07 HiA 55 45 65 electric arm, high spin rate FB and BB, polished arm slot lower, easier on LHH, needs strength
9 Will Smith C/2B 23.00 AA 55 50 55 + athlete for C, excellent plate discipline, defense offensive production can fluctuate, atypical C build
10 Mitchell White RHSP/RP 23.03 AA 55 45 60 high K potential, chance for + SL and CT, FB Velo injury history, command wavers, poss. reliever
11 Yusniel Diaz CF/RF 21.06 AA 55 50 55 improved swing for pop potential, arm, defensive pot. in game power lagging, tweener profile
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