Signed as a shortstop for $170,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, Santana shifted to the mound after batting .198/.312/.256 in his pro debut. He made rapid progress after two years in Rookie ball, zooming from low Class A to Los Angeles in little more than two years. But he went on the injured list with a strained rotator cuff immediately after beating the Rockies in his first big league game in June 2018, missing the rest of that season and posting a 6.94 ERA in Triple-A when he returned last year.
When it's on, Santana's fastball is notable for both its velocity (sitting 93-95 mph with a peak of 98) and its sink, though it wasn't as powerful or lively for much of 2019 and he struggled to command it as well. His 81-85 mph slider can be even more devastating with two-plane break. He'll need to continue to refine his changeup after left-handers tagged him for a 1.026 OPS last year.
Santana has difficulty harnessing his fastball because of its life and his crossfire delivery. While one team rated him as the Dodgers' top prospect at the outset of 2019 and he's still held in high regard, it's becoming increasingly likely that he'll be a reliever. Los Angeles has plenty of starting depth and he has the fastball/slider combination to be a late-inning weapon.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 45 | Overall: 50
Signed out of the Dominican Republic as a shortstop for $170,000 in 2013, Santana moved to the mound after hitting .198/.312/.256 in his pro debut. He has made rapid progress since posting a 6.42 ERA in his U.S. debut in 2015, passing several more hyped Dodgers pitching prospects to make his big league debut last June. After beating the Rockies while getting knocked around in relief, he went on the disabled list with a strained rotator cuff and missed the rest of 2018.
Santana has plenty of velocity on his fastball, working at 93-95 mph and reaching 98, though it's even more notable for nasty sink that keeps it off barrels and creates a lot of groundouts. His hard slider can be a wipeout pitch at times and keeps right-handers at bay, though it's not as consistent as his fastball and sometimes looks more like a curveball. He has made progress with developing his changeup and had more success against left-handers last year than in the past.
Santana sometimes struggles to command his pitches because he has so much life on his fastball and utilizes a crossfire delivery. He does throw enough strikes for Los Angeles and most scouts to project him as a starter, with one organization rating him as the system's best prospect at the outset of 2019. If he winds up in the bullpen, he has the stuff to serve as a setup man or perhaps even a closer.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 50 | Overall: 55
After signing for $170,000 as a Dominican shortstop in 2013, Santana batted .198/.312/.256 in his pro debut before shifting to the mound. He got pounded for a 6.42 ERA in his U.S. debut in 2015 but since has developed into one of the Dodgers' best pitching prospects while learning to harness quality stuff. He leapfrogged a few more famous arms in the system to make his big league debut this June, though he went on the disabled list immediately afterward with a strained rotator cuff.
Santana sits at 93-95 mph and tops out at 98 with a fastball that features so much sink that it creates a lot of strikeouts and groundouts, but the life on his heater also makes it difficult for him to command. His hard slider gives him a second plus pitch at times, though he still must improve his changeup to give him a weapon against left-handers. He did make some strides with his changeup late last season.
Santana has a low arm slot and a crossfire delivery that also hamper his ability to throw strikes, and his walk rate jumped from 2.3 per nine innings in high Class A to 6.3 in Double-A. Los Angeles has moved him from the third-base side of the rubber to the first-base side in an attempt to get him more centered toward the plate. If he ultimately can't develop the control and command to make a big league rotation, he has closer upside if he's moved to the bullpen.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 50 | Overall: 50
Signed as a shortstop for $170,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, Santana batted .198/.312/.256 in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League that summer. Moved to the mound afterward, he got roughed up for a 6.42 ERA during his U.S. debut in '15 but fared much better when he advanced to full-season ball last year. He finished third in the low Class A Midwest League in strikeouts (124), and he would have ranked first in opponent average (.209) and second in strikeout rate (10.0) had he not fallen just shy of qualifying.
Santana has an electric sinker that sits at 93-95 mph when he starts and reaches 98 when he relieves, and he could throw harder as he gets stronger. He has trouble commanding it, in part because of the life that yielded a 1.5 groundout/flyout ratio in 2016. His hard slider shows flashes of becoming a plus pitch and he also uses an improving changeup.
Santana throws across his body from a low slot, which makes it difficult for hitters to pick up his pitches but also for him to command them. He has made tremendous strides with his control without compromising the quality of his stuff in 2017, quieting talk that he might project better as a reliever in the long run. With the way his sinker and slider could play up in shorter stints, he has closer upside if he does head to the bullpen.