Prospect Countdown – #8 Miguel De Los Santos
He’s 23 years old. And he happens to be coming off of one of the most impressive performances for a pitcher in the Arizona Fall League. The same Arizona Fall League that is famous for producing hugely inflated offensive numbers for hitters.
De Los Santos was just 18 years old when he had to undergo Tommy John surgery on his elbow. A common surgery in baseball, but recovery times differ for each player. He has spent his time since then building up endurance in both pitch count and number of pitches. He had just 42 minor league innings pitched under his belt before he fell to injury.
The most promising quality in De Los Santos is the number one ranked change-up in the Rangers system according to Jamey Newberg of The Newberg Report. It was this change-up that allowed him to dominate most of the hitters he faced in the Fall League in Arizona this past year. Arizona is known for being an offense-first league with a favorable ballpark, atmosphere, and usually only allowing pitchers to go two innings at most. Still, De Los Santos shined.
De Los Santos started six games and appeared in nine games total over 30.1 innings. He was an undefeated 5-0 with a 3.26 ERA and a .178 avg/against. Over those innings De Los Santos struck out 40 batters while only walking 15. Not a bad ratio in the most hitter friendly league in baseball.
His change-up rises above his contemporaries because of its screw-ball action and his ability to repeat the same arm action as his fastball for his change-up. In fact, his change-up is so dominant; Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus recently graded it as the best in the entire minors. His is the kind of change-up that all Rangers fans are hoping the Maddux brothers can teach to Neftali Feliz this offseason for his switch into the starting rotation.
De Los Santos’ control issues stem from his unorthodox delivery; it’s very wild and similar to Alexi Ogando. His curveball was his best pitch in his early years, but the evolution of his change-up – combined with his uncontrollable break to his curveball – has relegated the curveball to his third best pitch. Command and control issues seem to be the only obstacle in DLS’ path to Arlington.
We have seen this issue manifested in other pitchers in the Rangers organization, most recently in Pedro Strop. Strop had one of the more dominating fastballs in the game, but hitters quickly learned that without command, they could simply watch four balls go by and take their base. Without a doubt, command is far more important than velocity, but De Los Santos understands this because his focus is arm slotting and his change-up.
With 94 IP being his career high in six minor league seasons, it’s likely he won’t be featured in the rotation. Not every prospect is built to be a top of the rotation starter. De Los Santos is an easy pick for a relief role because of his violent delivery, excellent make-up, strikeout pitch and left-handed delivery.
De Los Santos finished the 2011 year with the Frisco Rough Riders. It is unclear exactly where he will start his 2012 season, but it is not hard to see him in AAA ball quite quickly. The Rangers will be monitoring his progress and the young lefty is probably one good year away from a spring training invite. His plus change-up and arm slot should give every Rangers fan another reason to be very excited for the future.
ETAA: De Los Santos could see big league action as early as late this summer. To be safe, we think Ranger fans should be looking forward to this break out, knee buckling change-up debuting at the beginning of the 2013 season.