Entering the 2018 season, Dennis Santana was rated as the Dodgers number 10 prospect by both MLB Pipeline and Baseball America. He’d finished 2017 season with the Tulsa Drillers, the Dodgers’ AA affiliate. Santana was transitioned to pitching in 2014 from being a shortstop and by the end of the 2017 Santana was added to the 40 man roster.
Santana only had two appearances in spring training in 2018 and was sent to AA to begin the season.
Dennis was purely a starting pitcher in his 8 starts in AA as he turned 22 as the season started. Although never pitching more than 6 innings he had double figures in strikeouts twice and never gave up more than 5 hits in any game. The only real weak spot was the walks as he walked a batter every 2-3 innings. His final statistics for AA were a 2.56 ERA in 38.2 innings. He gave up only 26 hits, walked 14 and struck out 51. This earned him a promotion to AAA on May 18.
Oklahoma City Dodgers
His first start in AAA was a masterpiece as he threw 6 innings, gave up 3 hits, struck out 11 and didn’t walk any. The second start didn’t go as well as he gave up 7 hits in 5 innings and only struck out 3. However, the Dodgers had a lot of pitching injuries and Santana was called up to the Dodgers; quite ahead of when most expected he’d be called up. I thought it would be late 2020 at the earliest.
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Santana made his MLB debut in Colorado. Let’s be honest, it is not fair to have a guy make his debut there. However, the Dodgers didn’t have a ton of choices. Instead of Santana starting the Dodgers went with an “opener”, Scott Alexander. Santana entered in the second inning and ended up pitching 3.2 Colorado filled innings to end up with the win. Most importantly, in his first major league at bat he missed a home run by just few feet as he hit a key double to drive in two runs.
He was scheduled to start again against the Pirates. As the game was just a few minutes from starting it was determined that Santana had hurt himself so he did not make the start. The initial injury was a lat strain, then it turned into a strained rotator cuff, somehow. The Dodgers are pretty bad about letting us know about injuries. Santana was eventually placed on the 60 day disabled list.
With the Dodgers in the playoff hunt they were looking at all possibilities to help them. It was a little surprising to hear that Santana would have some rehabilitation starts for the single A Quakes, especially since they were in the playoffs. I covered his first rehab start in detail. He ended up having a second rehabilitation start in the California League finals but that ended up being his final appearance of the season.
My expectation for Dennis Santana for 2018 was an almost full season in AA with a promotion to AAA near the end of the season. Instead, he was in the Major Leagues by June. He throws a fastball, changeup, slider and a curveball. The key for him is continued improvement on his breaking pitches and control. Some say that he could be an excellent reliever but I’d like to see him continue as a starter. He’ll probably start the 2019 season in AAA but don’t be surprised to see him be a significant contributor at the Major League level by mid-season.
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