Welcome to Farm-Hand Fridays! Every Friday we will be doing a profile and analysis of a prospect on our team. We will look at their background, the kinds of future projections scouts generally have about them, associated risk with them booming or busting, and then our personal take on what they will most likely become as a ball player. We will do one a week up until pitchers and catchers report. Coincidentally we will be counting down our top ten prospects, or more or less who I see to be our top ten.

Today we are covering our #10 prospect: Dennis Santana

Quick Hits

  • Name: Dennis Santana
  • DOB/Age: April 12, 1996 – 21 years old
  • Height/Weight: 6’2″/160lbs
  • Home State/Country: Dominican Republic
  • Highest Level Reached: AA
  • On the 40-Man Roster: Yes
  • ETA: September 2018 roster expansion call-up; potential relief or starter option in 2019

Other Notable Rankings

  • Baseball America: #10
  • Baseball Prospectus: N/A
  • MLB.com: #12
  • TrueBlueLA: #12
  • Dodgers Digest: #10 (mid-season)

Risk Level  (1-10, with 1 being very low, and 10 being very high)

5 – Santana is right in the middle of the road when it comes to risk.  That is because he could easily slide into a relief role if he doesn’t reach his potential to be a starter.  He has shown solid polish for being so new to pitching, so the risk level isn’t particular high with him.

The Past

Dennis Santana is a right-handed pitcher that hails from the Dominican Republic.  He was one of the early international signings in 2013, and signed for a bonus of $170,000 as a shortstop actually.  Unfortunately that season at the Dominican Summer League (DSL) he batted only .198/.312/.256.  The Dodgers brass didn’t care much for his bat skills, but noticed how live his arm was.  Similar to Kenley Jansen, they liked enough what they saw in his arm, and he was young enough, to make the transition to pitching.

The Present

His primary offering is his hard and heavy sinker that he can regularly throw at 93-95 MPH and occasionally reach back and touch the upper 90’s with. It has great sinking action which has allowed him to induce a great number of ground-balls and weak contact overall. However, because his control is still very raw scouting reports still say he hasn’t learned to throw it with the pinpoint accuracy that could take him from a solid and intriguing prospect, to a top notch, top 100 overall prospect. He also feature a hard mid-high 80’s slider, and a change-up that improved greatly this year. In order for him to become successful as a starter he would need to really improve that change-up to bring a third offering to his repertoire. Otherwise, he has a late-inning reliever profile.

After spending his first two seasons at the rookie level putting up impressive numbers for someone so young and new to pitching, in 2016 he spent the entire season at low-A ball compiling a rather eye-popping line for a 19 year old. Across 111.1 innings he put up a 3.07 ERA, 10.02 strikeouts per 9 innings, a 55.2% ground-ball rate, and only surrendered 2 home runs. This really caught the front office’s attention as he kept on improving drastically. Unfortunately, his control still lagged (walking 4.53 batters per 9 innings).

Starting 2017 at High-A ball he still struck-out a solid number of batters, while showing much better control (only walking 2.31 batters per 9 innings). Moving to AA he didn’t experience the same success as gave up more walks and his ERA ballooned from 3.57 in High-A to 5.51 in AA. However, reaching all the way to AA was exactly what was looking for this year with him. Next year he should start again in AA, and push his way into AAA. Maybe we will even see him make a September appearance.

The Future

Most scouts agree that his floor is likely somewhere around a middle-reliever.  His hard sinker, slider combo would play up nicely from the pen. And having a slight lack of control wouldn’t be as exacerbated out of the bullpen. Certainly that kind of floor is a good one to have. Conversely that type of upside he has is a #2 profile starter or closer. If he can refine his control and improve his change-up, he will definitely be able to make it as a starter. If not, he can focus mostly on his sinker and slider, and pitch out of the later innings from the bullpen. Confidence is definitely there as he is already ready to take on the Wild Horse!

He has been a fast riser in the farm system the last two years. If he continues this trend he could take another major leap forward this year.  Baseball Prospectus does not rank him in the top 10 and neither does MLB.com (ranked 12th there). But Baseball America has him ranked at #10.  I think with another solid season of improving his command, and inducing more ground-balls, Santana could quickly find himself challenging other prospects for a spot in the top 5 for the Dodgers organization.  It will be exciting to see what he does coming up in 2018. Especially since getting the add to the 40 man roster.

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