- TEAM: Baltimore Orioles
- POSITION: Outfielder
- AGE: Santander will be 23 on Oct. 19, 2017
- BATS: Both
- THROWS: Right
- HEIGHT: 6-foot-2
- WEIGHT: 190 pounds
- ACQUIRED: The Cleveland Indians signed Santander as an international free agent from Venezuela in July 2011. The Baltimore Orioles selected Santander in the 2016 Rule-5 Draft.
Santander has a very strong, very muscular frame. He is an imposing figure with a thick body and the ability to hit for plenty of power.
Santander is a player with limited tools. His power is his single most advanced skill. He hits well from both sides of the plate. It remains to be seen if he will be able to hit quality pitching for a good batting average. He has had success in his limited minor league career, but time will tell how he will adjust to quality breaking balls.
To his credit, Santander has shown the skill of recognizing pitches. He knows the strike zone and accepts his share of bases on balls. Those walks clearly improve his on-base percentage.
While he was still with the Indians he had a terrific 2016 season. That came after missing time in the previous season with elbow problems. He hit .290 in the Class-A Advanced Carolina League at Lynchburg. He drove in 95 runs and hit 20 home runs in that 2016 season. He has shown he can hit. However, the sample size has been rather limited due to nagging and consistent injuries.
The biggest concern surrounding Santander is his health. In his brief career he has experienced elbow, shoulder and forearm problems that have cost him developmental playing time.
It is almost certain Santander is playing in the Fall League to make up for at-bats he missed in 2014, 2015 and 2017. He has only 1,544 plate appearances in parts of six minor league seasons. That includes his 574 trips to the plate in his very good 2016 year at Lynchburg.
Santander pulls the ball from both sides of the plate and rarely takes the ball up the middle. There is a great deal of swing and miss in his game; at this stage of his career it appears he goes to the plate hunting home runs.
Other than his power potential, the Orioles have an outfielder with limited range and below-average defense. He has little footspeed; assuming he will continue to play left field, he will be dependent upon his center fielder for help covering ground. He has an average throwing arm from left field.
In short, it remains to be seen if his best tool will take him to the major leagues. However, since that tool is power, it certainly may carry Santander to Baltimore or another big league club’s roster. If he hits for average with any regularity, it will help his chances.
Santander had some serious elbow injuries early in his tenure with Cleveland. He missed part of 2014 and 2015 before returning to have a fantastic 2016 season at Class-A Advanced Lynchburg in the Carolina League.
Santander had been ranked among the Indians’ better prospects prior to him being selected by Baltimore in 2016. He moved very quickly in the Indians’ organization after signing an international contract from Venezuela.
In the eyes and estimation of some, Santander may be “the one that got away” from the Indians. If his power continues to develop, and if he shows he can hit quality pitching, Cleveland may have lost a quality offensive force. My observations indicate the Indians have better outfielders in their organization at many levels.
However, his injury history is likely the factor that kept Cleveland from protecting him on the 40-man roster in December 2016. It was likely a tough decision on the team’s part, but it chose to protect other players instead, making him available in the Rule-5 draft. Power is a tough tool to deny.
Since the Indians did not protect him on their 40-man roster at the Winter Meetings that December, the Baltimore Orioles scooped up Santander in the Rule-5 draft. He has played well as a member of the Orioles’ organization, although forearm miseries have again cost him playing time.
While I have seen him before, I am now watching and scouting Santander in the Arizona Fall League, where he is playing as part of the Salt River club. He is hitting in the middle of the order and playing left field as well as designated hitter. From what I have seen, Santander appears to be working his way back in his quest to get back to good health and become a major league quality hitter.
THE FUTURE FOR SANTANDER
If there is a place that really suits the skill of Santander it is Oriole Park at Camden Yards. I have little doubt that he can fit the basic strategy of the Orioles to play for the long ball to win games. He clearly fits that prototype and mold.
I really question his ability to play left field in a tricky park like Fenway Park in Boston or in a large outfield. He needs to improve as an outfielder in order to avoid being labeled a designated hitter.
Santander has at-bats to make up. Even though he has had big league at-bats, I don’t think he is ready for a role with the major league Orioles.
The Fall League will help, but I don’t project a permanent role for him in Baltimore as the O’s break camp this coming spring. It is likely he will have to have sufficient time at Double-A and perhaps even Triple-A to show he is worthy of a 25-man roster spot.
This past August the Orioles promoted Santander to their parent club. He hit seventh in the lineup, making his major league debut against the Angels when he got one hit in four trips to the plate. He also struck out twice. He went on to appear in 13 games and hit .267-in 31 plate appearance.
Santander is a muscular switch-hitter with big-time power and more on the way. Just about to turn 23, he can become a game-changing power hitter in homer-friendly Oriole Park at Camden Yards. His best tool, power hitting, fits that park and club very well.
Or, his future can be as a yo-yo outfielder spending time going back and forth between the minor and major league clubs as a fill-in player. Time will tell.
Santander has been dealing with shoulder, elbow and forearm problems almost since the time he was signed by the Cleveland Indians as an international free agent out of Venezuela.
After a breakout 2016 campaign, Santander had arm problems and the Indians did not protect him on their 40-man roster. The Orioles chose him in the 2016 Rule-5 Draft.
He is now with the Orioles’ organization and is a member of their contingent in this edition of the Arizona Fall League.
It remains possible that Santander can develop a hitting tool that will result in a good batting average.
Santander is not fast, is a below-average defender with limited range, and is probably best suited to be a spare outfielder and full-time designated hitter.
I observe Santander to be a potentially dangerous hitter with a background and skill set that really fit the Baltimore Orioles’ current desire to beat the opposition with the long ball.
A late 2018 arrival in Baltimore is possible, but 2019 is more realistic. Santander needs time to show he is healthy and can stay healthy. He needs a large number of at-bats to hone his skills.
SCOUTING PHRASE FOR SANTANDER: A muscular hitter with home run power and few other tools
SCOUTING GRADE FOR SANTANDER: 45- A non-starting member of a 25-man roster
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