Checking In On Anthony Santander
By Rocco Minsk Dan Duquette has been known for three things in his tenure as General Manager of the Baltimore Orioles. First, he is renowned for trading away pitching prospects in questionable deadline deals. Second, he is known for giving cumbersome contracts to power hitters that no other teams want. Finally, he is identified with annual dumpster diving in the Rule 5 draft.
One such player that Duquette has selected in this manner is Anthony Santander, taken from the Cleveland Indians system this past offseason. I must admit that when I first read of the selection, and looking over Santander’s stats, I was somewhat surprised that the Indians would not keep a talent like Santander on the 40-man roster. Santander was signed as a 16-year old out of Venezuela and has struggled with injuries over the course of his minor league career, missing time to both elbow and shoulder injuries. The latter injury may have caused the Indians to leave Santander unprotected, given the difficulty that teams would have keeping a 20 year old, coming off an injury who never played above Class A.
As one of the youngest players in the league, Santander put up an excellent showing in the Carolina League in 2016. Santander hit .290 with 20 HRs and 95 RBIs. He showed a good eye for the plate with a 9.4% walk rate. The stat that demonstrates Santander’s full potential was the 42 doubles that he registered at A –as those eventually become HRs (see, Machado, Manny).
As mentioned above, Santander required offseason should surgery prior to being drafted by the Orioles. He was in camp with the Orioles before developing a forearm injury that took quite a while to heal while the Orioles stashed him on the DL. Any concerns about how Santander would recover from his myriad of injuries were dispelled by his torrid rehab stint at Bowie, where he mashed to the tune of .390 with 5 HRs in 59 AB. Once his rehab stint was up, the Orioles had to promote him to the majors in order to keep him from being returned to the Indians.
And keep him, the Orioles should….The question, though, is where. Thanks to the cumbersome and unmovable contracts given to Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo, there is very little opportunity for Santander to break through. Austin Hays figures to emerge as an everyday OF with Trey Mancini needing his ABs as well. Right behind Santander is D.J. Stewart, who put together a 20-20 season at Bowie. So clearly, opportunities for Santander will be limited. He certainly has the talent to break through, but given the realities of the Orioles roster, will struggle to get regular plate appearances. The most likely scenario is that Santander is shipped down to Norfolk in early 2018 when the Orioles can send him down and retain his right and figures to spend most of 2018 there barring injury. The verdict here is although Santander has the talent to excel, it may be better to wait until his opportunity materializes rather than jumping the gun to give him a roster sport.