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 Minor League News & Autograph Blog Home

Top Prospect Alert - Ervin Santana

By Schuyler Dombroske

DOB: 1/10/83, Age: 20, Height: 6’3’’, Weight: 160, Bats: R, Throws: R. Acquired: Angels – Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2000. 2002 Stats: (Low-A – Cedar Rapids) 14-6, 4.18 ERA, 147 IP, 133 H, 10 HR, 48 BB, 146 K. 2003 Stats: (High-A – Rancho Cucamonga) 10-2, 2.53 ERA, 125 IP, 98 H, 9 HR, 36 BB, 130 K; (AA – Arkansas) 1-1, 3.94 ERA, 30 IP, 23 H, 4 HR, 12 BB, 23 K.

The artist formerly known as Johan Santana was one of the top sleeper prospects in baseball at the beginning of the year, but his rapid ascent this year, along with his Futures game selection, has likely ended his time "under the radar". Santana is an absolute stringbean of a pitcher, weighing in around 160 pounds despite his 6’3" frame. What he lacks in mass, however, he makes up for in arm speed. Santana has been clocked as high as 97 mph, and routinely throws 92-95. He also has a nasty slider that is getting better very quickly, and a changeup that, as with most young pitchers, is rather inconsistently effective. For a power pitcher (especially a young one), Santana’s control is good. He walked almost exactly three batters per nine innings last season at Cedar Rapids, and has cut that number by just over 0.1 this year. In each season he has struck out almost a batter an inning, so his K/BB ratio is over 3.0, which is an extremely positive figure for a pitcher his age. As clear as it is that Santana has electric stuff and well above average command of it, it is equally clear that he still is learning how to pitch. A pitcher with his stuff and command should never allow double figures in homers in a minor league season, but Santana has done that both last year and this year. If Single-A guys can take you 375 feet, you can bet your bippy that the big leaguers won’t find it all that difficult either. Other than that issue, Santana is as exciting a pitching prospect as there is in baseball right now. The name change combined with his participation in "Agegate" (he aged roughly ten months) has continued to suppress his prospect status, but he is clearly one of the top pitching prospects in the minors.

The Angels don’t have an awful lot of depth to their minor league system, but they do have a handful of players that could turn out to be stars. I like Casey Kotchman almost as much as I like Nick Johnson, and I think Johnson is a future Hall of Famer. Jeff Mathis has a number of folks that like him more than Joe Mauer, which is quite a bit of praise. I am not in that camp, but he’s a great catching prospect in an organization without a great catcher. Bobby Jenks is either the next great closer, the next great control-challenged power pitcher, or just another talented washout. Dallas McPherson is old for his level, but he has patience and power in amounts large enough that the Angels might be able to move him to first base in Anaheim in a year or two. That’s four blue-chippers, and Ervin Santana definitely makes five. Contrary to public opinion, the Angels don’t have an awful lot on their team worth keeping in a year or two, so these five guys will absolutely be needed. Glaus, Anderson, Erstad, and Kennedy should still be around (and maybe Eckstein), while Ortiz, Lackey, and Washburn could anchor the rotation. That leaves two spots for Jenks and Santana to slide into, possibly as early as next season. The Angels shouldn’t be expected to repeat their 2002 glory anytime soon, not with the strength of the other three organizations in their division. (and yes, I did say three, not two) I expect Santana to see some time in Anaheim next year, and to have a permanent spot on the team by 2005. He should be able to contribute to the next Angels playoff team, which likely won’t be in the next five seasons. Santana’s best comparison is Bartolo Colon. I don’t think Colon was exactly built like Santana when he was younger, but his stuff and command are similar. A comparison to Colon should give you a good idea of where I think Santana’s ceiling is, and the fact that the Angels have two guys like this in their upper minors (not to mention three fairly talented guys in their current rotation) bodes well for the future of their pitching staff. Their batting order, on the other hand, needs some work, but Santana can’t help that.


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