As strong and as deep as the Dodgers‘ farm system is considered, there are a few spots, however, which may be little light on talent. Second base sticks out the most, but the system also lacks a solid third baseman who has both a capable bat and an impressive glove. Sure, there are guys like Edwin Rios, Matt Beaty, Rob Segedin and the ever-versatile Kyle Farmer, but the absence of outstanding defensive ability may be the biggest factor in keeping players like these from thriving at the big league level.
Yet, there is one prospect still on the lower-levels of the farm who could eventually fit the bill of a complete package. Cristian Santana is a natural third baseman, but his glove is so good that he can capably handle second base and shortstop to boot. And his bat isn’t half bad, either.
As a 17-year-old, Santana was signed by the Dodgers as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic in the spring of 2014. He remained on his native soil and played in the Dominican Leagues for two years before finally heading to the states in 2016, when he smacked eight long balls in 44 games for the Arizona League Dodgers in rookie ball.
Santana’s 2017 campaign may have been the beginning of a potential offensive eruption. He began the year with Ogden in the Pioneer League, hitting a ridiculous .537/.583/1.000 with five home runs over 48 plate appearances, earning the league’s Player of the Week honors in late June. From there, it didn’t take the farm directors long to promote the youngster to Low-A Great Lakes, where he slashed an impressive .322/.339/.460 with another five homers over 44 contests.
Now at just 20 years of age, the 6’2″ right-handed hitting Santana is set to begin his 2018 campaign with High-A Rancho Cucamonga in the California League, which could, in theory, showcase his outstanding skills at the dish even more.
MLB Pipeline already has Santana ranked as the 27th best prospect in the Dodgers system, but although he has feasted on opposing pitching at the lower-levels of minor league ball, there are still a few areas of his game which he needs to develop in order to blossom.
First, he’s a free swinger, and he’ll need to establish a little more discipline at the plate if he wants to flourish beyond Single-A. The good news is that his 21.1% strikeout rate over the entirety of 2017 isn’t exactly horrible, as he does have the ability to make relatively consistent contact. Secondly, when he’s in the batters box, he does have a lot of body movement happening in his pre-swing activities, and many scouts believe that he’ll need to quiet his approach to succeed at the higher levels. However, based on what he’s shown so far, especially his ability to barrel-up the ball, there’s no reason to think that he won’t continue to impress, particularly in the confines of the Cal League.
On defense, he’s a bit more advanced, as some already believe he has the capability to be an above-average defender at the hot corner. He has excellent quickness and range, and his arm strength is probably his best defensive asset. In addition, his ability to handle multiple infield spots could potentially boost his acceleration through the system.
Even at his current rate of production and maturity, Santana’s probably still at least three to four years away from having a cup of coffee in the majors, but for now, followers of the Quakes should have an enjoyable year watching the youngster mash in the middle of the Rancho lineup in 2018.
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