As strong and as deep as the Dodgers‘ farm system is considered, there are a few spots that may be little light on talent. The middle infield 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 and Matt Beaty, but the absence of outstanding defensive ability may be the biggest factor in keeping players like these from thriving at the big league level.
Nevertheless, 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 his 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.
For High-A Rancho in the Cal League last season, Santana slashed .274/.302/.447 with an impressive 23 doubles, 24 long balls and 109 RBI. He earned Cal League Player of the Week honors in early August and was named an MiLB.com organizational All-Star at season’s end.
Now at just 22 years of age, the 6’2″ right-handed hitting Santana has begun his 2019 campaign with Double-A Tulsa in the pitcher-friendly confines of the Texas League, which could, in theory, showcase his outstanding skills at the dish even more. Through the first 23 games of the year, he’s hitting .330/.351/.451 with three homers and 14 RBI.
MLB Pipeline already has Santana ranked as the 26th 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 on the upper-levels of the farm. The good news is that he does have the ability to make relatively consistent contact. He does have a lot of body movement happening in his pre-swing activities, but many scouts believe that he’ll eventually 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 at the Double-A level.
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 around two to three seasons away from making his big league debut. For now, though, followers of the Drillers should have an enjoyable year watching the youngster mash in the middle of the Tulsa lineup in 2019.