With the very unfortunate news that the Reds top pitching prospect Hunter Greene will be going on the DL with a sprained UCL, the mantle of top pitching prospect currently active now falls to the Reds’ 2nd round pick in the 2015 amateur draft, Tony Santillan. In 35.1 innings pitched for the AA Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Santillan has racked up a 9.2 K/9, a superb 2.0 BB/9, a Left-On-Base percentage of 86% and a 1.78 ERA.
Editor note: Rudie submitted this column prior to Santillan’s August 10 start, in which he struggled, going 4.2 IP, 6 H, 5 ER 3 BB, 7 K, which did raise his ERA to 2.70.
In my view, it shouldn’t be too long before he sees action at the AAA level. His mechanics are simple and smooth, with a delivery that is quick to the plate with a sharp downward plane to get that bottom edge of the zone. He also shows a lightning quick spin move when throwing to first, in the videos I watched. His control has been improving consistently since his time at A ball in 2016. His walks per nine has fallen from 7.1 then, to 2.1 this season at AA and that control/command is evident when watching him pitch. He seems to be able to consistently spot the ball around the zone with effectiveness, keeping hitters off-balance.
Fangraphs grades his pitch mix as follows:
- Fastball: 70/70
- Slider: 55/60
- Changeup: 40/45
In most of the videos I’ve seen of him, he’s mostly been throwing the fastball and change-up, with the slider or curveball only occasionally. I also noticed that there isn’t consistent movement on his non-fastball pitches, especially those that end up higher in the zone. Even though he has good downward plane on his fastball, I’d like to see him continue to refine his secondary offerings, to add late movement to prevent his pitches from ending up flat. Another issued I noticed is that he has a major home/road split. At the Pensacola Blue Wahoos’ ballpark, Santillan has posted a 1.25 ERA, sub-1 WHIP, 11 runs on 50 hits, 9 of those runs earned, and 2 home runs in 65 innings pitched. On the road, in just slightly less innings pitched, his numbers worsen noticeably: a 4.23 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 33 runs on 69 hits, 29 earned runs and 6 homers. I was not able to find any hard data on minor league ballpark run factors, but this split is worth keeping an eye on. I’d like to see a larger sample size before drawing a definitive conclusion on what the reasons are for the large disparity between his numbers at home vrs the road.
To conclude, if Santillan can continue to refine his pitches, adding movement, I see no reason why he won’t be able to continue putting up strong numbers as he moves through the Reds’ minor league system. At the very least, if the command/control doesn’t stick enough to be a starter long-term, I see him as a strong candidate to be a future closer at the major league level, but of course that depends on whether the Reds decide to trade current closer Raisel Iglesias, and more immediately, whether Hunter Greene‘s UCL injury delays his forward progress up the ladder. Of course, several Reds minor league pitchers have already gotten a taste of the majors this summer, including Keury Mella (in the bullpen), Robert Stephenson, and Sal Romano. And the Reds have generally been aggressive with promoting players who have achieved early success, most recently promoting Jonathan India from Rookie ball Greeneville to Class A Dayton and before that Jose Siri from A+ Daytona to AA Pensacola. So perhaps we will see Santillan sooner rather than later.
Featured image of Tony Santillan – via Cincinnati Reds on Twitter (@Reds)