While the Winter’s ‘Hot Stove’ might be more lukewarm across MLB, the Detroit Tigers are quietly adding to an emerging farm system. Selecting Spencer Torkelson #1 in the MLB Draft was the monster deal in 2020. Now, only two weeks in to 2021, Tiger fans were delivered two more reasons for optimism. After all, MLB officially put the Detroit Tigers into the 2028 World Series earlier this week, so the rebuild must be working. (Writer’s note…I think a World Series appearance will be sooner, like 2025 or 2026!)
— MLB (@MLB) January 13, 2021
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the international signing period was postponed from July 2nd to January 15th. Now during these 2021 MLB International signings, Detroit has agreed to deals with two 17 year old shortstops; Dominican Cristian Santana and Venezuelan Abel Bastidas. Santana, ranked #14 in MLB’s International Prospects signs with Detroit for $2.95M, the equivalent of a late first rounder. Bastidas, MLB’s #27 International Prospect signed for $1.18M, the equivalent draft value of a late second rounder. Considering the Tigers drafted shortstop Trei Cruz in the 2020 Draft after these draft slots, one can see how highly the Tigers feel about the young middle infielders.
Cristian Santana, SS
Home: Dominican Republic
Detroit fans remember Jhonny Peralta being a pivotal part of the Tigers playoff teams of the early 2010’s. Cristian Santana could be the ‘Second Coming’ of Peralta…with a higher ceiling! Santana is an average defender with a strong arm. As he develops, Santana will need to work on his quickness and range to stay at the shortstop position. Depending on body growth and arm strength during the next few years, a move to second base could occur. Santana projects as a plus hitter, both in power and average. Only 17, his swing speed and swing angles are advanced. His plate discipline and pitch recognition is also above average for his age and experience. As Santana’s body grows and fills in, HR power and gap power should increase. Santana has trained in the off-seasons with fellow Dominican and Nationals All-Star Juan Soto.
Dominican SS Cristian Santana signed with Detroit for $ 2.95 M
— DOM DEPORTES (@DomDeportes) January 15, 2021
Abel Bastidas, SS
Abel Bastidas is a superb defender. At 17, Bastidas is already 6’2″ making long strides to maximize his range. A youthful, accurate arm projects to add strength as his upper body develops. Even with body growth and fill, Bastidas should remain at shortstop, with second base being a distant possibility. Bastidas currently trains in Venezuela with Maicer Izturis and Cesar Izturis, who have a combined 24 years of MLB experience as infielders. At the plate, Bastidas exhibits power and balance from both sides. His approach, swing, and body are similar to another Venezuelan and former Tiger Carlos Guillen. Continuing to build power and strength, without sacrificing average will be the key to Bastidas growth in the next few years. Learning specific swing planes and launch angles of the MLB should be easy for Bastidas. Scouts and Tigers Brass love his work ethic and baseball intelligence.
With these tools, both players automatically jump into the Detroit Tigers Top 50 Prospect Rankings. My Tigers Top 50 was published back on January 3rd, but Santana and Bastidas would be slotted in at #16 & #34 respectively if I rewrote it. As more game stats and reports come out about their growth in the Detroit system, both Santana and Bastidas will quickly rise in the rankings. Being compared to past Tigers All-Stars Peralta and Guillen give Tigers fans hope of the return to October baseball in Detroit.