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The 11 best Mets minor league pitchers I saw this year: 3, Junior Santos

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Counting down the best minor league pitchers I saw in 2019.

Junior Santos
Steve Sypa

DISCLAIMER: This is a ranking of the best players that I saw during the 2019 season. I saw a wide cross-section of teams, attending Kingsport Mets, Brooklyn Cyclones, Columbia Fireflies, and Binghamton Rumble Ponies games, but I did not see the GCL Mets, St. Lucie Mets, or Syracuse Mets, nor did I attend every single game of the teams that I did see. As such, this is not a comprehensive Mets prospect list. If a player is not on the list, I either did not see him, or considered the listed players better.

Name: Junior Santos

Team: Kingsport Mets

Position: RHP

Born: 8/16/01 (18)

Height: 6’8”

Weight: 220 lbs.

Bats/Throws: R/R

Acquired: IFA, July 2, 2018 (Santiago, Dominican Republic)

2019 Season: 14 G (14 GS), 40.2 IP, 46 H, 29 R, 23 ER (5.09 ERA), 25 BB, 36 K, 6 HBP, 0 BLK, 5 WP, .333 BABIP (Short-A/Low-A)

Date(s) Seen: August 13 (3.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K)

The Man

Junior Santos was born in Santiago, Dominican Republic, a city of roughly 1.2 million on the north-central side of the island. As is the case with thousands and thousands of Dominicans, he took up baseball, was discovered by a buscone, and began training at a young age to impress scouts and baseball evaluators in the hopes of being signed by a major league ballclub. If nothing else, Santos had size on his side; when he turned sixteen, the young right-hander was 6’6”. He impressed the Mets’ scouting contingent, and on June 2, 2018, the very first day of the 2018-2019 international free agent signing period, the team signed him $275,000. The Mets were particularly aggressive with Santos, assigning him to the Dominican Summer League immediately instead of opting to wait to have him debut professionally the following season. He made 11 appearances for the DSL Mets, making ten starts and posting a 2.80 ERA in 45.0 innings, allowing 35 hits, walking 6, and striking out 36. Continuing to challenge Santos, who by this point had grown an additional two inches or so, the Mets sent him stateside to end the 2018 season. He appeared in three games for the GCL Mets and posted a perfect 0.00 ERA in 5.0 innings, allowing 4 hits, walking 0, and striking out 3. Continuing to challenge him, the Mets promoted Santos to the Kingsport Mets for the 2019 season. Starting in fourteen games, Santos accumulated 40.2 and posted a 5.9 ERA, allowing 46 hits, walking 25, and striking out 36.

The Pitcher

Junior Santos towers over virtually all of his competition, standing 6’8”. The right-hander grew about two inches since signing with the Mets, and in theory, his growth spurt might not be done as he just turned 18 in mid-August. While height is a coveted for pitchers, as pitchers that are tall generally develop bodies that are durable and have fastballs with perceived velocities that are faster than what they are actually throwing due to their long arms, too much height can be a bad thing. Tall pitchers often have trouble repeating their mechanics, leading to control problems. Luckily for the Mets, control problems are not really much of a problem for Santos. Throwing from a three-quarters arm slot, Santos throws with a simple, repeatable delivery.

His fastball ranges from 90-97 MPH, settling in at 94-95. Pitch movement is just as important as velocity, and in Santos’ case, he is able to impart slight glove-side movement on his fastball. Santos’ secondary pitches are still works in progress, but given that he is just 18 with roughly one year of professional experience, this is understandable. Coming into the season, he threw a rough, slurvy breaking ball, but he seems to have tightened it up a bit. It still did not have much lateral break, but had a fair amount of vertical drop. His changeup consistently sat 78-79 MPH. He did not slow his arm speed when throwing the pitch, tipping hitters, and the pitch had vertical drop.

Santos is able to throw his fastball to all four quadrants of the strike zone and generally threw his slider and changeup low in the zone and outside of it. He generally worked down and away to right-handers, which bears out in the numbers. He is able to induce weak contact, resulting in right-handers having a low slugging percentage against him, but because he does not have pinpoint control, he issues his fair share of free passes, resulting in right-handers getting on base at an inflated amount.

Looking to 2020

While the Mets were aggressive in Santos’ assignment, they have been careful to manage his workload. Santos did not surpass 50 innings, and as such, is unlikely to throw more than 100 innings next year. Given that 100 innings is roughly a half-season’s workload and the fact that it lines up in his developmental trajectory, I would expect the right-hander to be assigned to the Brooklyn Cyclones next season.

The List

4: Thomas Szapucki

5: Ryley Gilliam

6: Mickey Jannis

7: Bryce Hutchinson

8: Garrison Bryant

9: Tylor Megill

10: Nick MacDonald

11: Josh Hejka