Name: Junior Santos
Weight: 220 lbs.
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 (Rookie-APPY)
Junior Santos was born in Santiago, Dominican Republic, a city of roughly 1.2 million on the north-central side of the island, Junior Santos had enough talent to be recognized by baseball evaluators, but if nothing else, he had size on his side; when he turned sixteen, the young right-hander was 6’6”. He impressed the Mets’ scouting contingent after working out in front of them, and on June 2, 2018, the very first day of the 2018-2019 international free agent signing period, the team signed him for a $275,000 signing. 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. The Mets continued this aggressive developmental path for the big right-hander and promoted 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.
Throwing from a three-quarters arm slot, Santos throws with a simple, repeatable delivery. While tall pitchers often have trouble repeating their mechanics, leading to control problems, Santos does not suffer from this. While he does issue his fair share of free passes, this is more so because of a lack of pinpoint control rather than poor mechanics. His fastball ranges from 90-97 MPH, settling in at 94-95. His 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 does not have much lateral break, but it has a fair amount of vertical drop. He also throws a changeup that sits in the high-70s. While it does not have much fade or drop yet, he does not telegraph the pitch to hitters, consistently throwing it with the same arm speed and release point as his fastball. Santos is able to throw his fastball to all four quadrants of the strike zone and generally works his secondary stuff low in the zone at this point in his career.
If you look at Junior Santos’ numbers and know nothing else about him, you’ll probably come away unimpressed; an ERA north of five, in limited innings, with a lot of hits allowed, more walks than you’d want to see, and a strikeout rate only a bit better than pedestrian isn’t what you want to see from a prospect on the cusp of the top ten. Once you actually see Santos, though, odds are you’ll get it. He’s huge, he throws an easy mid-90s fastball, and he has two workable secondary pitches that should continue developing. There are a lot of different ways his career might go, but Santos has an excellent base to work with.
Santos falls into a bin of prospects rated highly for their body or athleticism that I can’t really get behind. The 6’8” frame is notable, the velocity is nice, and the feel is reportedly notable for a pitcher of his age and dimensions. He also lacks a real secondary offering at this point and got blasted in the Appy, albeit as a 17/18 year-old. He could explode into super-prospect-dom, sit in A-ball for five years, or anything in between, making him a near total shot in-the-dark like basically every half-decent pitching prospect his age. That makes him a mid-teens prospect in this system, which should tell you something.
One of a small handful of Mets pitching prospects that can run their fastball up into the high-90’s semi-regularly, Santos is definitely a pitcher to watch moving forward. He’s a massive human being, listed at 6’8”, 220 pounds at just 18-years-old, and the first thing you notice when watching video of his delivery is how easy and smooth it is for a player of his size. He compliments arguably the hardest fastball in the Mets system with a pair of secondary pitches that are “still works in progress”, which makes sense given his age and lack of experience at present. While the numbers from Kingsport this season weren’t exactly what you would have hoped for, it’s worth keeping in mind that Santos was the youngest pitcher league this season, and was one of just two seventeen-year-olds to play in the Appalachian League this season. Santos is definitely a pitcher to keep an eye on moving forward, even if there is considerable risk with any pitcher of his size and age.
Santos is a projectable kid. He’s tall, and he throws hard and pairs it with a solid change-up. He struggled a bit in Kingsport last year, as he was hit around and earned a 5.90 ERA for his troubles. While the numbers at first glance are rough, it is important to contextualize it. He was only 17 at the time, which is young for even that league. While you will want to see some better performances in 2020, the stuff is there for it to happen.