Tony Santillan, RHP, CIN

The Reds’ minor league pitcher of the year in 2018 took a real step backward in 2019. Why?

Video courtesy of RedsMinorLeagues
  • Born: April 15, 1997
  • B/T: Right/Right
  • 6’3″, 240-lbs
  • Drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 2nd round of the 2015 MLB June Amateur Draft from Seguin HS (Arlington, TX)

The Numbers

His raw numbers are listed above courtesy of baseball-reference.com. Let’s aggregate by year then focus on the important numbers for minor leaguers:

After being drafted out of high school, Santillan scuffed a bit for a while before having a pretty good year in2017, and then a really nice year in 2018. His walk rate was cut almost in half in 2018, and his WHIP was about as good as he gets.

Then 2019 happened (trust me, the graphic version below is worse) and it was a sea of red. That walk rate doubled and everything else went with it.

What happened? Two reported things: One was injury (a triceps strain), and the other was a new mandate from the Reds organization to institute a new pitching philosophy.

Righties ate him alive in Double-A.

But his spray chart is quite balanced.

There it is, in all its ugly glory. You see the pitcher-of-the-year graph in 2018, and then it turned south in 2019 and kept going lower and lower and lower and lower and lower …

That’s what injury and changing your pitching approach on the fly can do to a pitcher.

Santillan has two plus pitches in his mid-90s FB (that can reach 97), and a high-80s slider that is more like a slurve with an 11-to-4 shape. Now he needs that heavy changeup to improve as he strives to repeat its delivery.

He’s just that third pitch and improved command away from being a solid pitcher. More like a #4, but major league quality if he gets it figured out

The Scouts

Warnings

Will the real walk rate please stand up?

Has the organizational tinkering settled down?

Will that third pitch develop?

Conclusion

With the minor league season out of the question for 2020, Santillan was added to the Reds 60-man roster, but will the 23-year-old be ready without minor league time in AAA to get in shape? He does have over 160 IP at the Double-A level, so he has a chance to help the Reds this year, but only if he gets the walks under control.

I could see Santillan be used as a middle reliever where he just goes FB/SL and lets that fastball fly, but in the long run they need him to develop that third pitch.

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