De Los Santos a legit prospect

 EVERETT, WA. — There’s only so much evaluation that can be done from afar. Boxscores, texts from scouts and emails from members of the player development staff are extremely helpful, but they’re without the appropriate context.

Thus was my case with Enyel De Los Santos. Until Friday night.

De Los Santos had the limited yet shiny stat line from his five starts in the rookie Arizona League, including 29 punchouts and five bases on balls in 24 2/3 innings of work. But despite an unimpressive line in his debut in Northwest League, the 18-year-old Dominican looked every bit the part of a pitching prospect with more than just a puncher’s chance.

He’s listed at 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds, but appeared 10-plus pounds heavier. Still lean and projectable, De Los Santos used a compact, athletic delivery to sit 89-92 with his four-seam fastball, touching 94 once and hitting 93 a few others. At every notch of the radar gun his heater showed late arm side run. He commanded the pitch well at times and not-so-well others, but mixed in an average, 73-76 mph curveball with consistency and location. He was able to get called strikes with it and induce swings and misses.

De Los Santos throws from a slightly-high three-quarters arm slot, kept him front shoulder closed and repeated his delivery. He held his velocity into his final inning when he surpassed the 80-pitch mark. His velocity did not suffer when pitching from the stretch and it appeared he was more comfortable doing so, staying with the approach with the bases empty early in the start. That likely was accidental, as he threw from the windup in his final frame.

He did mix in low-to-mid 80s changeup with some sink but most impressively he maintained his arm speed on all of his pitches with few exceptions; he did telegraph a breaking ball or two in the fourth inning.

De Los Santos reminded me physically of a young, just-converted infielder Rafael Soriano, including the arm action and mechanics. From the stretch he was slow to the plate — 1.55, 1.63, 1.61, 1.54 — until the Spokane Indians got his attention by stealing a base and attempting another. He then went to a semi-slide step and lowered his times into the 1.37-1.44 range. Ideally, a pitcher is 1.4 seconds or better.

Being nitpicky, De Los Santos could stand to adjust how he starts his delivery from the stretch, particularly with how he starts and breaks his glove hand from his throwing hand; a shorter, quicker set of movements would help.

He used his lower half fairly well and has good arm speed. His arm path is pretty clean and relatively short, which assists in keeping his delivery at low effort.

The right-hander ended up striking out eight batters, issuing three walks and yielding four earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. At times he was nothing short of dominant, but he did leave a couple of fastball over the middle of the plate and above the knees.

De Los Santos was signed less than 13 months ago and has made just six starts in the states. But he’s a legitimate prospect that drew nothing but positive notes from scouts in attendance.

He belongs in the Prospect Insider Top 25, probably somewhere in the Top 14-18, despite being years away. He was poised most of this start and showed two big-league offerings with a chance at a third in the changeup.

He’ll need to work on his command to both sides of the plate, particularly in on left-handed batters and away from righties, but he won’t be 19 until Christmas and is built like a future major league arm.

In talks with the Mariners and rival scouts the past 10 days or so, the thin Mariners’ system is stocked with upside on the mound, which happens to be where the player development staff excels more than anywhere else.

De Los Santos is just one of a large group of 16-20 year-old arms that touch 94 or higher and bring polish and a promising secondary offering to the table despite their lack of experience.

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Jason A. Churchill

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