Santos Makes the Pen

Not long ago, Sergio Santos represented the name of a shortstop prospect for the Arizona Diamondbacks, a pretty well-regarded prospect at that. The D-Backs made him a first round pick in 2002 and by 2004 Baseball America ranked him as the 37th best prospect overall. The offensive aspect of the game was lost on Santos. In more than 3,000 plate appearances, Santos’ career minor league line is .248/.305/.393. As a result, the Chicago White Sox converted him to pitching last season.

In 28 innings across four levels, Santos struck out 30 batters and walked 20. This spring, he’s shown the White Sox enough to break camp with the big league team. It might be the quickest hitter-to-pitcher transition that finds itself to the majors. Tony Pena Jr. converted last season but he’s yet to reach the majors. Casey Kelly is nowhere close. Rick Ankiel appeared in the Majors as a pitcher last in 2004, and then as a hitter in 2007. Adam Loewen, Kevin Cash, and Ben Davis never made it that far.

So, the timetable alone makes this an interesting case. It only helps that Santos evidently has a strong arm. That’s to be expected, since he did play shortstop and most scouting tidbits about him suggest such. CHONE is none too optimistic about his chances of making this work, although, again, we’re talking about 28 innings of work, which means the 6.72 FIP projection is essentially meaningless and shouldn’t be taken with a dosage of salt, no matter the size.

The question I pose is this: What do we project Santos at? Replacement level, or perhaps lower? Presumably the White Sox staff thinks of him as an above replacement level arm, and for all we know, he could be. But the accelerated time table and lack of experience makes me suspect this just isn’t the case and that Chicago might make their roster worse by carrying Santos. Although, that’s an easily fixed problem and not one that will alter their season dramatically.

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13 Responses to “Santos Makes the Pen”

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  1. MikeS says:

    I believe I read somewhere that eh was out of options so if he was sent to AAA he would have to clear waivers. That may have something to do with the decision.

    I don’t pretend to completely understand the option system (despte a recent post here that helped alot) so I may be way off base.

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    • Garrett says:

      Bingo. Since Santos is out of options, this is essentially quite similar to a Rule 5 pick from the low minors with a big arm. I doubt the White Sox believe he will contribute a lot in 2010 (they may not even think of him as a positive contributor) but the long-term upside justifies carrying him as the 11th or 12th pitcher on the staff.

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  2. DavidCEisen says:

    I don’t think there is a statistically valid way to project Santos. There just isn’t a large enough sample size anyway you cut it. He certainly doesn’t have enough innings to say whether or not he’s going to be replacement level or not. There aren’t enough comparable situations to his either.

    This may just be a case of throwing your hands up in the air and saying: “I don’t know!”

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  3. SF 55 for life says:

    i’m feeling Luis Perdomo circa 2009 as the most likely outcome for Santos.

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  4. dickey simpkins says:

    Is there some kind of bet between Fangraphs writers to see who can write the most irrelevant article?

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  5. Alex says:

    Casey Kelly isn’t a conversion project. He was a two-way prospect that couldn’t hack it as a batter and now pitches full time.

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  6. Wilbrod says:

    You could also name Jason Motte, who was a catcher the first three years of his professional career.

    I guess hitting .191/.220/.233 in 614 AB can do the trick.

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  7. zipperz says:

    Well it’s awful early, but he has looked fabulous out of the pen.

    In 4 appearances he has faced 13 batters, walked 1 and whiffed 7 of them. He has yet to surrender a hit.

    That’s good for an 0.00 ERA and WHIP of .25 !!

    He has been throwing the fastball 95-96 consistently and has shown command of a slider and changeup. Guillen should start using him in higher leverage roles soon.

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  8. Larry says:

    Another dumb find by their GM.

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