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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.