With more and more emphasis on prospects in both real life and fantasy baseball, it has become more and more important to identify breakout players before they are widely known. A guy who nobody – even in deep leagues – seems to have on their radar is Junior Santos of the New York Mets.
Santos, a 6-8 220 pound Right Handed pitcher was signed as one of the youngest players in the entire 2017 J2 class for 275K out of the Dominican Republic as part of a Mets class headlined by Ronny Mauricio. Noted for his height, 3 pitch mix and athleticism for his size/age and commanding a decent bonus; Santos wasn’t exactly an under the radar sign.
Upon the start of short season ball, Santos was simply dominant as one of the youngest players in the DSL. He went 1-1 with a 2.80 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 36K/6BB ratio over 45 IP in 10 starts. The Mets noticed this dominance and made him the 4th youngest player in the Gulf Coast League, where he made 3 appearances out of the pen, again dominating hitters. In his 3 relief appearances as the youngest player in the league, he went 5 scoreless innings, giving up just 4 hits and zero walks, while striking out 3. Not bad for a 16 year old.
Santos has hit as high as 94 on the gun, which is insane for a 16 year old, and lives 90-92. More impressive yet is that he works in a sharp low 8o’s slider with bite that flashes 50 and a plus plus change with both sink and tumble that mimics his fastball arm action and is a swing and miss pitch with good velo separation from his heat. It is a nasty changeup. At his size and age, Santos is the definition of projectability and could realistically add as much as 5-7 MPH to his fastball and more power to his offspeed, which could mean triple digit heat with 2 60 grade offspeed if it all comes together. Combine that with the absurd extension he gets from his 6-8 frame and the perceived velo will be off the charts.
More notable still is how athletic Santos is and how well he repeats consistent mechanics for a kid his age and size! This is evidenced by just 6 walks in 50 innings as a 6-8 16 year old facing hitters an average of 4.4 years older than him in the GCL.
How many 16 year old 6’8 kids make it to the GCL with his control, his stuff and his numbers without much fanfare? If he puts it all together, this is a kid who could be living high 90’s and touching triple digits, with 2 60 grade offspeed pitches, clean mechanics, extreme extension on his pitches and good control if not command, who’s already shown he can dominate players much older than him.
Now there’s many more aspects to pitching, ability to sequence pitches, work all 4 quadrants, adjust to hitters who adjust to him, etc. So there is a long way to go from a 16 year old in the gulf coast league to the pros and there are many potential pitfalls and proving grounds facing him…but the ceiling here with time and a bit of projection is a legitimate ace and that’s a very rare trait to have. He’s certainly not there yet or even close, but he’s one of maybe 15-20 guys where it’s even possible to me, probably less. The easy comp is Michel Baez, although he’s much more advanced than Baez was at the same age. That’s a guy you should have your eye on next year.