A's Prospect Profile: Fautino De Los Santos
Name: Fautino De Los Santos
H/W: 6'0''/ 205
The "book" on Fautino De Los Santos is a relatively short one. The Dominican native was signed by the Chicago White Sox as an undrafted international free agent in 2005.
De Los Santos made his debut for the White Sox in the Dominican Summer League in 2006, where he quickly made a positive impression. The right-hander posted a 1.86 ERA in 48.1 innings for the DSL White Sox. He did not allow a homer, limited opposing batters to a .232 BAA and struck out 61 against only 10 walks.
That performance earned De Los Santos a chance to pitch in the United States in 2007. He arrived in spring training as a relative unknown. After a sparkling spring, De Los Santos pushed past the short-season levels that many international free agents are sent to during their first seasons in the US. He was assigned to Low-A Kaanapolis of the South Atlantic League, where he was expected to pitch out of the bullpen for the Intimidators.
He began the year as a swingman for the Intimidators, starting only three of his first six appearances. However, after allowing only six runs in his first 24.2 innings, De Los Santos was put into the starting rotation on a permanent basis. He quickly made headlines as a starter. In his third turn as a permanent starter, De Los Santos threw seven innings of no-hit baseball, walking one and striking out seven. He later had two 10-strikeout performances and a 14-strikeout performance.
De Los Santos was so impressive early in the season for Kaanapolis that he earned a mid-season All-Star selection from the South Atlantic League and a berth in the MLB All-Star Weekend Futures Game in early July. De Los Santos remained with the Intimidators until early August, when he was promoted to High-A Winston-Salem. He left the South Atlantic League with a 9-4 record and a 2.40 ERA in 97.2 innings. He struck out 121, walked 36 and held opposing batters to a .168 BAA.
De Los Santos' performance with Winston-Salem was a little more uneven. He made five starts for the Warthogs, posting a 3.65 ERA. He struck out 32 in 24.2 innings, but walked seven and allowed three homers. His last performance of the year was dominating, however, as he worked six innings, allowing one run on two hits and a walk while striking out 10.
For the season, De Los Santos was a combined 10-5 with a 2.65 ERA and 153 strikeouts in 122.1 innings. In addition to the mid-season All-Star accolade and the Futures Game selection, he earned the award as the South Atlantic League's Most Outstanding Major League Prospect.
De Los Santos has electric stuff. The right-hander throws his fastball consistently in the low- to mid-90s and can touch 97 MPH when he is reaching back for something extra. He gets good movement on his fastball and he maintains his velocity late into his starts.
De Los Santos also features a secondary pitch that has been described both as a big breaking slider and a power curveball. The "slurve" pitch has tremendous bite to it and he can throw it for strikes in any count. The pitch is a definite out-pitch and was the second half of a deadly one-two punch when combined with his plus-fastball. The Dominican native also has a change-up that he just began to develop last season. The pitch improved from the beginning of the season to the end, although he didn't need to utilize the pitch much to retire the Class-A hitters he was facing, so it still needs more polish.
There have been some questions as to whether De Los Santos can remain a starter or whether he eventually will be moved to be a late-inning power reliever. Size is a question for De Los Santos, who stands at six feet tall. He is built similarly to major league right-handers Jake Peavy and Rich Harden, both of whom are not particularly tall but are muscular. Both Peavy and Harden have dealt with injury problems during their major league starting careers, although obviously Peavy has been able to maintain enough health to become an elite starter, while Harden has struggled to stay on the field over the past two seasons. De Los Santos has a powerful lower body, which should help him maintain the stamina needed to be a starting pitcher, although that stamina wasn't really tested in 2007, as the White Sox were careful to limit the number of innings he threw.
In addition to questions about his size, De Los Santos will have to continue to develop his change-up to be a starter at the major league level. Right now, he is mostly a two-pitch pitcher, but if he can clean-up his change-up and learn to change speeds effectively with his fastball, he has the stuff to be an elite starting pitcher.
De Los Santos is still learning to be a professional pitcher, something that showed at times last season. He had a tendency to overthrow when he was in trouble, a tendency that resulted in 19 wild pitches and nine hit batsmen in 2007. These times of struggle were few and far between for De Los Santos in 2007, however, as he allowed only 69 hits in 122.1 innings. It remains to be seen how he handles his emotions on the mound when he is facing hitters that are actually capable of making regular contact off of him.
With good health and polish, De Los Santos has the chance to be a solid number one starter in the major leagues. Both his fastball and "slurve" are major league out-pitches already, and he has the beginnings of what could be a good change-up. Developmentally, however, De Los Santos is probably even younger than his 21 (22 in February) years would indicate. He still has to learn to control his emotions on the mound and how to keep hitters guessing rather than simply trying to overpower every hitter (something he was capable of doing for the most part against Class-A hitters but won't be able to do as much against higher level hitters).
De Los Santos has only one year of experience playing in the US, so it is understandable that his game still needs some refinement. In 2008, the A's may start De Los Santos back in High-A to give him a chance to continue to grow as a pitcher. However, he may need to be challenged by Double-A hitters to make significant strides as a pitcher. Even if he begins the season with High-A Stockton, De Los Santos is likely to spend a good chunk of the season in Double-A.
How quickly and in what capacity De Los Santos reaches the major leagues will have a lot to do with his development of his change-up and his ability to learn to control his emotions and change speeds with his fastball. If he picks up on all three of those areas quickly, he could be in the major leagues as soon as the middle of 2009, likely as a starter. More than likely, however, he will be major league ready sometime during the 2010 season, either as a starter or a reliever.
De Los Santos has the best raw stuff of any pitcher in the A's system and arguably the best stuff of any A's farmhand since Harden was an A's prospect. The A's are hopeful that De Los Santos develops similarly to Harden, without the injuries.
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