Scouting Jays Prospect #18: Sergio Santos

Ever since Sergio Santos was taken with the 27th overall pick in the 2002 draft out of Mater Dei High School in California the expectations have been high. A big, strong shortstop, he immediately began getting the Alex Rodriguez comparisons.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Sergio Santos
Position: Shortstop
DOB: July 4, 1983
Height: 6'2
Weight: 240
Bats: Right

Coming into the 2005 season all the attention was on Santos' shoulder and head. The shoulder because of off-season surgery that had started affecting both his offense and defense, his head because the Diamondbacks were still negotiating with Stephen Drew. Since Santos and Drew played the same position, and since Santos was just coming off shoulder surgery, there was wide speculation that the Diamondbacks would start slowly converting Santos into a third baseman.

But that didn't happen last year. Santos played one game as a designated hitter, but every other appearance he made in Triple-A Tucson in 2005 was as a shortstop, and his manager, Chip Hale, was impressed.

"He played great defense in Tucson this past season," said Hale. "There were always questions about him as a shortstop, but this year he proved he can defend there on an everyday basis."

Nobody gets drafted in the first round because of his glove, least of all Santos. Though there were not any questions about his defense when the Diamondbacks took him, the draw was the bat. Santos has a long swing, but his body projected as a power hitter, and he made the adjustment smoothly from metal to wood, posting a .272 average with nine homers in just 202 at bats his first season in Missoula. That was enough for the D'Backs to put him on the fast track, and he adapted well, jumping to Hi-A Lancaster and then Double-A El Paso in his second season.

It was there in El Paso all the way back in 2003 that Santos' shoulder began bothering him, and while he didn't complain much about it, and his struggles could easily have been due to the jump in levels, the biggest questions came when Santos went from eight homers in 341 at bats in Lancaster to just two in 137 at El Paso.

The Diamondbacks still liked his approach at the plate, and in 2004 he was back in El Paso, and showing more power than he had the previous season, but still something was wrong. The answer came during the second half when Santos' shoulder finally became so painful it was affecting his defense, and the Diamondbacks had to shut him down, despite a .282 average and 12 homers in 347 at bats. The surgery was necessary, but it might have been the reason the D'Backs were so anxious to draft Drew.

In 2005 Santos showed up to camp healthy, though still recovering from the off-season surgery. He hit just .171 in April, and the whispers started that perhaps he wouldn't recover. In May he started to find the stroke, hitting four homers and bringing the average up to a more respectable .247, and it was June where Santos really started to show he could be returning to form. He hit .287 during the month with four homers and 20 RBI. It was a strong sign, both for Santos' shoulder, and his head.

All that of course changed in July. Whether his slip, just a .202 average and zero homers, was a down month, or a month where his head was more focused on the fact that the D'Backs had finally signed Drew may never be known, but it was painful to watch.

"He just looked uncomfortable," one scout said. "His swing is usually so fluid, and then in July it just turned real mechanical, he was trying to hit everything out of the park, he looked tired in the field, he just didn't seem like the same player."

That July, coupled with the Drew's incredible start in Lancaster, probably sealed Santos' fate in the D'Backs organization. Despite coming back strong with a .278 average in August, Santos still failed to hit a home run in 54 games between the end up June and beginning of September, essentially negating his best tool. With Drew's emergence and uncertainty about whether or not Santos' power would return, the decision was made.

Santos continued his struggles into 2006 and scouts are beginning to sour on the young infielder after he displayed almost no power and poor plate discipline this past season.

"I believe he was rushed early on in his career. He's still relatively young for a Triple-A player, but this year will be his final chance," noted one scout.

Batting and Power: Santos has above average bat speed, but his power potential is beginning to decrease among talent evaluators. Scouts don't believe Santos has the plate discipline needed to be a successful hitter in the big leagues.

Base Running and Speed: Although he is a big guy, Santos has surprising speed. He is an aggressive base runner, and don't look at the low stolen base totals the last couple of years. Santos stopped running because of his shoulder problems. Santos has above average speed, and can run the bases well.

Defensive: Contrary to belief Santos holds his own at shortstop. Arm strength has never been an issue for Santos and although his range is not spectacular, it's considers to be average compared to other shortstops. Talent evaluators would like to see Santos improve his footwork a little, and turn the double play more smoothly, but those are aspects that hard work will fix. Several scouts that believe Santos will be more successful at third base. It appears that plan will be scratched now that Santos is with the Blue Jays, and Troy Glaus is locked at third base for now.

2007 Outlook: Santos will begin the 2007 season with the Syracuse Chiefs and must impress immediately. Ryan Klosterman is on his tail.

ETA: 2007 If Santos does not reach the big leagues this year, it will not be a good sign.

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