Daniel Santin: Prospect or Bust

Being a prospect isn't an easy life to live. First, you've got to show enough potential and physical ability to be dubbed a future star. Then, you've got to be able to deal with expectations and play up to the level many expect you to for years at a time. Becoming a prospect, on the other hand, might be even more difficult.

In order to become a prospect, a player has to come with little fanfare. They've got to be a bit of an unknown to the average fan, a guy who ducks below the radar.

Nobody knows this better this season than Daniel Santin, a catcher out of Miami who signed with the Mariners this summer after being drafted in the 23rd round in 2003.

As is the case with most draft-and-follows – Dade attended Miami-Dade Junior College after being drafted – Santin virtually fell off the map after the 2003 June draft.

Then, once he reported to Peoria of the Arizona Rookie League in June, it didn't take long for Santin to garner some attention.

As a left-handed-hitting catcher, the 19-year-old got off to a hot start and never fell off, hitting a torrid .325 with four home runs and 28 RBI in just 160 at bats with the Mariners' rookie league affiliate.

Once Peoria's season came to an end last week, Santin got promoted to Tacoma on a temporary basis, lasting just one day with the Rainiers, then was optioned down to Low-A Everett on Wednesday.

It was quite a whirlwind of events for Miami native, who said he loved what he saw when he got off the plane in Sea-Tac earlier in the week.

"I think it's beautiful in Seattle, coming from Arizona where it's 110 degrees," said Santin. "It's nice, I like it a lot."

What he liked even more was the opportunity go get a night in Triple-A, where he took batting practice with the Rainiers and stretched with the team but never recorded a plate appearance.

"It was great just to be there a day with those guys in Triple-A," said the catcher. "They know so much about the game. I learned so much about the game just sitting in the dugout with them for a few hours."

Santin comes from a baseball family. His grandfather played ball professionally in Cuba, and his father, who now works for Tampa Bay as the team's scouting director in Latin America, played professionally with both the Seattle and St. Louis organizations.

Even after growing up around the game, learning many of the nuances most kids never get a chance to, Santin said he learned a tremendous amount in his two months in Peoria.

"I had a good season there," said Santin, who grew up in Miami and speaks both English and Spanish fluently. "It's all the coaching. The coaching you get down there is great. Everybody down there works hard every day, it's awesome.

"I don't know how you can work with those kind of guys and not learn something unless you aren't taking things seriously."

Still, he admits it isn't easy. The sun beats down at over 100 degrees every day in the Arizona desert, and the grandstands aren't exactly packed with rowdy fans. Santin believes those conditions can only help young ballplayers looking to move up through the system.

"It's hot but I think it just motivates you to get out of there," he said. "I think that's why guys down there work so hard."

Santin will finish up the season at Everett, where he'll continue to work on the skills he learned in the rookie league. While his abilities at the plate have never been in question, he knows being a catcher means getting defensive.

"I've always taken great pride in my offensive ability, but when you realize how important defense is you strive to get better at it," he said. "You can't just be an offensive catcher. I've gotten a little bit better and I've got a lot of work to do, but hopefully with a little bit more coaching I'll get where I need to be defensively.

"I can do it, and I can get it done. But I've got to be able to get it done on a consistent basis, and I can. I know I can."

The winter months won't last long for the young backstop. Instructional ball is set to begin on Sept. 19, and will last until Oct. 23. After that, Santin says he'll likely return home to Florida and continue to work hard with his dad in preparation for what he hopes to be another successful season in 2005.

Being away from the game won't be easy for Santin, the kind of guy who just oozes baseball every month of the year.

"I don't like not playing baseball," Santin said, candidly. "You always like putting on the uniform and going out there, but it's a good time to improve on a lot of things and to take a little break. But there's nothing like being on the field and getting dirty."

In 2004, Santin didn't just get dirty, he became a prospect.

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