Joel Santo, a product of their Dominican contingent, has been with the Padres since 2002. This year was his first taste of full-season ball and he had never pitched more than 56.1 innings in a year. He topped out at 140.1 frames this year for the Wizards, going 4-11 with a 4.75 ERA.
During July and August, when there would normally be a drop-off in production due to fatigue, Santo was at his best. In an 11-start stretch, he held a 3.79 ERA, allowing just two homers. His ERA over the rest of the year was 5.40 and he yielded 12 homers.
While he has some above average pitches to work with, Santo struggles with command. He walked 51 on the year and surrendered 51 extra base hits, either out of the zone with his pitches or leaving them on the fat part of the plate. He also worked from behind in the count, making it tougher for the 21-year old to throw his game.
Santo throws a mid-nineties fastball and supplements that with a slider and change. While his fastball is an above-average pitch, his slider and change remains works in progress. Unfortunately, when Santo is wild he is up in the zone.
It isn't all negative for Santo. In 11 of his 27 starts, he allowed two earned runs or less. He allowed more than four runs three times on the year.
"Ask anyone in the Midwest League if they wanted Santo on their squad and you would hear a ‘yes' all around," said Bill Bryk, the Padres' minor league field coordinator.
The enticement in Santo is not only his age but his stuff. His fastball is lively, his slider has good movement and his changeup has potential. He could have three above-average pitches if he can show consistent control.
"Joel is a high ceiling guy," added Bryk. "He is a guy with a mid-nineties fastball and it will come down to his slider and change."
Santo ended the year with 51 walks and 86 strikeouts. He allowed ten homers in his first 15 starts but allowed four over his next 12. He held the opposition to a .280 average against and that number dipped to .252 with runners in scoring position.
He went out to the Instructional League this fall and posted a 4.07 ERA in 17.2 innings.
Santo will be 22 in June of 2006, giving him some time to reach his ceiling. The right-hander must stay consistent with his delivery and release point to ensure maximum effectiveness.