Rangers Prospect #39: Santiago Chirino

Santiago Chirino flashed his advanced skill set by batting .288 and playing solid defense at short-season Spokane last summer. Lone Star Dugout takes a look at the 19-year-old prospect with an in-depth scouting report.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Santiago Chirino
Position: Second base
DOB: February 11, 1991
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 174
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Acquired: 2008 International Free Agent

Santiago Chirino joined the Rangers organization as part of a strong position-prospect crop the club signed out of Latin America in 2008. The group, which includes Chirino, Teodoro Martinez, and Odubel Herrera, among others, came to the States last season and had plenty of success.

The group made its collective professional debut with the Dominican Summer League Rangers2 team in the summer of '09. The young core helped guide the team to a division championship and the circuit's top regular-season record.

Chirino contributed as the team's regular second baseman, batting .270/.351/.322 with 19 walks and 14 strikeouts in 56 contests. He was also a factor on the base paths, swiping 18 bags in 29 attempts.

The Venezuela native began his state-side career at Extended Spring Training last year. Beginning the official season with the rookie-level Surprise Rangers, Chirino got out to a fast start by going 18-for-57 (.316) with two doubles and a triple over 17 games.

The impressive early-summer results led to a quick promotion. Chirino spent the remainder of the summer with short-season Spokane, where he appeared in 39 games and more than held his own.

Despite his relative lack of experience, the right-handed prospect fit right in with the Northwest League club. He batted .288 with six doubles, two triples, 13 walks, and 16 strikeouts. Chirino flashed a mature game across the board, showing a good glove with a feel for hitting.

Although the 19-year-old doesn't possess flashy tools, he has an advanced skill set and a maturing 5-foot-10, 174-pound frame. Chirino doesn't project to grow much beyond what he already has, but he is likely to add some muscle down the line.

Also See: Seven teams, seven sleepers (December 26, 2010)
Top Prospects, Top Tools (January 14, 2011)

Prospect Videos:

Santiago Chirino 2010 AZL reel from Jason Cole on Vimeo.

Batting and Power: Chirino has an above-average hit tool, with many scouts projecting it in the 55-60 range on the 20-80 scouting scale. He has excellent pitch and strike-zone recognition for his age––an overall mature feel for hitting. Chirino also shows good plate coverage, often using the opposite field with an inside-out approach. His approach, level swing, and 5-foot-11 frame leads to little power projection, but he should be a contact-heavy on-base threat. As he climbs the organizational ladder, Chirino should hit for a strong average while also drawing his share of walks.

Base Running and Speed: Chirino is currently a solid-average runner and projects to be about average after physical maturation. His strong instincts and awareness should make him a good base runner, though he wasn't particularly aggressive on the bases last year. After stealing 18 bags in 29 attempts with the DSL Rangers in '09, Chirino was five-for-eight in 56 official games last summer.

Defense: Chirino is a very advanced defender at second base with soft hands and strong instincts. While many young infielders struggle with high error totals, Chirino committed just four errors (.979) in 41 contests at Spokane last summer. He played 34 games at second base, six at shortstop, and one at third base. The prospect reads hops well, and his good first-step quickness gives him at least solid-average range for the position. His arm strength is average. The total package allows Chirino to project as a plus defender at second base. He has played some shortstop but may not have the plus range to play there regularly.

Projection: If Chirino's hit tool develops into a plus asset, he could be an everyday second baseman and a potential second-division regular. The 19-year-old is still young and yet to play full-season ball, but he is regarded as a hard-working player with plus makeup––an asset that could help him maximize his tools. Though Chirino has an above-average glove at second, his lack of elite athleticism and range at shortstop puts his ability to handle a utility role in question. To have a chance, his bat will need to play at the upper levels, but he certainly has the potential to do so.

2011 Outlook: Chirino is likely to open the season as the regular second baseman at Single-A Hickory. He made his state-side debut in 2010, starting off in rookie ball and earning a quick promotion to short-season Spokane. Chirino more than held his own with the Indians despite his youth and lack of experience. He's young and should spend the entire season with the Crawdads, regardless of results.

ETA: 2014.

2009 DSL Rangers (DSL) .270 211 9 0 28 37 18/29 19 14 .351 .322
2010 AZL Rangers (RK) .316 57 2 0 8 13 3/5 3 5 .391 .386
Spokane (SSA) .288 146 6 0 20 21 2/3 13 16 .348 .356

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