Rangers Prospect #32: Ovispo de los Santos

Reliever Ovispo de los Santos has always possessed elite velocity, but his overall game took a significant step forward during the 2010 season. Lone Star Dugout takes a look at the 23-year-old prospect with an in-depth scouting report.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Ovispo de los Santos
Position: Relief Pitcher
DOB: November 19, 1987
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 205
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Acquired: 2006 International Free Agent

Over the last few years, right-hander Ovispo de los Santos has put in more than his share of time in the complex leagues. But during that time, he has gradually developed into one of the Rangers' top relief prospects.

The hurler signed with the Rangers as an 18-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in April 2006. He pitched the '06 and '07 seasons with the Dominican Summer League Rangers before making his state-side debut.

After only six appearances for the rookie-level Surprise Rangers in '08, de los Santos was shut down with shoulder inflammation. And while the injury didn't require surgery, it kept him out for the remainder of the summer.

De los Santos came back in a big way the following season, flashing a fastball that flirted with the upper-90s. Although his overall game was somewhat raw, he posted a 3.45 earned-run average in 28.2 innings, walking seven and striking out 22.

Because of his dominant velocity, de los Santos has shown a tendency to fall in love with his fastball while ignoring his secondary stuff. After using the slider and changeup only sparingly in '09, he began to put a stronger emphasis on the development of his offspeed stuff last season.

"The first thing that they told me I needed to work on was my slider––my secondary pitches," said de los Santos, through a translator. "Obviously I have a strong throwing arm, but they said that a lot of guys can throw hard. They wanted to see my secondary pitches."

De los Santos knew that if he didn't begin to develop his slider, he wasn't going to get away from the club's minor league complex in Arizona.

The complex was where de los Santos opened the 2010 season, pitching at Extended Spring Training. He shipped out to short-season Spokane when the Indians began play in mid-June.

After over four seasons of playing at the Rangers' Dominican Republic and Arizona facilities, the righty was finally getting to pitch in front of fans.

"My first time pitching in Spokane, it was obviously a lot of fans and it was an exciting day for me, knowing that I was going to get into the game at some point," he said. "But as soon as I entered the game, I knew that no matter what was around me or what the situation was, I needed to throw strikes. That's all I focused on."

De los Santos made sure his stay in Spokane was a short one. Making four appearances, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound reliever struck out nine batters over 5.1 shutout frames.

The 23-year-old earned a quick promotion to Single-A Hickory, where he continued his success, posting a 3.48 ERA. In 20.2 innings, he yielded 17 hits, walked six, and struck out 25.

"They told me to learn to keep commanding the fastball––stay sharp with the fastball––but also to get better with the slider," he said on his time with the Crawdads. "I've been working on my slider all year, and it has been bringing me results. I haven't veered off my every day program or routine."

Also See: De los Santos bringing the heat (September 4, 2009)
Rangers Minor League Notes (June 1, 2010)
Breaking down the Spokane Indians (June 14, 2010)
De los Santos refining breaking ball (August 20, 2010)
Rangers Instructional League Notes (September 27, 2010)
Rangers Rule 5 Draft candidates (December 8, 2010)
Seven teams, seven sleepers (December 26, 2010)
Top Prospects, Top Tools (January 14, 2011)

Prospect Video:

Ovispo de los Santos 2010 reel from Jason Cole on Vimeo.

Repertoire: Fastball, Slider, Changeup.

Fastball: With mechanics that draw comparisons to Rangers closer Neftali Feliz, de los Santos flashes plus-plus velocity, throwing his fastball between 93-98 mph with some late movement. He touched 99 at Extended Spring Training last season and later bumped 100 with short-season Spokane.

De los Santos' fastball command projects to be about average, though it's not there just yet. He throws plenty of strikes but can be wild within the zone and struggles to hit his spots at times. His fastball is a definite plus pitch, and he relies on it heavily out of the bullpen.

Other Pitches: While de los Santos improved in all facets of his game last season, his primary focus was the development of his secondary stuff. Prior to last season, he was overly reliant on his fastball and rarely flashed his slider or changeup. As a result, he's still learning about pitch sequencing and how to set hitters up.

The reliever began to gain confidence in his fringy 82-83 mph slider last season. The offering, which shows average potential, has good tilt and late break. He began to use the slider as more of a put-away pitch late last summer. His third pitch––an 84-87 mph changeup––was little-used in 2010, though he made it more of a priority at Fall Instructional League. The secondary stuff has certainly improved, but he still must tighten up the command of both pitches.

Projection: If de los Santos continues to harness his secondary stuff, he could begin to jump through the system this season. The hard-throwing prospect has the potential to pitch in a seventh- or eighth-inning role. Despite his elite fastball, de los Santos' average command and lack of a dominant secondary offering keep him from projecting as a closer. Still, with even just a passable breaking ball and command, he should reach the majors.

2011 Outlook: De los Santos began the 2010 season in Extended Spring Training and ultimately finished at Single-A Hickory, where he logged 20 appearances. After a successful stint with the Crawdads, the 23-year-old should open the 2011 campaign in the High-A Myrtle Beach bullpen. But he may not be there for long. If de los Santos has early success with the Pelicans, his overpowering fastball and improving secondary stuff should give him an opportunity to reach Double-A Frisco at some point this season.

ETA: 2012.

Year Team W-L IP H BB SO ERA
2006 DSL Rangers (DSL) 2-2 24.0 25 18 19 7.13
2007 DSL Rangers (DSL) 4-2 62.2 49 14 53 2.01
2008 AZL Rangers (RK) 0-0 8.1 12 5 10 7.56
2009 AZL Rangers (RK) 3-2 28.2 24 7 22 3.45
2010 Spokane (SSA) 0-0 5.1 2 2 9 0.00
Hickory (A) 1-3 20.2 17 6 25 3.48

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