Rangers Prospect #49: Leonel De Los Santos

Leonel De Los Santos has cemented himself among the Rangers' top catching prospects over the last two years. Though his numbers have not been gaudy, those who see him in person come away impressed with his skill set, which includes a rocket arm. Lone Star Dugout takes a look at the 19-year-old backstop with a feature article and an in-depth scouting report

Vital Statistics:
Name: Leonel De Los Santos
Position: Catcher
DOB: October 2, 1989
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 170
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

The Rangers signed an impressive crop of international free agents during the summer of 2006. The group was headlined by third baseman Emmanuel Solis and pitchers Wilmer Font and Carlos Pimentel. But there is one player who flew under the radar that summer. One player who could emerge as the best of the Rangers' talented crop of signees. His name is Leonel De Los Santos, and he is the latest in what seems to be an endless supply of catching prospects for the Rangers.

De Los Santos didn't appear in a game until the following summer [2007], when he played with the Dominican Summer League Rangers. In a league where the team batting averages generally hover around the .230s, De Los Santos impressed the Rangers by batting .263 with seven doubles and two home runs in 35 DSL games. The performance was enough to earn him a visa and a late-season trip to the rookie-level Arizona League. De Los Santos appeared in four games with the AZL Rangers, going 4-for-14 with a walk and three runs batted in.

The catcher returned to Arizona just one month later for fall instructional league. It was there that onlookers realized he would become a player to watch in the coming years. De Los Santos had earned the nickname ‘Macumba' [meaning magic] among teammates and coaches due to his remarkable arm strength.

‘Macumba' stayed in Arizona for the entire 2008 season, as he participated in spring training, extended spring training, and the Arizona League. The 19-year-old not only impressed with his arm and raw defensive skills, but he also showed to have potential with the bat. De Los Santos displayed his versatility by batting anywhere between second and seventh in the batting order. He hit .258 with four triples and two home runs in 44 games with the AZL club.

Over the last two seasons, ‘Macumba' has proven that he has the skill set to be mentioned among the Rangers' outstanding group of catching prospects.

Also See: Sizing up the catching prospects (October 3, 2007)
Arizona Notebook (October 18, 2007)
Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Mike Boulanger (November 7, 2007)

Batting and Power: The biggest question mark surrounding De Los Santos' game at this point is whether or not he will develop as a hitter. To be blunt, it will likely be the deciding factor in whether or not he can play in the Majors. As a point of reference, it's worth mentioning that at the age of 19, De Los Santos' offensive skills are much more refined than Manny Pina's were at that time. In spite of his somewhat wiry frame, ‘Macumba' does have some raw power and, while his plate discipline is far from being a plus skill, it is adequate for a hitter of his age and experience. Should he repeat the Arizona League in 2009, he could have a breakout season numbers-wise.

Base Running and Speed: The 19-year-old's speed is about average – or maybe even a tick below – but he does move well for a catcher. De Los Santos's athleticism is also well above-average for a catcher. He may lose some of that foot speed and athletic ability as his body continues to fill out, but he'll never be particularly close to a Molina brother in those aspects. Though he will probably never be a threat to steal many bases, he moves very well given his demanding position.

Defense: De Los Santos' incredible arm strength has been well-publicized. He has the best arm of any backstop in the Rangers' system – and that's saying something given the arms of Taylor Teagarden and Manny Pina. With that said, De Los Santos' defensive skills are still raw across the board. He must improve as a receiver, his glove-to-hand transfer is a tick slow, and his throws sail on him at times. But, largely as a testament to his arm strength, De Los Santos managed to gun down 31-of-85 [36.5%] attempted base stealers in 2008, an exceptional number for such a young catcher. Despite his inexperience, De Los Santos has already earned recognition from both pitchers and coaches as an excellent game caller. Because ‘Macumba' is still young, he figures to develop quite a bit in the coming years. In time, De Los Santos should become a fine defensive backstop.

Projection: It is far too early to get a grasp on how good De Los Santos can be. The backstop has a long way to go before he can really be thought of as a potential major leaguer. However, his arm could carry him a long way. Assuming he refines his defensive skills as he progresses through the system, ‘Macumba' at least has a shot to become a backup catcher in the Majors. But he may hit some as well. There's often a fine line between backup and starting catchers in the bigs. It all depends on how well De Los Santos refines his game down the line. But the tools for success are there, without a doubt.

2008 Outlook: ‘Macumba' will likely either repeat the Arizona League or move on to the short-season Northwest League in 2008. At just 19-years-old, De Los Santos is still very young and raw in all facets of the game. He could benefit quite a bit from another season of AZL ball. Regardless of where he plays next year, he will almost certainly begin at extended spring training before joining a short-season club once their season starts in June. The AZL Rangers may be De Los Santos' most likely destination, but he could easily reach Spokane before the season is over.

ETA: 2012.

2007 DSL Rangers (DSL) .263 114 7 2 7 13 4 8 19 .333 .395
AZL Rangers (RK) .286 14 0 0 3 1 0 1 2 .333 .286
2008 AZL Rangers (RK) .258 159 2 2 25 20 5 9 22 .299 .358

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