Miguel De Los Santos has had a long, difficult journey to full-season ball.
The Dominican Republic native initially signed with the Rangers in July 2006. He didn't get out of the complex leagues until May 2010.
De Los Santos has dealt with his share of setbacks––namely Tommy John surgery on his left elbow in 2007 and last season's visa issue that left him stranded in his native country.
The prospect used his time in the Dominican wisely. As De Los Santos mentions below, he focused on improving his strength and overall game during the time of uncertainty. His fastball began touching the mid-90s and his changeup developed into a legitimate out pitch.
The progression showed in the results. De Los Santos posted dominant numbers with the DSL Rangers2 club, surrendering only eight hits while striking out 70 batters in 32 innings.
Finally, near the end of Spring Training this past March, De Los Santos was cleared and received a work visa that allowed his return to the States. He made one short appearance in a minor league Spring Training game before camp ended.
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound hurler was eventually assigned to Single-A Hickory. He made a handful of appearances out of the bullpen before joining short-season Spokane to work as a starting pitcher.
De Los Santos has since re-joined the Crawdads as a starter, and he has continued to miss bats at an astonishing rate. He has posted a 2.79 earned-run average between the two levels. In 61.1 innings, he has surrendered 35 hits while walking 33 and striking out 102.
Since returning to Hickory on August 1, De Los Santos has logged 39 strikeouts in 20.1 frames. He has fanned exactly 10 batters in three of his last four starts––the other outing was shortened by a lengthy rain delay.
Though it took five seasons to even reach the low Single-A level, the 22-year-old has legitimate swing-and-miss stuff.
During a recent start against Kannapolis, De Los Santos threw all of his fastballs between 91-93 mph. He has flashed the ability to top out at 94 and 95 mph on occasion, particularly in shorter stints.
De Los Santos clearly has plenty of confidence in his 79-80 mph changeup, which features screwball-like movement and good deception. He also uses a sharp upper-70s curveball.
Hickory pitching coach Brad Holman recently commented that De Los Santos has strong command of his changeup, but he must refine the command of his fastball and curve before he can take the next step.
While the pitcher can get a bit erratic––an issue that could ultimately land him in the bullpen––he still doesn't have much experience pitching in the U.S. De Los Santos is currently proving he has the raw stuff to miss bats at any level of the minors.
Lone Star Dugout caught up with De Los Santos through the translation of Crawdads first baseman Michael Ortiz.
De Los Santos warms up before a Spring Training appearance
Jason Cole: You rehabbed in Arizona in 2007 and then played in the Arizona League in '09. Talk to me about how difficult it was to be stuck in the Dominican Republic last year, kind of unsure of your future.
Miguel De Los Santos: That point in my career and my life––it was a rough experience and a rough time for me. I started doubting myself, thinking that maybe I wouldn't be able to make it back to the States and that I wouldn't get my shot that I wanted so badly––that I had worked for so hard. When I got the news, I was down. But instead of quitting, I just got on my horse, started riding, and worked as hard as I could to get back. I did that and I'm happy that I'm here right now.
Cole: What was the feeling like when you heard, near the end of Spring Training, that you would be returning to Arizona?
De Los Santos: When I got the news that I was going back to Arizona, of course it was a great day and I was happy. But at the same time, I knew what I needed to do. I knew that it was my second chance that I never thought I was going to get. And now that I got it, I came into it with a mindset that there's no way I'm going to let this chance slip away.
I was kind of doubting myself, but my family always told me that I had to keep working. They told me I was talented and to keep working hard, because I would get another chance. I was finally able to get that faith in myself back and I stuck with it. And now I'm here.
Cole: When you were pitching in the Dominican Summer League last year, how were you able to improve your overall game?
De Los Santos: The first thing I did in the Dominican was take care of my physical attributes––what I wanted to work on physically. Obviously mentally I was a little down. I don't want to say that I was preparing myself mentally because I didn't know if I was ever going to get another shot.
So I basically said that I was going to take it out on my body. And I worked my tail off in the gym, in my bullpens, and in my running. Whatever I could do to become a pitching machine physically, I did. After all this work was done, I was throwing in the mid-90s. From then on, I never looked back.
Cole: How do you feel about the way you've performed this year, both here and in Spokane?
De Los Santos: I'm real happy with my job this year overall. But I don't want to be content with it because the year isn't over. Whether you're here or in the big leagues, you can always get better. I need to keep getting better every day.
That's what I'm going to shoot for. I want to get better no matter what, whether I have a good outing or a bad outing. I'm going to do everything I can to become a better pitcher, day in and day out.
Cole: What are some of the things you've been working on with your pitching coaches this season?
De Los Santos: For me, what I worked on personally was the physical part of my game. When I came to Spring Training, after all that work, I threw an inning and I was a little wild with my fastball. So they took me aside and said, ‘Look, you're in shape. You're throwing hard, and you are in pitching shape. Now you need to work on commanding your fastball and your breaking ball.' So I worked hard on that with Justin Thompson and Brad Holman, my pitching coaches.
Cole: How do you feel your changeup has progressed this season? It seems to be a pitch you've gained a lot of confidence in.
De Los Santos: My changeup is the pitch that I have the most confidence in. Whenever I get into trouble or in a jam that I need to get out of, my changeup gets me out of it.
Cole: You've done both starting and relieving this season. Can you talk about the differences in how you pitch and prepare?
De Los Santos: Starting, I have my routine down. But as far as relief goes, I feel like that might be a little more difficult. Coming out of the bullpen, I don't always know whether I'm going to get into the game or not.
When you're in the bullpen, you are so far from the game but you still have to be so focused on every pitch and every hitter. Because if you do get that chance to come into the game, you have to know the hitter and know his weaknesses or his strengths. I have a lot of respect for relievers because it's a difficult job.
For more information on De Los Santos and the Hickory Crawdads, check out the Crawdads thread on our subscriber-only message board.
De Los Santos keeping his focus
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