Prospect of the Day: Fautino De Los Santos
Oakland promoted prospect Fautino De Los Santos on May 20th, but sent him back to the minors yesterday without having used him in a game, disappointing Athletics prospect followers who wanted to see him in action. If his minor league performance this year is any indicator, he'll get another opportunity soon.
De Los Santos was originally signed by the Chicago White Sox in 2005 out of the Dominican Republic. After a terrific 2007 season, he was traded to Oakland in the Nick Swisher deal, but blew out his elbow and had to have Tommy John surgery, costing him most of '08 and ‘09. He returned in '10 and posted an ugly 6.54 ERA in 32 innings for Double-A Midland. However, his component ratios were much better than his ERA (51/16 K/BB in 32 innings, 32 hits) and he showed no loss in velocity. He got off to a good start in 2011, with a 1.65 ERA and a 24/9 K/BB in 16 innings combined between Midland and Triple-A Sacramento.
At his best, De Los Santos uses a mid-90s fastball that can hit 98-99 on his best days. A starter earlier in his career, since moving to the bullpen he's concentrated on his slider at the expense of his curveball and changeup. The fastball/slider combination is overpowering, and when his command is working he profiles as a perfect major league closer. He's still refining his mechanics, and when they get out of whack his command slips. He's walked five in seven Triple-A innings, albeit with nine strikeouts and just three hits allowed. Those ratios match the scouting reports perfectly: great stuff, but wobbly command.
In the short run, he's most likely to see major league action in a short relief role, but in the long run he has a decent chance to get a shot as a closer if the command improves even a little. Now that he's proven his health, it is all a matter of throwing strikes.