I had a chance to see Domingo Santana, the top-rated Astros (non-pitching) prospect in Triple-A, in Omaha Thursday night for Oklahoma City. The book on the 6-5, 225-pound 21-year-old outfielder is that he is a free swinger with power. For a free swinger who has piled up 287 strikeouts over the past two seasons at the lower levels of the minor leagues, he showed more patience than I expected.
He ended up going 1-for-4 with an RBI, but more telling, he worked the count most of the night, looking for a good pitch to hit. During his nine-pitch at-bat in the sixth inning, he worked the count full, fouling off four pitches and ended up reaching on an error. In the eighth inning, he lined a 2-2 Casey Coleman off-speed pitch into the gap in left center field, driving in a run in the process and knocking Coleman from the game. And he just missed a home run to left field in the fourth, flying out to the warning track.
Oklahoma City radio broadcaster Alex Freedman says he's noticed a difference in Santana's approach at the plate recently.
"His walks have improved these last few weeks," Freedman said after the game. "He's been a little bit more selective. I don't know if the message has been given to him or if he's realized that - hey, he started the year as maybe the third guy in this lineup behind George Springer and Jon Singleton. Now he's the guy. So he's not going to get as many good pitches to hit.
"Our hitting coach, Leon Roberts, has really talked to him about that as well. But he's still going to be a bit of a free swinger. Even though he's going to strike out, he's hitting close to .300. A couple of days ago, he drew three walks in a game. He really wasn't getting much to hit, so he just kind of took it."
Santana has hit 20+ home runs the last two seasons at the Single-A and Double-A levels and he's poised to do so again in Triple-A this season - assuming he doesn't get called up before the end of the season. Currently, he's hitting .297/.374/.493 with 9 HR and 37 RBIs. And he was named the OKC Player of the Month in May after hitting .297 and leading the team in hits (33), runs (16), home runs (6) and he was tied for the team lead in RBIs (16).
Defensively, the corner outfielder has been described as average, something Freedman seemed to agree with.
"I wouldn't call him a plus defender, but I wouldn't call him a liability, either," Freedman said.
The Astros acquired Santana, along with three other players, in the Hunter Pence trade in 2011. Santana was the player to be named later. The crazy thing is, Santana wasn't even supposed to be on the list of players to choose from, but the Phillies made a mistake and listed him. If Santana pans out at the big league level, well ... someone will have to answer for that one.