Houston Astros promote outfield prospect Domingo Santana to majors

Domingto Santana - Mark Cunningham, Getty Images

The Houston Astros promoted outfield prospect Domingo Santana to the major leagues this afternoon. He was hitting .304/.383/.502 with 22 doubles, 13 homers, 40 walks, and 99 strikeouts in 84 games, 319 at-bats for Triple-A Oklahoma City in the Pacific Coast League.

We looked at Santana as Prospect of the Day back on May 16th. Here's a revised version of that report with the additional six weeks of data factored in.

Santana was originally signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009 from the Dominican Republic, earning a $330,000 bonus. He debuted in the Gulf Coast League, skipping the Dominican Summer League, and played well, hitting .288/.388/.508 in 37 games. He was totally overmatched in the South Atlantic League to open 2010 (.182 with 76 strikeouts in 165 at-bats) and was only adequate after being demoted to the New York-Penn League (.237/.336/.366 in 54 games). He hit .269/.345/.434 but with 120 strikeouts in 350 at-bats back in the Sally League in '11, then was traded to the Astros in the Hunter Pence deal.

The Astros took it more slowly with Santana than the Phillies did, giving him a full season in the High-A California League in '12 (.302/.385/.536 with 23 homers, 55 walks, 148 whiffs) and the Double-A Texas League in '13 (.252/.345/.498 with 25 homers, 46 walks, 139 whiffs). As noted above, he's been hitting well for Oklahoma and his production has been on a steady upswing all year: .292/.341/.482 in April, .297/.386/.514 in May, and .324/.420/.510 in June.

Santana is a right-handed hitter and thrower, listed at 6-5, 225, born August 5, 1992. He's huge and has the strength to match, but he's also solid overall athlete with a good throwing arm. His speed is average and while he's not a big basestealer, he's not a baseclogger either and can snag a base if the battery isn't paying attention. Power is his best tool and he has a ton of it, certainly capable of hitting 20+ home runs in the major leagues if he makes sufficient contact.

Contact is the problem, of course. He's improved in that department since switching organizations, reducing his strikeouts from the 35% range down to the upper 20s, still quite high but better at least, and against tougher competition as he's moved up.

Reports indicate that he's shown steadily sharper pitch recognition, and indeed, his walk rate has improved dramatically this year: he's already drawn 40, compared to 55 in a full season in '12 and 46 last year. In-person reports back up the numbers that he's been more selective. He doesn't chase breaking stuff as much as he used to, and will kill any mistake a pitcher makes with fastball location. However, his swing still has some length to it, and I don't think he's going to hit .300 against big league pitching.

However, simple adequacy in the OBP and batting average departments will be enough given his power. Despite facing more difficult competition each year, his relative production has been rock-steady since entering the Houston system: 137 wRC+ in '12, 133 in '13, and 133 again this year.

Now, caveat time. The offense-oriented Pacific Coast League plays to his strengths, and there's no guarantee that Santana will make a rapid adjustment to the majors. Jon Singleton hasn't thrived immediately, and George Springer had some glitchy and difficult moments when he was first promoted. Keep in mind that although this is his sixth year of professional baseball, Santana is still just 21 years old, more than five years younger than the average Triple-A player. Growing pains are inevitable.

Patience is advised, but the Astros have one hell of a young power core here with Springer, Singleton, and now Santana.

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