George Springer is in the major leagues. Jonathan Singleton is ripping up the Pacific Coast League. Their names are well-known, but the Houston Astros have a third very promising bat down at Oklahoma City: outfielder Domingo Santana, our topic for today's Prospect of the Day.
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 California League in '12 (.302/.385/.536 with 23 homers, 55 walks, 148 whiffs) and the Texas League in '13 (.252/.345/.498 with 25 homers, 46 walks, 139 whiffs). He's handling Triple-A well so far, batting .296/.359/.500 with 14 walks and 48 strikeouts in 152 at-bats for Oklahoma City.
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 a 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. 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 better competition as he's moved up. He's shown sharper pitch recognition, but given his size it is likely that he'll always have some issues with contact and plate discipline. I don't think anyone should expect him to hit .300 in the majors, but even adequacy in the OBP and batting average departments will be enough given his power.
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One key fact: despite entering his sixth year of professional baseball, Santana is still just 21 years old, theoretically still five or six years away from his prime. He's more than five years younger than the average Triple-A player. Not everyone improves along a "normal" age curve, but Santana has shown growth and does have a lot of time left on the clock. His profile has risk, but he can evolve into a very productive power hitter.