Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2011 by the Cleveland Indians, Anthony Santander has handled aggressive promotions through the minor-league ranks rather well.
Originally signed out of Venezuela for $385,000, Santander didn't make his pro debut until 2012 with the AZL Indians. As a 17 year-old rookie, Santander got his career off to an excellent start, batting .305 in 43 games with 15 doubles, four homers and 32 RBI.
Pushed into full-season Class-A ball in 2013 with the Lake County Captains, he expectantly faltered a bit (.242, 5 HR, 31 RBI in 61 games) but no more than can be expected from a teenager in the Midwest League. Santander lost considerable time to an elbow injury in both 2013 and 2014.
Returning to Lake County in 2014, Santander's season was essentially lost while his right elbow recovered from the previous season, and 2015 found him back with the Captains for a third go-round. This time, however, at age 20, Santander was ready (.278, 10 HR, 42 RBI, 16 doubles in 64 games), and Cleveland saw fit to move him to Class-A Advanced with the Lynchburg Hillcats in the Carolina League.
Still young for his level, Santander posted dominant stats (.290, 20 HR, 95 RBI, 42 doubles, 10 steals in 128 games) and was ranked the 16th-best prospect in the league. While he was able to play through the full season, he did have shoulder surgery at the end of the year, influencing Cleveland's decision to leave him unprotected for that year's Rule 5 Draft. The Baltimore Orioles snatched him with their second pick.
At the beginning of the 2017 season, Santander was still recovering from his shoulder surgery. After coming off the DL and getting back up to speed with one game with the Frederick Keys and 15 games in Class-AA Bowie, Santander made his MLB debut on August 18th at Baltimore against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, going 1-4 and scoring a run. He picked up another single the next night.
Santander is a switch-hitting corner outfielder with raw power, but he didn't become a switch-hitter until a year before he turned pro. He shows good bat speed but his swing appears stiff at times and is much more natural from the left side than the right.
It's hard to say going forward if the surgeries to both his right elbow and right shoulder will lead to recurring problems in the future with his swing or his arm strength, but so far there don't seem to be any obvious lingering effects. Pay attention to his average exit velocity as he gets settled in as a a major-leaguer; if his power is diminished, his role could be severely limited.
He didn't have an especially strong arm to begin with, and this combined with his lack of speed would probably limit him to either left field or first base going forward.
Santander has a reputation for frequently squaring up the ball, though again his left-handed swing is more consistent at the moment. If he can continue to develop from the right side, he could become a 20-25 HR bat, annually, with a good shot at thirty IF he remains healthy and can mitigate his strikeouts at the MLB level.
He never really struck out a ton until he got to High-A, and even then it wasn't an obscene amount for a run-producing bat; 118 over 500 at-bats as a 21 year-old in the Carolina League, having only five years previously learned to switch-hit, doesn't sound all that bad.
Even with his defensive limitations (fringy speed and range), it's his bat that has carried him this far. He showed plenty of patience with Lynchburg (54 walks), and if he becomes more selective and can adjust to even average major-league breaking pitches, the 30-HR mark may easily be within reach. His floor, as he appears now, would put him 6th in the Baltimore batting order. As long as he stays on the field (1B-LF-DH; one or all), a full season at his floor should bring a .260 BA, with 20+ homers and 70+ RBI.