It’s a good time to be a Philadelphia sports fan. The Eagles are Super Bowl champions. The 76ers are processed, built to last and could even snag LeBron James this summer. And the Phillies, after an eventful off-season with two high-profile free agent signings, are 30-23 as May prepares to cross the finish line.
Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta were certainly the talk of the town over the winter, but there is a lot going on with the Phillies. Specifically, the next crop of arms is starting to show itself.
Nick Pivetta, acquired at the 2015 trade deadline for Jonathan Papelbon from the Washington Nationals, has been excellent. Zach Eflin, traded from the Dodgers to the Phillies late in 2014 for Jimmy Rollins (a day after being involved in the Padres-Dodgers Matt Kemp blockbuster), is another name worth watching.
Seranthony Dominguez, who moved to the bullpen in the idle months, looks like the future closer for Gabe Kapler’s team, putting on as dominant of a first couple weeks —two baserunners in 11.2 innings— as anybody ever has.
In addition to Pivetta, Eflin, Dominguez and others, another non-top prospect in the Philly system is making a play for an eventful 2018 at the big league level.
Where the similarly talented Dominguez was moved to—and is flourishing in— the bullpen, De Los Santos is still eyeing a spot in the rotation. So far, so very, very good.
Originally a Seattle Mariners farmhand, the quadruple-named righty was traded at the end of his first pro season at the age of 19 in 2015. Sent to San Diego for reliever Joaquin Benoit, the Dominican was traded once again over these last Winter Meetings for veteran shortstop Freddy Galvis.
A profile similar to Dominguez, De Los Santos has taken the road from the west coast with the Friars to the east coast with the Fightin’ Phils, just like Eflin.
The symmetry is real amongst the developing Phillies arms, and figuring out which of them might have the best chance at all-stardom is admittedly a shuffle. One the team is more than happy to play.
Soon after the second trade of his young career, De Los Santos celebrated his 22nd birthday. At age 21 last season in Double-A, he was fantastic for the San Antonio Missions in the Texas League.
He has been, in fact, fantastic his entire minor league career. Twice a trade piece for a veteran role player, the jig is up in that regard. His value is becoming quite legitimate. If for some reason he is traded again, it won’t be for a rental reliever or stopgap infielder.
For the Missions in 2017, he started 24 games, appearing 26 times for the second straight season. He threw an even 150 innings, in which he scored a 3.78 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 138:48 K:BB ratio and further elevated his stock. (Just to be traded again, but hey, it’s a business.)
San Diego may have had a gaping hole at shortstop, with Khalil Greene even probably considered, but this deal would not be made over again.
So far this season for Triple-A Lehigh Valley, De Los Santos is having a career year at 22 years young. He’s made nine starts so far, and has been untouchable. He’s at a 1.40 ERA and 1.07 WHIP right now, with a 56:20 K:BB ratio that brings his career rate to 362:142 in 384.2 innings.
Additionally, his 9.8 K/9 is his highest since Low-A, but his 3.5 walks per nine is the highest. Not currently on the 40-man roster, the Phillies will take their time to make sure all systems across the board are go before promoting him to the majors.
His rise in the minor leagues has been clean vertically among levels, if not messy horizontally between systems. He had a brief hiccup at High-A in 2015 while with the Padres, but his move to Double-A, no matter how aggressive, paid off.
His assignment to Triple-A this season was just as aggressive, if not moreso considering his still novice age. But with a power fastball and emerging slider, the bullpen in the bigs could be calling soon, with an opportunity to start coming shortly after.