Heading into the season, Dennis Santana was ranked as the Dodgers’ No. 7 prospect according to MLB.com despite a rough 2018 campaign in which he threw just 3.2 major league innings with an ERA of 12.27.
That season was cut short by a rotator cuff injury, but Santana returned healthy enough to be considered for an Opening Day roster spot this year. He was beat out by Brock Stewart for the long man role, and Santana’s struggles in the Minors limited him to just three Major League innings — and rough ones at that (7.20 ERA).
To make matters worse, after dominating the Minor Leagues in 2018 (10 starts, 2.53 ERA), his struggles with the Dodgers carried into time with Triple-A Oklahoma City.
In 27 appearances (17 starts) this year, he posted an ERA of 6.94. Why the sudden downturn in production? Santana’s walk rate doubled and his home run rate saw an increase as well.
The good news? He’s still just 23 years old — and he has only been pitching since 2014. As a result, most prospect lists still have him hovering around the top-10 amongst Dodger prospects.
There weren’t many positive moments in 2019 for Santana, but April 7 against the Colorado Rockies probably does qualify. With the game firmly in control for the Dodgers, Santana was summoned to get the final eight outs of the game.
He allowed two hits and one run while striking out two, locking down the 12-6 victory. It would be his second-to-last appearance of the season at the Major League level.
It’s easy to be discouraged after the year Santana had, but again: youth is on his side. The problem for Santana is figuring out what kind of opportunities he has given the roster and organizational depth in front of him.
As it stands, it appears like his best chance of having a future is in the bullpen — something he began experimenting with at the end of last season.
In 10 relief appearances for Oklahoma City, Santana posted an ERA of 1.72 over 15.2 innings pitched. If he can hone in his stuff and allow it to play up out of the bullpen, he could become the exact type of weapon the Dodgers are looking for.
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