Pos: SP B/T: R/R Age: 8/16/2001 (17)
Acquired: International Free Agent from the Dominican Republic on September 28, 2017
2018 Stats (DSL Mets 1, GCL Mets): 1-1, 2.52 ERA, 14 G, 10 GS, 50 IP, 0.900 WHIP, 1.1 BB/9, 7.0 K/9
Junior Santos was signed in a Mets IFA period highlighted by shortstop Ronny Mauricio, and center fielder Adrian Hernandez. Those big names didn’t make Santos go unnoticed, as Santos was a 6′ 6″ 16-year-old at the time of his signing, and has since stretched out to a towering 6′ 8″. Santos’ contract was worth $275,000.
Perhaps not yet done filling out, Santos is listed at 218 pounds currently, and his fastball has been noted to have improved from sitting low 90-92 and touching 94 MPH, to sitting 91-94 and touching 97 (according to Fangraphs). Riding what has been referred to as smooth, repeatable mechanics, there is reason to believe that Santos’ fastball can see an uptick as he continues to develop.
Currently, Santos is playing with two off-speed pitches. Baseball America describes his offerings as a “low-90’s slider with good bite,” and a changeup with good “sink and run.” Fangraphs says that Santos’ slider looks more like a “slurve,” which explains the bite mentioned by BA. While some feel that he is familiar with his secondary offerings, the discrepancy seems to lie in whether or not he can get deceptive spin on each.
Absolutely no time was wasted by Santos in his first professional season, as he moved from playing with the Mets’ top Dominican Summer League team, to moving stateside to the Gulf Coast League Mets all before his seventeenth birthday, a couple of years below the league-average age. Santos showed a precocious ability for getting older hitters out.
Impressively, Santos showed excellent control for a pitcher of his age and size. Pitchers his age and size are often seen as of the “spray and pray” variety, but Santos showed excellent control walking just six batters over 50 innings of work this season. Santos also allowed just one home run in those 50 innings, but it’s hard to imagine that many of those young teenagers were used to seeing a healthy dose mid-to-high 90’s fastballs, and perhaps didn’t know what to do with them. Additionally, a lot of the contact being made against him was kept to the ground, as he held a 45.8% groundball rate in DSL1, and a 53.3% groundball rate in the GCL.
What Santos needs to work on in 2019 is missing more bats. Despite having a 6.50 K/BB ratio, he had just a 7.0 K/9 over the his first season. The control is there, and the power seems to be growing, but it seems reasonable to believe that the next step for Santos is to settle into his breaking pitches, and not rely on simply overpowering opposing hitters.
The ceiling on Santos, if his off-speed pitches click, is very high, but it’s his floor that puts him so high up as such a young pitcher. It stands to reason that Santos may repeat the Gulf Coast League this year, as he only pitched five innings there in 2018, but could move up quickly to Kingsport, if the Mets play his development reasonably aggressively. If he impresses in extended spring training, he may even get an aggressive placement in Kingsport.
Now that a lot of the Mets pitching depth has either graduated to the major league level, or has been traded, Santos will be a very interesting candidate to keep an eye on.
50-46 Led by Michael Paez
45-41 Led by Ranfy Adon
40-36 Led by Anthony Dirocie
35-31 Led by Ryley Gilliam
30-26 Led by Chris Viall
25 Carlos Cortes
24 Ali Sanchez
23 Eric Hanhold
22 Luis Carpio
21 Freddy Valdez
20 Walker Lockett