Cristian Santana checks in at No. 24 on our Tigers top prospects list
The early portion of our top prospects list continues with a prospect who's had quite the journey in Cristian Santana. Santana was our No. 2 prospect in the Tigers system a year ago, only behind Colt Keith. After a tumultuous 2023 campaign, he falls all the way down to No. 24 this year.
Santana received a Tigers franchise record $2.95 million signing bonus from the team as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2021. This was pretty unprecedented for the team to shell out that much money on an international free agent, and it was to see why. Despite his struggles early on, he's still just as talented as anybody in the Tigers' system.
Santana, a switch-hitter, struggled mightily to make contact with the baseball last season in Low-A, but still showed outstanding plate discipline. He slashed .156/.365/.312, walking almost a whopping 22% of the time in 419 plate appearances. That OBP somehow carried him to an average 100 wRC+.
Contact has been the primary issue for Santana for a couple years now. He just hasn't been able to put the bat on the ball. However, that aforementioned plate discipline has only gotten better. It almost feels like he's too passive at the plate.
One thing to remember is that he's still just 20 years old. There's no reason to give up on the kid. He's still far from a bust at this point. But the struggles are real right now.
The good news is Santana made a late season adjustment to his swing mechanics, and the early returns were promising. Here's MLB Pipeline with more on that:
"Santana made an in-season adjustment regarding the position of his hands in the box and his swing path, and the changes have led to a late-season surge. He still has many parts of his game to smooth out, but his raw talent is some of the best in the organization."- MLB Pipeline
His best month last seast was July, where he hit .270 with an OPS over 1.000. Sadly, he was unable to keep up that pace throughout the rest of the season, hitting .134 in August and .150 in September, respectively. There are still more adjustments to be made.
Defensively, he's bounced all around the infield. He began as a shortstop, but has since played plenty of second and third base, though he still plays shortstop on occasion.
We don't have any advanced data because of the level he plays at, so we can really go on is errors. He had 11 errors in 33 games at shortstop, six in 35 games at 3B, and two in 24 games at 2B. As a 20-year-old, we don't have to worry too much about his defense quite yet, but he's also far from polished on that side of the field.
Here's what Pipeline has to say about Santana's defense:
"Santana moved around the infield in Lakeland as part of a rotation with Manuel Sequera and Peyton Graham. His speed and quickness enabled him to hold his own at short, but he reportedly gained weight over the offseason in search for more power and the Tigers have moved him around in his return to the FSL with looks at second and third."- MLB Pipeline
It's interesting that he he's concerned about power, when he struggles so much to even make contact. I would imagine this is something the organization as talked with him about. Anyway, he's likely to play in the middle infield long term. The question is whether it's second base or shortstop.
Overall, Cristian Santana is still very much a prospect worth paying attention. His tools and athleticism are off the charts. It just hasn't translated onto the baseball field quite yet. He will likely start the year in Lakeland once again.