How J-Ram is helping De Los Santos make roster case

February 25th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Mandy Bell's Guardians Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Deyvison De Los Santos isn’t in an easy position. He’s just 20 years old, has yet to play above Double-A and is now suddenly competing for a spot on the Major League roster. Thankfully for him, there’s a guy on the other side of the clubhouse who has some wisdom to share.

More than a decade ago, fellow Dominican Republic native José Ramírez made the jump from Double-A to the Majors. Sure, he had stints in Triple-A in the following few seasons, but he’s well aware of the trials of handling a transition that drastic. He can easily relate to De Los Santos.

Ramírez and De Los Santos share a home country and play the same position. It makes it natural for De Los Santos to want to gravitate toward Ramírez. Oh, and Ramírez just so happens to be one of the best players in the Majors.

“I’m super excited and I feel very lucky to be around a player that I look up to, to be like him at some point in my career,” De Los Santos said through team interpreter Agustin Rivero. “So it’s really exciting to have him around on my team.”

The difference with De Los Santos is that his situation is a little more complex -- at least for the Guardians’ sake. Because he’s a Rule 5 Draft pick, if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, he must be offered back to the D-backs. Cleveland sees something in De Los Santos, especially when it comes to his power potential, so the club is keen on finding a way to keep him in the organization. It’ll be up to him to prove he can handle it.

“It’s been a hustle to compete to get here,” De Los Santos said. “So for me, it’s no pressure. I’m just excited to have the opportunity and to have it so close.”

Third base is taken by Ramírez. First base is taken by Josh Naylor. So, De Los Santos immediately volunteered to practice in the outfield to try to be as versatile and useful as possible. So far, the Guardians have been pleased with the results.

“He carries himself a lot older than 20,” Guardians manager Stephen Vogt said. “He’s mature. He’s confident. Obviously, the power is real. We’ve seen it in batting practice, we’ve also seen it in live BPs. And he’s also working hard at his defense -- I think that’s something I need to give credit to: we’re throwing him all over the diamond.”

No, De Los Santos didn’t make a grand statement in the Cactus League opener on Saturday. He went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. But this is only the beginning. The Guardians have seen how hard he’s worked behind the scenes. They’ve seen him study Ramírez’s swing and make similar adjustments to his own. They’ve seen one of the best players in the game throw his arm around the team’s No. 12 prospect, as ranked by MLB Pipeline, and try to steer him in the right direction.

There are many hurdles ahead of him to make this dream become a reality, but there are also plenty of reasons to believe it’s possible.

“I feel it’s all about his talent, his desire to play,” Ramírez said through Rivero. “And I feel he’s ready to compete.”