'Fearless' righty prospect enters Texas' Top 30 list

June 5th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Kennedi Landry’s Rangers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

ARLINGTON -- As the Rangers’ most high-profile prospects edge out of rookie eligibility, the next crop of players on the farm are starting to enter the Top Prospects list.

This week, with the graduation of Wyatt Langford, right-handed pitcher became No. 15 on the the Rangers’ Top 30 Prospects list. Despite not entering the season as a top prospect, Santos has enjoyed one of the best starts among Minor Leaguers this year, boasting a 2.33 ERA in 46 1/3 innings across his first nine starts for High-A Hickory.

Here's MLB Pipeline's scouting report:

“Santos' fastball already ranked among the best in the system when it sat at 92-95 mph in 2022, because he has natural cut and ride, a flat approach angle and command. Now it's parking in the mid-90s and touching 98 mph, making it even more difficult for batters to handle. He also has tightened up his mid-80s slider and improved his ability to locate it, making it a solid offering.”

The Rangers signed Santos for a $10,000 bargain out of the 2019 international class, but he didn't make his professional debut until two years later due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Texas’ player development staff had high hopes for Santos, and he posted a 3.49 ERA in 108 1/3 innings with Single-A Down East in '22.

Santos was positioned to be a breakout star on the farm, especially after increasing his velocity, but he struggled to a 6.29 ERA in 98 2/3 innings with Hickory last year before finally showing his potential in 2024.

“I mean, he’s a really exciting story,” said Ross Fenstermaker, the Rangers' VP of player development and international scouting. “He made a few tweaks to his delivery. We're trying to get him to leverage some of his natural strengths a little bit better. We’ve got him working [on being] a little bit more linear in his delivery with a better release point -- which got a little bit more backspin on the ball and a little bit more consistent fastball characteristics that we're looking to see.”

Santos was named the South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week on April 23 after he collected 12 strikeouts in five scoreless innings in a 5-3 win against Greensboro on April 19. He ended that month with a 0.44 ERA in 20 2/3 innings across four starts.

In fact, Santos has allowed more than two earned runs only once in a start this season -- his most recent outing, on Friday, when he allowed four runs on eight hits and one walk in just 3 2/3 innings. The raised his season ERA from 1.69 to 2.33.

Things are still trending in the right direction, though.

“We also added some deception,” Fenstermaker said of Santos. “He's worked really hard on his slider development and his changeup, and they're all really coming along. He’s a strike thrower, he’s fearless, he attacks the zone. He’s throwing really good pitches right now. It’s probably overwhelming for the A-ball group.

“If he continues this, we could be talking about moving him here [to Double-A Frisco] soon.”

Minor League roundup

Triple-A Round Rock: Cole Winn
Winn returned to Round Rock after a month-long stint with the big league club. He struggled to regain his footing in his first outing back in the Minors, allowing two runs on two hits, one walk, one hit batter and three strikeouts in 1 1/3 innings on May 24. But Winn bounced back with a three-inning scoreless outing on May 29 and two scoreless innings on Sunday.

Double-A Frisco: RHP Emiliano Teodo (No. 14)
Teodo has been one of the Rangers’ most intriguing pitching prospects this year, and he’s continued to show his improvement after impressing the big league staff in Spring Training. In four starts in May, Teodo posted a 0.82 ERA across 22 innings, with 24 strikeouts to 11 walks. He then opened June with five innings of one-run ball against San Antonio on Sunday.

Single-A Down East: C Jesus Lopez (No. 29)
The only catcher in the Rangers’ Top 30 list, Lopez was signed for $347,500 out of Venezuela in 2022 for his defense. But his bat has been what’s impressed this season. In 30 games, Lopez has slashed .288/.346/.390 with 14 RBIs. He’s no doubt been the best hitter on the Wood Ducks.