The Pittsburgh Pirates have many notable pitching prospects. But one relief prospect that might slip under the radar is Yerry De Los Santos
The Pittsburgh Pirates currently rank as the 6th best farm system per FanGraphs, and for a good reason. They have six, top 100 prospects, including many underrated pitching prospects like Quinn Priester and Brennan Malone. While they do have a handful of intriguing starting pitching prospects, one thing the Pirates have always prided themselves on is having a strong bullpen.
In the past decade, we’ve seen pitchers like Tony Watson, Jared Hughes, Justin Wilson, and Bryan Morris rise through the Pirates’ minor league system to give the Pittsburgh Pirates a handful of solid to outstanding seasons. They were all part of the Pirate bullpen during their best years.
In a few seasons, we should see the rise of the bullpen once again. Nick Mears and Blake Cederlind project as high leverage, late inning arms. 2020 draft pick Jack Hartman could also be part of the picture in a few seasons. Geoff Hartlieb is establishing himself as a high-leverage arm this year. But one name that gets little attention is 2015 international signing Yerry De Los Santos.
De Los Santos is a right hander who was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2014. He started out as a starting pitcher in 2015 with the Pirates’ Dominican Summer League team. He only pitched 59 innings, but struggled giving up 82 base hits, 31 earned runs and struck out just 28 of the 265 batters he faced. However, he only gave up just one home run during that run.
Santos didn’t pitch in 2016, but returned in 2017 in the DSL, and pitched 8.2 innings, all out of the ‘pen. Santos split the 2018 season at Bristol, the Gulf Coast League and DSL. In total, he threw just 18.1 innings, but the results were much better. He only surrendered 13 hits this time around, no home runs, and struck out 24 of the 76 batters he faced.
Last year, the young right hander spent his entire year at Low-A Greensboro. He was the team’s closer, saving 13 games in the 50 innings he pitched. All told, Santos had an outstanding 1.44 ERA, 2.37 FIP and 0.88 WHIP. Santos saw his strikeout rate jump to an outstanding 38%. But in order to get that high of a strikeout rate, he didn’t have to sacrifice any of his control. Santos walked just 6.3% of the batters he faced, and allowed three home runs for a 0.5 HR/9.
Santos works with two pitches. The first is his fastball. He usually sits in the mid-to-upper 90s, but has touched 98 MPH before. The pitch already grades out as a 55, but has a future of 60. He also works with a slider that comes in with a current 50 grade but a future of 55. In terms of command, Santos only has a future of 40.
Santos currently ranks as the team’s 33rd best prospect. He is still just 22-years-old, and will turn 23 in December. If he keeps pitching like he did last year, we could see him in the bigs by the end of 2021. By then, he might be seen as a potential closer candidate with Mears, Cederlind or Hartlieb.