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Antonio Santos struggled in his first full season as a reliever

The young right hander was recalled six different times this year

Welcome to the 2021 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2021. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.

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No. 30, Antonio Santos: 0.0 rWAR

Every year there are a couple of names on every team that you constantly see get bounced back and forth between Triple-A and the major leagues. The Rockies had a few of those guys this year including the 25-year-old right-handed pitcher Antonio Santos.

Santos came into the 2021 season as the Rockies No. 27 prospect according to MLB Pipeline and No. 21 in our own pre-season PuRP rankings but has since seen his stock fall. He is no longer in MLB Pipeline’s top 30 Rockies prospects and has slipped to No. 36 in our mid-season PuRP rankings. This is mostly due to two things: first, the Rockies farm system has gotten better in the last year and second, Santos has now been officially converted from a starter to a reliever.

Santos had been a starter for his entire professional career until this season. Through six call-ups, he posted an 0-1 record with a 4.76 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP in 11 ⅓ innings for the Rockies. He racked up ten strikeouts and gave up five walks and two wild pitches. Santos was mainly used in low leverage situations and as an innings eater. He went at least two innings in three of his seven relief appearances.

Santos’ average fastball velocity was up to 95.5 mph — two ticks above from what we saw in 2020. His pitch mix also saw some changes as he utilized his curveball much more this season and got a 50% whiff rate on the 28 curveballs he threw this past season. Obviously it’s a small sample size but it’s a notable development nonetheless considering he threw that pitch just twice in the six big leagues innings he had in 2020.

When he wasn’t in the Rockies bullpen, he was coming out of the ‘pen for the Isotopes at Triple-A Albuquerque where he struggled mightily as a seventh/eighth inning man. He finished the Triple-A season with a 7.94 ERA and a 1.787 WHIP in 45 ⅓ innings earning him an 0-5 record. Notably, Santos’ walk rate was up significantly for the first time in his professional career, walking 12.7% of batters faced. His previous highest at any level in the minors was just 7.3% in High-A Lancaster in 2018.

Heading into 2022, Santos has one more minor league option remaining. That makes 2022 a very important season for him professionally as he continues to try and establish himself as a big-league pitcher.