This was supposed to be published on April 1st. I thought it was published. It turns out that I’m an idiot and never published it. It’s a week-and-a-half late to the showroom floor. But, the information stands.
Over the last few years, right before the season began I’ve written about a player or two that I expected to break out or step forward in the upcoming season. Some have been ones that I hit out of the park (Jose Siri, Mariel Bautista), while some others were a bit of a miss – at least in the time frame (last season my pick was Jose Garcia, who just looked outstanding all spring last year). In the past I’ve based much of what I saw in spring training. This year, there’s a little bit less of that.
When it comes to the pitcher that I think is going to take a step forward in 2019 this feels a little bit like I’m cheating, but I’m going all-in on Tony Santillan. Now, he’s certainly not an under-the-radar type of guy. He’s ranked as the Cincinnati Reds 4th best prospect and he’s a Top 100 prospect in all of baseball in several national publications. But there’s a reason to think he’s got more room in the tank to rise up.
Last season saw the right-hander from Texas take a big step forward when it comes to his control. In turn, his ERA took a big step forward, too. While he was able to more than handle the challenge in 11 starts for Double-A Pensacola last season – striking out 61 batters with just 16 walks in 62.1 innings pitched – he added a fourth pitch this spring. With a fastball that typically work in the mid-90’s and up, and a change up and slider that both work between 89-91 MPH, adding a pitch in the low 80’s gives him a fourth look that’s very different from the other pitches. A breaking ball that’s changing the bat speed could really help take Santillan to that next level.
On the position player side of things there were a few guys that were in the debate, but at the end of the day my pick is going to be Hendrik Clementina. He’s already a Top 25 Cincinnati Reds prospect, so he’s not coming out of nowhere. And it’s not like he didn’t hit last season, either – he had a .268/.327/.497 line in Dayton last season with 41 extra-base hits in 96 games. His season was one of a very hot start, and then a struggle down the stretch. In April and May he hit .333/.412/.675. From the start of June through the end of the season he hit just .235/.282/.407.
This spring Hendrik Clementina looks like a different guy. He came to Goodyear significantly lighter and in much better shape. The Florida State League tends to crush power unless you’re Ibandel Isabel, so the surface numbers may not improve for Clemetina in 2019. But I’m a believer in his bat and being in better shape, coupled with maturing – I think he’s going to find a bit more consistency and take a step forward.
Other prospects to watch for in 2019
One guy I had several scouts talk about during the spring was Claudio Finol. He’s still just 18-years-old, and won’t turn 19 until later this month. In 2017 he hit .300 for the DSL Reds. He followed that up by hitting .294 for the Greeneville Reds. It certainly could just be my imagination, but he looks like he’s put on some good weight since last year. Last season he played second, short, and third base in Greeneville. Look for him to do a bit of the same this year with Dayton, but his bat was certainly intriguing to a few people this spring in Arizona.
Andy Sugilio continues to be a guy who shows the tools you want to see. Last year he lost the early part of his season due to a hamstring injury and even when he returned he didn’t look to be 100% for a while. Likely heading to Daytona and the Florida State League, the context needs to be noted, but he’s a guy who I’m going to be keeping an eye on.
Ryan Olson got out to a great start last year in Daytona. Then he got injured and didn’t pitch much after that. He’s got stuff to work with, but he’s struggled to stay on the mound. He’s thrown just 78.1 innings since being drafted in 2016 – and he’s been used as a starter in that time. He’s now going to pitch out of the bullpen.
Ryan Hendrix posted an ERA of 1.76 last season. He’s not going to “surprise” anyone by going out and performing well. He struck out 79 batters last season in 51.0 innings. But it was his second half that was a lot different than his first half. While his ERA was similar in both splits, he walked just 9 batters in 26.1 innings in his final 24 games after walking 17 batters in his first 20 games that spanned 24.2 innings. If that second half strikezone control shows up he could make quick jumps up the ladder.