Thursday, September 23, 2010

Estarlin De Los Santos: The 40-Man Pariah

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Whenever a potential move needs to be  made by the Twins, the name Estarlin De Los Santos finds its way to the top of the blogosphere's drop list. If Anthony Slama needs to be added to the 40 man, the Twins can take off De Los Santos. If Justin Morneau comes off the 60 day DL, the Twins can DFA (designate for assignment) De Los Santos, etc.... So who is Estarlin De Los Santos? Is he so terrible?
De Los Santos was signed by the Twins in 2005 out of Villa Mella, Dominican Republic. He was added to the 40 man roster after the 2009 season. Coming into his 23rd year, this surprised a lot of fans. As a 22 year old, he hit .290/.330/.397 in High A Fort Myers with 11 stolen bases in 15 attempts. He had decent numbers at Fort Myers and is very good defensively but by no means, was he an overwhelming prospect.
One thing in De Los Santos favor is there were only 5 other players to play SS on the Twins 40 man. Trevor Plouffe, Alexi Casilla and J.J. Hardy were the only other SS, with Matt Tolbert and Nick Punto also able to play short. In fact, the system is nearly bereft of shortstops. It seemed like an odd choice at the time, but De Los Santos was the next best middle infielder in need of protecting. With his age, speed, a little bat and good defense at a premium position, it shouldn't have come as such a shock that he'd be added to the 40 man roster. His numbers as a 23 year old in A+ ball are similar to those of Matt Tolbert put up at the same age and level.
In 2010, De Los Santos has been slightly disappointing. After hitting .274/.340/.346 with 13 steals in 15 attempts in a return to Fort Myers, he was promoted to AA New Britain. Once promoted, he struggled big time. He hit only .177/.249/.245 with 6 steals in 14 attempts. When fans see those numbers, it makes sense that they'd think De Los Santos would be dropped off the roster, the first time the Twins need a roster spot. But it hasn't happened.
I think there is a real chance De Los Santos isn't dropped from the roster after the season. Hardy will probably be retained by the club for 2011, but second baseman Orlando Hudson will probably not be retained. Taking Hudson's spot will be either Alexi Casilla or Trevor Plouffe with Matt Tolbert also available. Nick Punto will most likely be let go due to a $5 million club option, injury and declining skill.
There are not a lot of options to add to the roster in the system at SS or even 2b. James Beresford might be one SS to add to the roster. He will only be 22. He hit .295/.347/.360 and stole 14 bases in 28 attempts in his second year at low A ball Beloit. He is 2 years younger than De Los Santos, but also 2 levels behind him in the system. The Twins could also choose to add Steve Singleton to the 40 man roster, though they didn't protect him following 2009. Singleton had a .267/.325/.410 for New Britain, playing mostly 2b. These numbers are similar to his 2009 numbers. He is a year and a half older than De Los Santos and has a little bit better bat, but will most likely go unclaimed again.
Estarlin De Los Santos is not a great prospect by any means. Soon to be 24, he is not terribly young anymore. He would return to AA next season and will profile as the next closest shortstop prospect to the major leagues. While no one should be too disappointed if he is removed from the 40 man roster, no one should be too surprised if he is left on the roster. Should the Twins drop him and add Beresford or Singleton or both? Do they add Beresford and keep De Los Santos on the 40 man? Do they find depth elsewhere? Do they go into 2011 with only 5 middle infielders, including Luke Hughes on the 40 man? I'm guessing he has one more year to grow, before the Twins give up their protection of him. They could drop him and he may go unclaimed, but another team may need SS depth. I believe he stays on the 40 man roster. He will return as the 40 man pariah.

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