The Cincinnati Reds announced that they have signed infielder Cristian Santana to a minor league deal for 2022 that includes an invitation to spring training.
Cristian Santana will be 25-years-old when spring training begins. The corner infielder has never reached the Major Leagues and he spent all of the 2021 season in Triple-A while in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.
This past season he played mostly third base, but did see some time at first base and a handful of games as the designated hitter in Oklahoma City. In 91 games he hit .311/.331/.444 with 20 doubles, 8 home runs, just 11 walks, and he struck out 68 times. The low walk total has followed him for his entire career. He’s only walked 79 times in 517 career minor league games and never more than 20 times in a single season – though he has topped 415 plate appearances in a year once. Still, his walk rate of 3.7% is at the bottom of the barrel in terms of walk rates among professionals.
At one point in his career he was inside of the Los Angeles Dodgers Top 30 prospects at Baseball America after the 2019 season, coming in at the #15 spot. Despite there being no minor league season in 2020 he fell out of the top 30.
Cristian Santana has plus raw power, but he doesn’t get to use it much due to his pitch recognition issues that leave him unable to take advantage of that kind of pop. Scouting reports from Baseball America have long noted his struggles with secondary pitches. Despite that, though, he’s generally hit for a quality average. But without many walks, his on-base percentage has been low throughout his career. There’s some upside in the bat, but he’s going to have to do something most hitters who never drew walks in the minors do – figure out how to recognize the breaking ball and draw more walks at the highest level.
Defensively he doesn’t stick out with the glove. In fact, he’s struggled defensively at third base throughout his career. His .926 fielding percentage in 2021 was easily the best of his career at the position. Santana does have a plus arm to work with. He has seen action at first base at times over the last four seasons, but he hasn’t exactly stood out there, either, with a .979 career fielding percentage there (MLB average fielding percentage at first is .993).