After a breakout 2018 season, 23-year-old Tony Santillan struggled in 2019 at times for Double-A Chattanooga as he battled a shoulder injury that led to three different trips to the injured list. He posted a 4.84 ERA in 21 starts.
While there wasn’t a 2020 minor league season, the Reds invited Santillan to join their 60-man player pool and assigned him to their alternate training site at Prasco Park in Mason, Ohio. Healthy again, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound righthander looked more like the guy who had been on the mound in 2018.
“Tony had a really good Prasco opportunity, and he took advantage of it” vice president of player development Shawn Pender said. “He was healthy, he threw with greater consistency as far as his velocity and there was improvement in his secondary pitches.
“He really took a nice step forward, and we’re very optimistic that he’s back on track.”
Santillan has focused on improving his secondary pitches. He’s tinkered in the past with a slower breaking ball, but his focus has shifted to getting the most from his hard slider and changeup.
“It was the finish on his slider—it wasn’t that it wasn’t a good pitch, and it wasn’t that everything was too hard,” Pender said. “It was that his slider wasn’t doing what he wanted, nor what we wanted it to do. And that was certainly improved upon.
“He still tinkers with a slower breaking ball, and obviously the importance of the change and getting it to have a little greater fade and a little greater deception is going to be important.”
Those improvements for the 2015 second-rounder from Seguin High in Arlington, Texas, didn’t lead to him being called up during the year. But he was one of three pitchers added to Cincinnati’s player pool for the playoffs in case an injury occurred.
With the Reds looking for rotation options heading into the 2021 season, Santillan could be a dark horse candidate for the job.
— Cuban third baseman Michel Triana, who signed with the Reds for $1.3 million in July 2019, began playing in the winter Panamanian League in January.
— Through four starts for Caguas of the Puerto Rican League, righthander Jose De Leon struck out 31 batters in 17 innings while allowing six earned runs.