When he's on the field, Anthony Santander is an unquestionably dynamic talent in the Indians system. Though keeping him healthy has been a challenge through the outfielder's first four professional seasons, Santander is feeling good and playing like it in the early going of 2015.
Santander continued his scorching hot start to the New York-Penn League campaign, going 4-for-6 with a homer, two doubles, two RBIs and two runs as Class A Short Season Mahoning Valley outlasted Batavia, 15-11, on Monday night at Dwyer Stadium.
Through his first three games this season, Santander bookended a hitless middle contest with multi-hit performances to enter Monday night batting .417. Then he improved on that mark. The Indians prospect hit a two-out double to left field in the first inning, doubled to left and scored in the third and then blasted a two-run homer to left in the fifth, his third dinger in the short season.
"He's physically strong and puts himself in a good position to hit quite a bit," Scrappers manager Travis Fryman said. "As an organization, we put a lot of emphasis on putting yourself in a strong position to swing, trying to put your best swing on the ball. He certainly has done that."
In his final trip to the plate in the eighth, Santander reached on an infield single to lift his slash line to .500/.550/1.167 through four games.
Signed out of Venezuela at 16 years old in 2011, Santander debuted with an impressive showing in the Rookie-level Arizona League a year later, slashing .305/.381/.874 in 43 games. The next season, given an aggressive promotion to Class A Lake County at just 18, Santander suffered a right elbow strain that limited to 61 games that season and 43 a year ago at the same level. With the injury behind him, a healthy start to 2015 is a big one.
"The biggest challenge we've had has not been him being a good player, it's him being able to stay on the field," Fryman said. "He's been through quite a bit of rehab the last year or so. I think part of that is maturing, learning to appreciate being on the field. I think that heightened his focus a little bit.
"We always used to say it takes one good injury to make you a great player. What that means is you learn how to work and value your body a little bit more when you're injured, and you take the discipline that's necessary to take care of your body a little more seriously. I think all of that has culminated. He wants to play, he wants to perform well, and he wants to chase his dream as most young players do."
Of the Margarita, Venezuela native's nine hits so far this season, six have gone for extra bases (three doubles and three home runs). Santander has bashed left-handed pitching, going 5-for-6 with two homers against southpaws. His manager is excited about the task of getting Santander a full season's worth of healthy performances.
"Anthony's such a strong, physical young man, and his body had a hard time dealing with that, playing every day," Fryman said. "We learned that in the process. Here you have a very talented young hitter, a very talented young player, and we had to figure out how we have to move forward to keep him on the field. We're working through that. I'm going to have to be very disciplined with our rest and how we use him and communicate well with him, and he's got to communicate well with me. We'll do everything we can to keep him healthy.
"If he's healthy, he's an awfully impressive hitter."
The Scrappers trailed by five runs after two innings, but rallied with a seven-run seventh. Li-Jen Chu and D'vone McClure drove in a game-high three runs apiece to lead Mahoning Valley.
Marlins outfield prospect Stone Garrett posted the first multi-homer game of his career in the loss, blasting a pair and driving in a career-high five runs.