According to Class A Short Season West Virginia manager Wyatt Toregas, this season is critical for Sandy Santos' development.
"It's pretty easy [to see his talent]," Toregas said. "He's just absolutely gifted like you wouldn't believe. He can throw and he can hit and he's got some power -- he can do it all. This is a big moment for him in his career. I think right now he's excited and he's playing to his potential and the skills are showing. Everything he's hitting is right on the barrel."
The Pirates prospect went 4-for-4 with a career-high four runs scored and an RBI on Sunday as the Black Bears rolled to a 12-2 thumping of Batavia at Monongalia County Ballpark.
Santos has scored six times in his first three games in the New York-Penn League, going 8-for-11 (.727) with three RBIs.
Batting leadoff, the 22-year-old outfielder singled four times, walked onc and scored on three sacrifice flies by cleanup hitter Albert Baur. Toregas raved about Santos' advanced approach and ability to make consistent contact, which he said makes him an ideal fit for the top of the lineup.
"I think at the top of the order, he can bunt for a hit, get a hit; he can steal bases, and he gets on base," the manager said. "I like what I've got in that spot. It puts a lot of pressure on the other team."
Aside from being able to get on base, Santos stands out for his ability to recognize how teams are attacking him and make the necessary adjustments, Toregas said.
"They're going to make adjustments, but with Sandy, he has the ability to hit everything," he added. "It's just a matter of how fast they make an adjustment and which way they want to go. There's not one way to go get Sandy. He'll adjust and hit it."
Santos singled to left and scored in the first and lifted a sacrifice fly of his own in the second. He drew a leadoff walk and came home again an inning later, then led off the fifth with a single to center and scored on Matt Diorio's bas hit. The native of the Dominican Republic singled to left in the sixth and singled to center in the eighth before scoring on Baur's third sacrifice fly.
"Today's game was a great example. He adjusted twice tonight very quickly," Toregas said. "He came out with a plan of attacking fastballs. His first two at-bats, he swung and squared up fastballs. In his third at-bat, he came up and he chased a couple breaking balls. [Batavia] thought that was a route where they could keep going, but he took them and ended up getting another fastball to hit.
"His fourth at-bat, they tried the breaking balls again and he didn't chase. He had a feeling they were going to come at him with it. Tonight, he went from having a plan, they made an adjustment, he stuck with his plan and then realized he needed to make an adjustment and ended up getting the pitch he wanted to hit."
Toregas said Santos still needs to work on his consistency and said that starts with maturing and learning to overcome adversity. He said the hot start is ideal for getting in the right frame of mind.
"I think it is huge," the skipper continued. "He's the type of guy who gets down on himself sometimes when things don't go his way. He is young and, honestly, that's probably the biggest thing he needs to work on is understanding that he's very good and one night doesn't really matter and that he just needs to come back strong the next day. For him to get off to this great start, he's bypassed that and his confidence is really high and it's letting him play to his potential.
"Right now, he's playing on adrenaline and you're seeing that potential. We'll see where we're at in a month from now. We can't expect him to hit .700 all year, but if we can get consistency from him, that's huge. Being a young player, there are big swings mentally sometimes that older players can [overcome faster]."
Besides Baur's three RBIs, West Virginia got three hits and an RBI from 2016 12th-round pick Arden Pabst.
Black Bears starter Cam Vieaux gave up two runs on three hits and two walks in 2 2/3 innings. Neil Kozikowski (1-0) fanned three in 2 1/3 scoreless frames to get the win.