When the Cincinnati Reds drafted Tony Santillan with their 2nd round pick in 2015 the scouting reports were all the same. Big time fastball, flashes a good breaking ball, poor control due to mechanics. The now 21-year-old has put a few seasons under his belt, and has shown improvements each season. But it was the 2018 season that saw a big jump forward in production.

In 2017 there were stretches of time when Tony Santillan would show good control, and that season did represent a step forward for him. But the right handed didn’t really have any prolonged lapses in control during 2018. He began the year with the Daytona Tortugas and made 15 starts for them. Santillan would dominate the Florida State League in the first half, posting a 2.70 ERA in 86.2 innings pitched. That came with just 22 walks and he would add in 73 strikeouts.

That was just a bit of a teaser. The performance earned Tony Santillan a promotion to Double-A for the second half. Joining the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, he found himself in more hitter friendly environments than the Florida State League had, and the level of competition was better. The ERA did jump up a bit in the Southern League, as Santillan posted a 3.61 mark in the second half. That came in 62.1 innings pitched with 16 walks and 61 strikeouts. His walk rate remained the same, and quite low, and his strikeout rate improved.

Between the two stops, Tony Santillan posted a 3.08 ERA in 149.0 innings. He allowed 13 home runs, walked just 38 batters, and he struck out 134 opposing hitters during the regular season. His start for Pensacola in the playoffs was one of the best of his season. Santillan allowed one run on two hits in 6.1 innings with one walk and he struck out eight batters. A fitting way to end the season for the right hander.

Among the starting pitchers in the farm system Tony Santillan ranked in the top five in wins (3rd), ERA (3rd), innings (3rd) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (5th). The overall performance made him an easy choice not only as the top pitcher in the organization in 2018, but as the overall Player of the Year in the organization.

Tony Santillan’s 2018 Season Stats

Position Player of the Year: Mariel Bautista

Reliever of the Year: Ryan Hendrix

Starter of the Year: Seth Varner

Joey For Prime Minister T-Shirt

15 Responses

  1. Bill

    Excellent choice, can’t think of anyone more deserving. Has he sacrificed velocity to gain control or are we just seeing the results of consistent use of more refined mechanics?

    • Doug Gray

      The early part of the season with Daytona he wasn’t throwing as hard, but before he was promoted he started getting after it with the velocity again and was routinely hitting the upper 90’s. That stuck around in Pensacola, too.

      • Chris


        Good choice on Santillan. But it brings me to this question, are none of our internal SP good enough to even be competent 5-2 starters?

        Garrett – moved to bullpen
        Bob Steve – sucks when given MLB opportunities
        Mahle – downhill since beginning of season
        Romano – terrible year, been bad bullpen too.
        Finnegan – terrible and moved bullpen/minors
        Reed – terrible when given MLB opportunity

        Castillo – up and down and overall not good year l

      • Bob Anderson

        Stephenson was good starting pitching last year. Came up hurt this year.


    I saw him pitch one game in Dayton last year. He looked like a surefire Top 100 prospect in the game that I saw him pitch. He had great command of his fastballs and threw them as high as 97 with a seemingly effortless delivery. I think his possible ceiling could be as the Reds ace of the future.

  3. AirborneJayJay

    Great job by Santillan this year. The Reds really needed him to step up this year and he has. What they don’t need is to rush Santillan next year and skip over AAA like they did with Luis Castillo last year. Let his performance dictate a move to AAA, hopefully at mid-season next year.
    Scott Moss made tremendous strides at Daytona this year. It would be pretty sweet if he and Vladimir Gutierrez both take similar steps next year as Santillan did this year. Another good cluster of pitching can be formed with these 3. I also look for Tejay Antone to be special next year too. He has pitched fairly well after returning from TJ surgery. That could make it 4 clustered closely together. Moss and Antone should join Santillan at AA to start out next year. The guess is Gutierrez starts at AAA, maybe.

  4. CP

    Do you see him getting a legitimate chance to compete for a rotation spot in the spring or would that be pushing him too aggressively?

    Also curious if a year like this for Santillan effects if the FO goes after only 1 SP this off season versus considering going after 2…

  5. redleggingfordayz

    Good choice Doug, and good for Tony. He really seemed to put a lot of things together this year. I really love the stuff, and the fact that he somehow brought that walk rate down so quickly is a great sign in him being able to adapt. Can’t wait to see him possibly get his debut in 2019 if things go well again.

  6. Michael B. Green

    He was light’s out in the playoffs too. Wonder if he’ll get invited to Spring Training? Guessing that CIN would wait until Sep 2019 or the winter thereof to promote him to the bigs but they did call up Mahle in advance of his Rule 5 clock.

    Free Agent/Trade #1
    DeSclafani #2
    Castillo #3
    Mahle #4
    Santillan #5

    Injuries and performance could change that 2019/2020 rotation but it does show talent. LHP slotted at #1? Wonder if Derek Holland would fit the bill? Probably pushing it to call him a #1 but he has performed much better at SF this year.

  7. SteveLV

    Great to see Santillan progressing so well, and agree he was a clear choice, but it seems somewhat disappointing that he wasn’t challenged more for the distinction. Interested in who you also considered, Doug.
    Other top prospects made solid progress – Trammell and Stephenson, and Greene, although he had a tough start and then the injury. Senzel played great, but not enough. R Stephenson and Quackenbush had very good years, but seem to have graduated from an award like this. Isabel’s homer performance was impressive, but doesn’t seem to be enough. The other two I could think of were Guerrero and Moss.

    • Patrick

      Other guys could be Mella for pitcher of the year
      O Grady for player of the year

  8. Rob

    Reds inability to draft and develop starting pitching has essentially torpedoed this rebuild. Hoped that some of the pitchers would take a step forward and didn’t happen. Time to look outside the organization to fix rotation through FA or trade.

  9. Sandheel

    In retrospect, we made terrible evaluations of pitching prospects when trading our established players nearing free agency.