What can Reds fans expect from Tony Santillan in 2022?

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Tony Santillan (64) delivers a pitch.
Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Tony Santillan (64) delivers a pitch. / Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer via Imagn

Yesterday, we looked at Vladimir Gutierrez's 2021 performance and projected what Reds Country could expect from the right-hander next season. Today, we'll take a look at fellow rookie pitcher Tony Santillan. What might the Cincinnati Reds right-hander bring to the team in 2022?

Santillan had been in the Reds farm system since being selected in the second-round of the 2015 MLB Draft. The Texan had always been a hard-thrower, but command was issue for Santillan during his minor league career.

What will Tony Santillan bring to the Reds in 2022?

Tony Santillan had a breakout season in 2018. Santillan appeared in 26 games, posted a 10-7 record and a 3.08 ERA. Santillan split time that season between both High-A and Double-A, and looked to be on the precipice of making his major league debut in 2019.

Unfortunately, Santillan struggled in 2019. His strikeout numbers stayed the same, but his walk-rate spiked to 11.6%. Santillan was just not hitting his mark. Santillan's K-BB% of 15.3% in 2018 dropped to 8.2% in 2019.

Santillan, like so many other minor leaguers missed out on the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Santillan started six games at Triple-A Louisville before being promoted to the Cincinnati Reds roster. Santillan registered a 12.53 K/9 and 34.4% strikeout-rate with the Louisville Bats.

Santillan tried his hand as a member of the Reds rotation, receiving a promotion to the majors and earning his first start on June 16th versus the Colorado Rockies. The right-hander went 4.2 innings, faced 25 batters, allowing just one earned run on five hits. However, Santillan did surrender four free passes.

Santillan got three more starts, but really struggled to go deep into games. Only once did Santillan go past the fifth inning. In his four starts, Santillan posted a 3.78 ERA over 16.2 innings. His 10.80 K/9 was impressive, but his 5.40 BB/9 really held Santillan back from reaching his potential.

The Reds turned Tony Santillan into a reliever.

The Reds sent Tony Santillan back to the minors with the intent on turning him into a reliever. Cincinnati's bullpen was shoddily put together and incurred a lot of injuries. With Santillan's fastball/ slider combination, perhaps a move to the pen would work.

It did. Upon his return to the bigs, Santillan pitched 26.2 innings in relief and posted a 2.36 ERA, 12.15 K/9, and 3.68 xFIP. Santillan was a strikeout machine, putting up a 33.3% K-rate. Basically, Santillan was striking out one batter per inning.

According to FanGraphs, Reds fans should expect to see Tony Santillan make an appearance in 51 games next season. The website anticipates a drop in Santillan's strikeout-rate and a significant bump in the right-hander's ERA. Baseball Reference is a bit more kind, foreseeing Santillan own a 3.81 ERA in 2022 and maintain a solid 10.0% K/9.

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I expect to see Santillan back in the Cincinnati bullpen on Opening Day next season, and the 24-year-old may even have an expanded role. Don't sleep on Santillan's ability to be one of David Bell's go-to arms late in the ballgame.