Kole Calhoun was activated off the disabled list today and to make room on the active roster for the outfielder, the Los Angeles Angels optioned left-handed pitcher Hector Santiago to Triple-A Salt Lake.
Santiago, age 26, was dealt from the Chicago White Sox to Los Angeles this offseason. The young southpaw flourished out of the rotation and bullpen with the Sox and in three seasons, composed a sparkling 3.41 ERA and 4.58 FIP. He struck batters out at a high rate but chronically allowing free passes had been his Achilles’ heel. Santiago averaged 8.7 strikeouts and 4.5 walks per nine during his tenure in a White Sox uniform.
His consistency and potential enthralled Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto. So in somewhat of a blockbuster trade, the Angels dealt perennial slugger Mark Trumbo and acquired Santiago and Tyler Skaggs in a three-team trade. The trade instantly strengthened a rotation that struggled mightily the year prior. Skaggs had mechanical issues but had the minor-league track record to insist he would be a fine starter. Santiago, as aforementioned, was anticipated to be an exceptional middle of the rotation starter. However, on May 21st he’s been far from it.
In 37 and 1/3 innings of work, Santiago posted an abysmal 0-6 record with a 4.82 ERA and 5.12 FIP. The struggles got so bad Matt Shoemaker took his place in the rotation and he became the Angels long reliever. He thrived in that role allowing a goose egg in 2 and 2/3 innings. Ultimately, it came between Kevin Jepsen and Santiago to get the boot and due to the shortage of southpaws in the bullpen, many speculated it might have been Jepsen. But, with Sean Burnett very close to being activated off the DL and Jepsen pitching adequately, Santiago was the odd man out.
According to Pitch F/X, his three predominate pitches (slider, fastball, and changeup) OPS against those pitches grew substantially for each. It’s a bit disconcerting that his average velocity on his fastball and slider fell and it’s not erroneous to think a possible correlation exists.
He will be sent down to work on his command. Until that abysmal walk rate subsides, Santiago may never become the pitcher he strives to be. Hopefully, he’ll be able to work out these kinks in the minors and return with a vengeance to prove people wrong.