When players are injured, especially early on in their professional careers, they often get lost in the shuffle; long forgotten by even the most avid prospect junkie. For some they fade to obscurity, never to be heard from again, while others burst back onto the scene and make us remember the potential that existed when they were drafted or signed in the first place. Luckily for this week’s Pittsburgh Pirates’ Prospect the latter was the case. However, his dominant performance on the mound went fairly unnoticed by many due to some other top performers on his team.
Yerry De Los Santos was signed by the Pirates in July of 2014 as an International Free Agent at the age of 16 from Samana, Dominican Republic. The 6’2” 160 lb Right Handed Pitcher was signed to a $100,000 bonus and began to train at the Pirates Dominican Academy. He began his professional career the next year for the DSL Pirates, where he started 14 games and pitched 59 innings. He struggled consistently the entire season, ending up with 4.73 ERA, a 1.678 WHIP and 28K/17BB. The following year in 2016 his season ended before it began as Yerry was injured, resulting in Tommy John Surgery and recovery program, rather than any work on the mound.
Yerry returned for the 2017 season once again in the DSL, but was shut down after pitching only 8.2 games in 5 appearances as a Relief Pitcher. He was successful in a limited sample size as far as allowing base runners; resulting in a 1.154 WHIP and a 1.04 ERA. However he only struck out 4 batters. The future looked very uncertain for this young man as almost 2 full seasons had been lost to injury. In 2018 Yerry started his third straight season in the DSL. During, this time he has gone from a youngster that was 2 years below the average age to an old man, 1.6 years above the average age, with very little progress to show for his efforts. At the time Yerry probably didn’t know it, but this was going to be a roller coaster of a season for him, as he pitched in 12 games and for a total of 18.1 with three different teams, across two levels. As previous stated he started on the DSL, moved to the GCL and ended the year with the Bristol Pirates of the Appalachian League. He experienced more success than he had any previous year by striking out 24 batters, posting a 1.145 WHIP.
Attempting to build upon the progress made while bouncing around the Rookie Level, Yerry was promoted to the Greensboro Grasshoppers to start the season last year. For the first time in his career, all the potential that was inside of him was unlocked as his once below average Fastball began to hum at a consistent 94 to 96 mph; earning him a 55/60 grade from Fangraphs after the season. He was just plain dominant all year, producing a 1.04 ERA, a .880 WHIP and 13.14 K/9 (a 38.0% Strikeout Rate).
Surprisingly the Pirates chose not to protect Yerry from the Rule 5 draft in December of 2019. However, they got lucky as no team drafted him in the Minor League portion, possibly due to his injury history. It is my hope that Ben Cherington and his new regime in the Baseball Operations will capitalize on their good luck and start the talented Righty Reliever/Closer on the Bradenton Marauders roster, with the ultimate goal of a quick promotion to AA Altoona, if he continues his dominance at the High A/Advanced Level. Unfortunately much of this will be dependent on factors out of pretty much anyone’s control, including Yerry’s, as it is currently unclear when the Minor League Season will begin.