“#Alex Santos, hard-throwing Bronx native, poised for big MLB Draft moment”
When Holmes took his at-bats, all the scouts paid close attention. McClancy’s opponent, Mount St. Michael, was irrelevant — until coach Wally Stampfel inserted sophomore right-hander Alex Santos into the game in the later innings.
“I’m no dummy,” the Mount St. Michael coach recalled with a laugh in a phone interview. “All of a sudden the scouts who weren’t paying any attention to us, you could see slowly start approaching the backstop and breaking out their radar guns. You could just hear the buzz that was going on.”
After the game, one of the scouts approached him.
“Who’s that kid?” the impressed evaluator asked Stampfel. “You got to take good care of him. He’s going to be a good one.”
The scout was right.
Two years later, Santos is the premier high school prospect in the area, a projected first- or second-round pick in this week’s shortened MLB draft. The hard-throwing Bronx native and Maryland signee with a mid-90s fastball has steadily progressed from that moment, his coming-out party, as Stampfel described it. He’s ranked 45th among all draft prospects by Baseball America, 56th by MLB Pipeline and has had Zoom meetings with 15 different teams.
“For us, it’s like ‘Pinch me, wake me up, is this a dream?’ ” his father, Alex Santos Sr., said.
Family, and the passion they have for the sport, pushed the 18-year-old Santos in this direction. His father and uncles all played baseball in Puerto Rico. He grew up a stone’s throw from Yankee Stadium, so close he could hear the Bleacher Creatures’ roll call. The family frequently attended games there, until Santos’ own drive to reach that stage one day became the focus.
At 13, a chance encounter took his dreams to the next level. Santos Sr. and his son were working out at Van Cortlandt Park when they met Melvin Perez, a former minor leaguer with the Nationals. Perez offered Santos some swing tips and he got to talking to his father about his travel program, Team Citius Baseball. Santos would join him. His father later became a part owner of the Citius Baseball Academy in Mount Vernon.
“That was the best thing that ever happened to Alex’s career I would have to say,” Santos Sr. said.
Perez had mentored current local major leaguers such as Andrew Velazquez and James Norwood, and saw similarities in Santos, in particular his work ethic and athleticism. He created a structure with Santos Sr. to mold his son into an elite prospect. That included working with a personal trainer, Joel Ramirez, who trains major leaguers in the offseason, and the last few years, bringing in a nutritionist. To get to this point, Santos had to give up certain freedoms most teenagers enjoy.
“Especially earlier in your baseball career, when you’re not really getting seen, there’s no really going out with your friends,” he said. “[You] dedicate yourself to baseball.”
Early on, his father had to push him. But as Santos improved, he became the one wanting to do the extra work, to get in extra throwing sessions or do more running. The younger Santos would be dragging the older one to the field.
“I would say, ‘Let’s take a break,’ ” Santos Sr. said. “He would say, ‘No, pop, we got to go.’ ”
The buzz really grew last summer, when the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Santos took part in a series of showcases featuring the nation’s top prospects, events that took him to five different major league stadiums, giving him a taste of his potential future. He was invited to the inaugural Prospect Development Pipeline, a three-week camp run by MLB and USA Baseball in Florida and played in the first High School All-Star Game at Progressive Field, the Indians’ home park.
“He stood out — he was definitely the best arm on those northeast teams over the summer,” one scout said. “I thought there was more fastball in there when he matures and gets a little stronger. The curveball is inconsistent, but flashed a chance to have plus bite to it, a swing-and-miss pitch. “As far as being projectable, he has a lot of stuff you look for.”
Still, when asked what Santos’ greatest asset is, Perez didn’t hesitate. “His personality,” he said. Once a month he helps out in Mount Vernon, giving food to the homeless. He works with younger members of the Citius Baseball Academy after his own workouts. Despite his prowess on the mound, Santos never sought to be treated differently at Mount St. Michael. He was the same as a wide-eyed underclassman as he was as a big-time prospect in later years.
“All the success he’s had hasn’t changed him,” Stampfel said. “He always just wanted to be one of the guys.”
But, of course, he was different. This week, he could really separate himself. The last high school player from the city to get drafted in the top two rounds was, ironically, Holmes (64th overall) in 2017 — the McClancy player the scouts came to see that March afternoon when they discovered Santos. The last player from his high school to get selected was Collin Mahoney (48th round) in 2001. Losing his senior year to the coronavirus pandemic was difficult, but after a brief break, he’s been able to find throwing partners and get workouts in with Ramirez and Perez. He’s thrown bullpen sessions using the Rapsodo unit, which allows teams to monitor his progress.
Now comes his big moment.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s a little nerve-wracking,” Santos said. “But I’ve put myself in a great position and it’s really nice to see all the hard work I’ve put in through the years coming back to benefit me a lot.”
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