In their eternal quest for more power, the Cleveland Guardians made a very interesting Rule 5 pick Wednesday, selecting infielder (and not a middle one!) Deyvison De Los Santos from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
De Los Santos, 20, was the Diamondbacks' fifth-ranked prospect in 2023 (he's slated as Cleveland's 12th-ranked prospect for the time being) and comes with some tantalizing raw power potential - along with plenty of strikeouts (about 28% in his minor-league career). But the ceiling could be sky-high for the youngster, who played at Double-A Amarillo in 2023, hitting 20 home runs in 481 plate appearances. His exit velocities alone should be enough to get Guardians fans salivating at the thought of his future with the team.
De Los Santos has already had his ups and downs in the minors as he adjusts to the game's higher levels. Back in 2022, he won the the Single-A California League batting title and eventually slashed .306/.348/.499 across three levels, eventually ascending to Double-A at the age of 19. He has had his struggles in Double-A to this point but came on strong in the second half last season, hitting .322/.340/.596 with 14 home runs and 15 doubles from July 14 through the end of the year (56 games).
Clearly, the Diamondbacks thought highly of him, likely choosing not to protect him on the 40-man roster simply due to his age and relative inexperience thus far.
Because here's the interesting thing about De Los Santos - he has to remain on Cleveland's major-league roster for the entire season, not just the 40-man roster, or the Guardians will have to offer him back to Arizona (they could also expose De Los Santos to waivers if they want to try and send him to the minors). That's quite a leap for a 20-year-old who hasn't played above Double-A, though it's not entirely heard of. Typically with Rule 5 picks, it's easier to stash away a pitcher and get him some time out of the bullpen, much like what the Guardians did when they selected Trevor Stephan from the Yankees in 2021.
So What Will the Guardians Do With De Los Santos in 2024?
That's the big question now, isn't it? There is, obviously, the chance that Cleveland rides with De Los Santos all year long, perhaps shuttling him between first base and third base, even though both positions are locked up for the time being (there's always DH, too).
But the other option is that Cleveland could simply move De Los Santos, packaging him as part of another larger deal to make it more enticing to another team. That's no doubt a possibility here, because the headache of trying to keep him on the major-league roster all season certainly looms.
But the Guardians are clearly leaving no stone unturned in their hunt for more power hitters, and the team certainly has nothing to lose in seeing if they got themselves a winning lottery ticket. Kudos to the front office for, ahem, taking a swing on this potential power bat.