2013 Top Prospects #11: Santiago Nessy
After Nay at 14, Barreto at 13, and Lopes at 12, we have a fourth straight positional prospect coming in at number 11. He’s the first catcher on the list, as while the position used to be a strength in the system, trades over the last 8 months have severely weakened the depth.
Nessy during Minor League Spring Training 2012 (Image courtesy Daniel Jarrett and MLBProspectPortal.com)
Name: Santiago Nessy
Date of Birth: 12/08/1992 (20)
Acquired: Signed as an International Free Agent in July 2009 ($750,000 USD)
High School: N/A
Height/Weight: 6’2”/230 lbs
Awards and Accomplishments:
- Unranked on 2012 Top 30 prospects list
- Baseball America 2012 Appalachian League #10 prospect
- 2012 Appalachian League Top Defensive Catcher
2012 Statistics and Analysis
182 AB, .236/.305/.434 (.739 OPS), 9 2B, 0 3B, 9 HR, 26 RBI, 0 SB, 16/54 BB/K
Like the number twelve prospect Christian Lopes, Nessy opened the year with Bluefield before receiving a late season promotion to Low-A Vancouver. He handled Appalachian League pitching very well over the first two months, amassing a .256/.320/.456 line across 45 games. His eight home runs over that timeframe led the team, and his 200 ISO was third among players with 100-or-more at-bats. Those numbers really speak to the type of game Nessy plays, as power is his strength and he knows how to use it. His cup of coffee in the Northwest League didn’t go quite as swimmingly, though it would be unwise to make too many judgments based upon just six games. The package comes with some swing and miss, as Nessy has a tendency to load up and attack the baseball regardless of the count or situation, and that is something that will need to be working on sooner rather than later. More than a strikeout per game in short season ball is disconcerting, particularly when the walk rate is average at best.
Video (via MLBProspectPortal.com)
Catchers are often portrayed as short and stout, and while Nessy has a solid build at 230-plus pounds, he’s anything but short, standing 6-foot-2 and still growing. Despite a slightly hunched over stance at the plate, he fully utilizes his size during the swing. With such long levers he’s able to generate tremendous bat speed on a good swing plane, but his path has bit too much length. The problem coincides with Nessy’s over-aggressiveness. Matt Eddy of Baseball America describes Nessy’s plate approach as “He takes a wild hack and tries to pull every pitch he offers at…” At just 20 years old, Santiago still has time to clean things up and calm things down, but it’s something his coaches will really need to focus on, starting this year.
When you look at Nessy’s size and swing, your mind immediately jumps to “offensively-oriented catcher”. It’s a fair first impression, but in reality, he has a whole lot more to offer. Nessy was named the Appalachian League’s top defensive catcher in 2012, which is something that carries a lot of merit considering it’s voted upon by the managers and coaches. According to Matt Eddy of Baseball America, those managers lauded his blocking ability, level of effort, and ability to call a game. Furthermore, he shows impeccable leadership qualities, and has made a concerted effort to become bilingual in order to better communicate with both his US and Latin American pitchers. His arm has been graded out as a plus tool, and he threw out 33% of potential base stealers in 2012. He can become over anxious at times, popping out of his crouch early and causing his throws to tail off towards the first base side of second. In the video above you can observe that Nessy’s throwing hand will occasionally drift out while he’s receiving the ball, and as Blue Jays fans have seen with J.P. Arencibia, that’s the best way to get your fingers broken. That hand needs to stay tucked behind his right leg until the ball is hitting the glove. Overall, Nessy has the potential to be an above average defender behind the plate, as long as he doesn’t grow too big. Marc Hulet of Fangraphs attributes much of his defensive improvement to his work with Sal Fasano.
While the defensive praise is entirely warranted, Nessy’s most revered tool is his power. He has the size and strength, the leverage, and the bat speed to rip balls over the fences of any park. He does it without relying upon an uppercut either, as Nessy’s swing angle is low. Baseball America grades the tool out as a future plus, but there are questions about how much that raw power will translate in-game. His hit tool and contact ability have a long way to go, as Nessy’s over-aggressiveness and the length of his swing create a lot of holes and weaknesses for opposing pitchers to exploit. I haven’t read a single evaluation that is willing to put a future average grade on the tool, but Nessy doesn’t need to hit .270 to be a valuable starting catcher. He’s not going to carry an offense on his back, but he won’t be the worst hitter in the lineup, either.
The perfect world projection for Santiago Nessy would be a well rounded, everyday catcher; second division starter.
2013 Outlook, Risk, and ETA
Nessy’s progress this spring will be an interesting situation to monitor, as his 2013 assignment is still very much up in the air. With three years of short season ball (2010/DSL, 2011/GCL, and 2012/APP) under his belt, the organization would without a doubt love to send him to Lansing where he could continue to work with pitchers like Roberto Osuna and Daniel Norris, whom he caught last season. On the other hand, he played just six games for Vancouver. My gut feeling is that he will find himself in full season ball when the calendar flips to April, and it should prove to be a challenge. The Midwest League almost always features a strong crop of pitching prospects, particularly those who know how to control the strike zone and can manipulate a breaking ball. Nessy has had problems with over aggressiveness, so calming his approach down will need to be a major focus of the Lugnuts coaching staff. As an oversized catcher with questions around his ability to make contact, the risk with Nessy is enormous. Catchers tend to develop slowly, so even if he progresses as hoped, 2016 might be the earliest possible time of arrival in Toronto.