When the White Sox announced their 2017 Player Development Staff, there were a few new names, but what may have most stood out was a completely new position. That new role is titled “Latin/Cultural Development Coordinator” and the Sox tabbed 27-year old former pitching prospect Anthony Santiago for its duties.
Santiago was signed as a UDFA by the White Sox in 2012, a move that made some headlines because his older brother Hector was in the midst of breaking out for the White Sox. The Sox later dealt Hector to the Los Angeles Angels in the very beneficial Adam Eaton trade, but Anthony has stuck with the organization since. Anthony Santiago, a converted college catcher, had a 4.57 ERA over three minor league seasons as a pitcher until the Sox released him. Santiago played Winter Ball in his native Puerto Rico, but after some time had passed and no other teams called to sign him, the Sox touched base.
“Buddy Bell gave me a call and asked if I had signed with another team and what I was planning on doing. Buddy said they had an position open as an assistant coach. I gave it some thought and decided I didn’t want to pass up an opportunity like that. So for the past two years I’ve been working for the White Sox [in Arizona] helping on and off the field. Similar to what I’ll be doing now, helping with the Latin players.”
While Santiago was born in, and played high school ball in New Jersey, he also spent some time in his familial home of Puerto Rico. There were baseball stints in the Dominican Republic too. As a former prospect who spent time in the Islands himself, the White Sox and Santiago feel he is the perfect fit for this new position.
“Even as a player, I used to help out a lot with the Latin players. Being from Puerto Rico, I understand what they are going through. I understand what they are supposed to be doing and I will take things into my hands to ensure that they excel. Because I have been a part of the organization for six years now, I know what they expect out of the players. I already know in each aspect of the game, so I can speak to a player if I need to talk to him, whether its on or off the field, I’ll be there.”
Santiago is already off and running with his role as he was on hand for the Fall Instructional League in the Dominican Republic this past November. There Santiago was able to meet the 2016 international draft class, including Vlad Guerrero’s nephew Josue Guerrero, as well as OF Luis Mieses, OF Anderson Comas, and SS Lenyn Sosa. Additionally, Santiago was able to meet several standout players who have been playing in the Dominican Summer League (DSL) who could be heading stateside soon. Once those players come to extended Spring Training, the Arizona League Sox, or even Great Falls, Santiago will be there.
“My role will be taking care of all Latin American players, not [just] that they are staying on top of what they have to do on the field but also off the field. We get a lot of young guys that are 16 and 17 years old, basically sophomores in high school, that not only have to learn the game of baseball but how to be professional off the field. But that also includes things we take for granted, like where to buy food, what to eat, where to go, to be respectful, all the stuff that people don’t see off the field.”
Santiago had been coaching in Arizona the past two years, but he is looking forward to doing more traveling and anticipates spending time at all of the lower level affiliates.
“I am excited to travel around this year, instead of being in strictly Arizona. My first season I was sent to Great Falls for a week to check on the guys there, which I liked a lot. I know the White Sox want to be a little more aggressive in sending international guys to other affiliates, not just Arizona. I believe if they are sent to a higher level, it gives them a little more confidence and makes them feel like they can play at the higher level too.”
Santiago believes his role will have the most impact on the first year players.
“The really young guys, it is important for them to feel comfortable here and its the hardest on them. They are 16 years-old, its the first time away from their families, their home, coming into a different culture where basically everything is new to them. I want them to not be afraid to come here and they can focus on baseball and not the off the field stuff.”
During his stints in the Dominican Republic as a player, Santiago saw some of the conditions that those players grew up in. When he returned this past November, he was pleasantly surprised by how much the White Sox facilities have grown on the island under Marco Paddy.
“It was cool seeing the academy and the improvements that they are making and to see the staff members and the coaching staff and the work they are doing. In the future, I expect a lot of improvements because of the investment the Sox are making. I have noticed a big difference in my short time in the organization. The Sox are investing more money in these players and it only makes sense to make sure that they are developing the right way.”
The White Sox prioritized the Latin American pipeline a few years ago and are already seeing dividends as five internationals signees made the FutureSox 2016 mid-season Top 30 Prospects list (Adolfo, Nunez, Solorzano, Cruz, and Perez) and two more (Feliz and Alfaro) “just missed.” As the major league team is beginning a full rebuild, Anthony Santiago and the rest of the White Sox Player Development Staff will play a crucial role in the the product you will see in Chicago in the future.
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