There are 30 teams in baseball, each of which is doing its best to find the next Johan Santana. They want to find a diamond in the rough at a lower minor league level that they could acquire and then develop into a dominant starting pitcher.
Do the Twins have another Johan Santana within their system? They just might… but his name is spelled Yohan!
Yohan Pino was signed as a free agent out of Venezuela in May of 2004. The right-handed pitcher was sent to the Dominican Summer League where he was named the league's Most Outstanding Pitcher. In 2005, Pino played for the Appalachian League champion Elizabethton Twins. While there, he made 12 starts and went 9-2 with a 3.72 ERA. In 67.2 innings, he struck out 64 and walked just 13.
When you look on most Twins prospect lists, however, you don't find his name. He started the 2006 season in the bullpen of the Beloit Snappers. He compiled an 8-2 record and even recorded three saves. He had a 1.63 ERA in 55.1 innings. In his time in the bullpen, he struck out 68 (11.1 K/9) and walked 16 hitters.
At that point, Pino was inserted into the starting rotation. Since then, he has gone 6-0 with a 2.33 ERA. In 38.2 innings, he has struck out 31 (7.2 K/9) and walked just four hitters. In his last four starts, Pino has given up just two runs in 24 innings!
Is Yohan the next Johan? Well, I don't think that it is ever fair to put such a lofty expectation on anyone in Low Class-A ball. Starting as basic as Johan is a lefty while Yohan throws right-handed. I don't believe there are any scouts out there who believe that Pino will ever become a major league star.
However, when the Twins acquired Johan Santana after the Rule V draft in December of 1999, I don't think anyone could have predicted the (hopefully) multiple Cy Young success that Johan has had.
Who knows? Maybe Yohan is the next Johan!!