2018-19 International Reviews: Washington Nationals
This is part of Ben Badler's 2018-19 International Reviews series chronicling all the moves made by teams on the international market over the prior year. To see all 30 teams, click here.
Total 2018 (Jan. 1 - Dec. 31, 2018) signings: 30
The Nationals went over their bonus pool in 2016-17, with their best signing from that class, shortstop Luis Garcia, already rocketing to Double-A as an 18-year-old. As a penalty for exceeding their pool, the Nationals couldn't sign anyone during the 2018-19 period for more than $300,000.
Jeremy de la Rosa, who signed for $300,000 on July 2, was advanced enough that the Nationals brought him over to Florida last year for instructional league after the 2018 season. A 17-year-old, lefthanded outfielder from the Dominican Republic, de la Rosa has promising tools and an advanced offensive approach. He has a sharp eye for the strike zone, and while at times he can get pull happy, he doesn't chase much off the plate., showing the ability to square up breaking pitches. De la Rosa has performed well in games and makes loud contact, with a lot of doubles now that should turn into more home runs as he gets stronger. De la Rosa has the speed and athleticism for center field, with plus wheels and a strong arm. De la Rosa trained at the Quality Baseball Academy.
Yeuri Amparo, 17, is another Dominican outfielder the Nationals signed for $300,000 on July 2. Amparo is a physical righthanded hitter (6-foot-3, 180 pounds) with good balance at the plate, projecting as a power bat with a good idea of the strike zone. He's a slightly below-average runner who will play on a corner. Amparo trained with Niche, who also had Juan Soto when the Nationals signed him in 2015.
Daniel Marte, another $300,000 signing on July 2, is a Dominican center fielder with a powerful 6-foot, 165 pound frame. He's a toolsy, high-energy player and an explosive athlete with 70 speed to handle center field with a strong arm too. Marte's a righthanded hitter who will chase breaking pitches but has a line drive, middle of the field approach and gap power. Marte trained with Carlos Guzman.
Dominican shortstop Isan Castillo, 17, signed with the Nationals for $300,000 on July 2. At 6-foot-1, 160 pounds, Castillo is a wiry, quick-twitch athlete and a solid-average runner who accelerates quickly. He can make the flashy play at shortstop, though he's still learning to make the more routine plays consistently. Castillo sticks out for his bouncy athleticism, though his baseball skills are still crude, with good bat speed from the right side but a free-swinging approach. Castillo trained with Hector Evertz.
Edwin Mercedes, a 17-year-old Dominican catcher from the Mejia Top 10 program, signed with the Nationals for $300,000 on July 2. Mercedes' main tools are his arm strength and power. He has an above-average arm, though as a bigger-bodied catcher at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, he will have to stay on top of his conditioning to improve his lateral mobility. Mercedes makes loud contact when he barrels the ball from the right side, though he's going to have to improve his pitch recognition to make more contact in games.
The Nationals signed 16-year-old Dominican outfielder Oliver Francois for $200,000 from Jaime Ramos' program. Francois is an athletic lefty with plus speed to play center field. He's a speed-and-defense first player who will need to add strength to his slender 6-foot, 160-pound frame.
Yoander Rivero is a 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop the Nationals signed on July 2. He has a smaller, skinny build (5-foot-9, 155 pounds) and doesn't jump out immediately for his size or tools, but he's a savvy, instcintive player who is a fundamentally sound defender. He's a line-drive hitter without much power. He trained in the Dominican Republic with Amauris Nina. Another Venezuelan July 2 signing, Delkis Bastanta is a 17-year-old Venezuelan outfielder the Nationals signed on July 2. He has a long, lanky frame (6-foot-3, 170 pounds) and impressed the Nationals with his combination of size and athleticism to potentially stick in center field.
Like Rivero, Jose Colmenares is another Venezuelan player training with Amauris Nina in the Dominican Republic. He was one of the youngest players in the class, signing with the Nationals when he turned 16 on Aug. 23. He's a high-energy player with a smaller frame (5-foot-10, 165 pounds) and is athletic for a catcher, with a fast exchange to get to a slightly above-average arm. He's a line-drive hitter with gap power from the right side.
The Nationals gave $150,000 to switch-hitting outfielder Raymi Gomez out of the Dominican Republic on July 2. Gomez, 17, is a slim 6-foot, 150 pounds and stood out for his speed and athleticism to play center field, though he will need to get stronger and better apply those tools in games.
One other name to keep an eye on from Washington's 2018-19 class is Jose Mercedes, an 18-year-old Dominican righthander who got $100,000 on July 2. He has an extra-large, highly projectable frame (6-foot-5, 180 pounds) with a fastball that was up to 90 mph when he signed and has since hit 92 mph. Given how much space he has to fill out, there's a lot more upside for Mercedes to throw harder once he puts on weight. Beyond just his high velocity potential, Mercedes has a starter profile, with a good delivery and the ability to spot his fastball well to all quadrants of the strike zone, especially for a young pitcher his size, with the feel for a curveball and changeup to give him a solid three-pitch mix.