2019-20 MLB International Reviews: Washington Nationals
With Juan Soto and Victor Robles, the Nationals have two of the best young Dominican players in baseball, a pair of homegrown international outfielders who played a key role in their World Series title. Johnny DiPuglia, the organization's assistant general manager in charge of international operations, was named the International Scout of the Year this week at the Winter Meetings.
Usually teams make their biggest investment in Latin America with position players, but the Nationals' two biggest signings this year were pitchers.
One of them is Andry Lara, a 16-year-old righthander from Venezuela who is represented by Cesar Suarez. He has a tall, heavy frame (6-foot-4, 217 pounds) that he will have to to work to maintain, with a big fastball for his age, reaching 95 mph already with downhill angle. He doesn't have much effort in his delivery, and while there are times his control has been erratic, he generally is a solid strike-thrower for his age. Lara throws a hard curveball that breaks more like a slider when he gets on the side of the ball. It looks like it will probably morph into a true slider at some point, with a chance to develop it into an average or better pitch. Lara throws a changeup as well that's still in its nascent stages. Lara came over to Florida already for instructional league, and given that the Nationals push their Latin American players aggressively, he could debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
Pablo Aldonis, who trained with Nube, is a Dominican lefthander the Nationals signed for $1 million. Aldonis is 17 and will turn 18 in March, so he's old enough to have been eligible to sign in 2018. He's 6-foot-1, 160 pounds and throws strikes with a fastball/changeup combination, reaching 92 mph. Aldonis doesn't project to be a flamethrower, but he keeps hitters off balance with an advanced changeup for his age, though he will need to develop a more reliable breaking pitch.
The Nationals signed three notable position players from Latin America this year, including 16-year-old Venezuelan outfielder Roismar Quintana, who has an interesting mix of athleticism and power potential. Quintana drives the ball well to center and right-center field during batting practice, staying inside the ball well with a balanced approach and the ability to square up high-velocity arms. He's starting to flash over-the-fence power now and has the strength projection where he could grow into above-average power in his prime. Quintana showed above-average speed as an amateur, but he's gotten significantly bigger and stronger since then, growing to 6 feet, 205 pounds. He has a chance to stay in center field, where he has a 45 arm, but his body now looks like he might end up in a corner. Quintana was also in the U.S. for instructional league and could play in the GCL this year as well.
Dominican shortstop Dawry Martinez, 17, signed with the Nationals for $600,000. He's 5-foot-10, 160 pounds and a tooled-up switch-hitter who draws comparisons to fellow Nationals infielder Wilmer Difo. Martinez is a 70 runner and has a plus arm with an easy, fluid throwing stroke. It's a package of tools and athleticism that fits in the middle of the diamond, but Martinez is more raw tools than skills, so he's still learning to play under control and apply those tools in games, both in the field and at the plate, where he has a line-drive approach and gap power. Martinez trained with Juancito.
Juan Garcia is a 16-year-old Dominican shortstop the Nationals signed for $300,000 after he trained with El Niche, whose program also produced Juan Soto. He's 6 feet, 170 pounds with loud tools and quick-twitch athleticism up the middle. He's a plus-plus runner with a solid-average arm that projects to be plus once he gets stronger. He has a chance to stay at shortstop if he improves his hands because he feet work well and he has a quick first step off the bat, though some scouts think his speed would play better roaming in center field. He's a righthanded hitter with fast bat speed, buggy whipping the barrel through the zone. Right now, Garcia is a line drive-oriented hitter with doubles power, but it's loud contact and he has a lot of space to fill out his frame, so he could grow into average power once he packs on another 25-plus pounds.
Franklin Marquez is a 17-year-old Venezuelan lefty the Nationals signed whose stuff started to pop in November at the end of Dominican instructional league. He struck out all three batters he faced in an instructs game against the White Sox, running his fastball up to 92 mph, which is up from where he was as an amateur. At 6 feet, 165 pounds with long arms and a lower arm slot, Marquez is a smart pitcher with good feel for his craft, throwing strikes with a fastball that has late life in the zone. His slider has typically been his go-to secondary pitch, but against the White Sox he showed feel for a changeup as well to keep hitters off balance.