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2020-21 MLB International Reviews: Washington Nationals

Armando Cruz Nationals

The Nationals' lineup is filled with homegrown signings from the Dominican Republic. Juan Soto is 22, the same age as a lot of the 2020 draft picks out of college, and he's already one of the best players in baseball. Victor Robles struggled in 2020, but the year before that he posted 4.1 Wins Above Replacement (per Baseball-Reference) and is still entering his age-24 season. The Nationals also brought up middle infielder Luis Garcia, who graduated from prospect eligibility at 20 years old.

Top Of The Class

Dominican shortstop Armando Cruz received the biggest bonus for a 16-year-old player in the 2020-21 class, signing for $3.9 million on Jan. 15, the day before his 17th birthday. At 5-foot-11, 165 pounds, Cruz is one of the best defensive shortstops that many international scouts said they have ever seen his age in Latin America. He fields the ball like a magician, with extremely quick, secure hands and a quick transfer to his plus arm. Cruz is light on his feet, charges well on the slow roller and has a knack for making the flashy play look routine, getting quick reads off the bat with the ability to react to bad hops. He fields grounders between his legs and does other similar ball tricks on the run for fun in practice, but beyond the flash is an extremely instinctive player who makes the routine plays and the ones with a higher degree of difficulty. Cruz earns consistent future projections as a plus defender and a player who could develop into a truly elite fielder.

His speed has also improved, going from below-average wheels when a lot of teams were initially scouting him to a slightly above-average runner now. While there's strong consensus on Cruz's glove, there's less certainty on him at the plate. Many scouts viewed Cruz as a hitter who would likely hit toward the bottom of a lineup, but the Nationals were on the higher end, seeing his hitting ability trend up over time. Getting stronger has helped Cruz drive the ball with more authority than he was early on, though he doesn't project to be a big power threat. His instincts for the game assist him at the plate, with some of the best baseball smarts in the class. Cruz trained with John Carmona.

Names To Know

Gustavo Rivas, RHP, Venezuela: Rivas has starter traits, with a loose arm and a projectable 6-foot-2 frame with room for added strength that should allow him to add to a fastball that's been up to 92 mph. He has solid pitchability and a three-pitch mix with a curveball that's ahead of his changeup.

Doimil Perez, RHP, Dominican Republic: Perez was an outfielder who enhanced his value when he moved to the mound. He hasn't been pitching for long, but he's 6-foot-3 with a lean, high-waist build, a loose arm and a fastball that touches 91 mph with projection indicators to throw harder. He's still learning how to pitch, but he shows feel for tight spin on a breaking ball that could develop into an out pitch. He trained with Niche.

Enmanuel Ramirez, OF, Dominican Republic: Ramirez, who also trained with Niche, has intriguing raw tools. He's an athletic center fielder with plus speed and a strong arm that could tick up to give him another plus tool. His physicality and bat speed produce hard contact when he connects and could lead to above-average power down the road too, but his feel for hitting against live pitching still lags behind for now.

Sleeper Watch

The Nationals signed Gabriel Agostini out of Venezuela, landing a 6 feet lefty with a nice mix of stuff and pitchability for his age. He has a quick arm, a fastball up to 91 mph and he has shown good ability to manipulate both his curveball and his changeup, leading to a lot of empty swings and good performances when he pitched in showcases in Colombia.

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