2023 International Reviews: Washington Nationals
In their previous two international signing classes, the Nationals put most of their bonus pool money into one player, with $3.9 million for Dominican shortstop Armando Cruz in 2021 and $4.925 million last year for Cuban outfielder Cristhian Vaquero.
This year’s class has a well-rounded mix of players that should give the Nationals a Dominican Summer League lineup with one of the deeper groups of position prospects that they have had there in recent years.
Top Of The Class
The Nationals signed 17-year-old Andy Acevedo, a lefthanded outfielder from the Dominican Republic, for $1.3 million. While Acevedo’s tools have ticked up over the last couple years, it’s his hitting ability that draws the most attention. He’s 6-foot-2, 175 pounds with a sound swing that has good bat path and he has the ability to manipulate the barrel well to square up pitches in different parts of the strike zone. It’s a fairly easy swing and he is starting to drive the ball with more authority now, and that power should continue to climb as he fills out his projectable frame. He’s an average runner who tracks the ball well in the outfield, with a good chance he gets exposure to all three outfield positions early in his career, projecting best as a corner outfielder long term.
Another $1.3 million signing, 17-year-old Dominican shortstop Edwin Solano has a compact, stocky strong build (5-foot-11, 175 pounds) with big bat speed and raw power. Solano isn’t that tall, but his combination of strength and bat speed allows him to drive the ball for extra-base damage with home run power to his pull side. Solano has good supplementary tools in addition to his power, with plus speed and a plus arm. Some scouts thought Solano might eventually outgrow shortstop and fit better at second or third base, but evaluators highest on him thought he could stick at the position. He has plenty of arm strength for the position with a quick release, good hands and footwork.
Names To Know
Juan Obispo, OF, Dominican Republic: Signed for $600,000, Obispo has some of the best raw tools of any player signed in 2023. He’s 6-foot-1, 190 pounds and an explosive, powerful athlete who flies around center field with 70 speed on the 20-80 scale and a plus arm. He’s a potential power/speed threat at a premium position, showing big pop in batting practice from the right side of the plate. His pure hitting ability is still crude as he’s learning to recognize offspeed stuff, but the upside is obvious if he’s able to make enough contact.
Manuel Cabrera, SS, Dominican Republic: Cabrera has mature feel and instincts for the game, both offensively and in the field, for a 17-year-old. A $550,000 signing, Cabrera is 5-foot-10, 155 pounds and grew up playing in a lot of games in the Dominican Republic, which shows in his advanced offensive approach. He puts together quality at-bats with quick hands and a line-drive approach from the right side of the plate. Cabrera is an average runner with a good internal clock and should move around between shortstop, second and third base.
Hector Liriano, OF, Dominican Republic: At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, Liriano is extremely strong and physically advanced for 16. Signed for $400,000, Liriano’s standout tool is his raw power, which flashes plus thanks to his fast bat speed and strength. It’s a pull-heavy approach from the left side, so it’s a power-over-hit profile as he learns to become a more complete hitter. He’s a corner outfielder who is athletic for his size with average speed underway.
Carlos Batista, OF, Dominican Republic: The Nationals signed Batista for $375,000 and he has been a steady up-arrow player over the past year. Batista, 17, stood out as an amateur as an athletic center fielder with a lean, lively 6-foot-1, 170-pound frame, plus speed and a strong arm. At the time, some scouts had concerns about his habit of chasing pitches outside the strike zone, but over the past year he has done a good job of improving his plate discipline and approach. He has done a better job of staying inside the ball with a more direct path from the right side, allowing him to use the whole field and manage his at-bats better with gap power.
Elian Soto, OF, Dominican Republic: The younger brother of former Nationals outfielder Juan Soto, Elian is a 17-year-old outfielder the Nationals signed for $225,000. There’s not one big carrying tool with Soto, but he has grown to 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, with improvements in his lefthanded swing, bat speed and athleticism since scouts saw him at a young age, fitting best defensively as a corner outfielder.
Jose Feliz, RHP, Dominican Republic: Feliz, 17, was pitching in the low 80s when teams began scouting him, but he had a good delivery, easy arm action and threw a lot of strikes with his lively fastball. Now 6-foot-1, 170 pounds, Feliz signed for $130,000 and has touched the low 90s with a heavy fastball that features good sink and run. His fastball is his best pitch, but Feliz is a good athlete who is able to command his whole repertoire well for his age, with a curveball and changeup rounding out his pitch mix.
Third baseman Luis Arias is relatively under the radar as a $10,000 signing, but his offensive upside is intriguing. He has a good mix of hitting ability and power with big bat speed from the left side. There’s some risk he could outgrow third base and end up at first base, but he’s fairly light on his feet for his size and has the arm strength for third.