Image credit: Karlo Seijas (Photo by Bill Mitchell)
Total 2017 signings: 29.
Top 2017-18 signing: Several at $300,000.
The Nationals exceeded their international bonus pool in 2016-17, a class that netted shortstops Luis Garcia and Yasel Antuna, who were two of the top-ranked prospects last year in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. As a penalty for going over their pool, the Nationals in 2017-18 were in the first of a two-year penalty that prohibits them from signing any international prospects for more than $300,000.
One of four players the Nationals awarded a $300,000 bonus was 17-year-old Venezuelan righthander Karlo Seijas, who trained with Alexi Quiroz. Seijas is 6-foot-1, 180 pounds and pitched well at last year’s MLB international showcase, where he threw 2.1 scoreless innings with five strikeouts and no walks. Seijas has a starter’s profile. With a relatively simple, easy delivery, Seijas shows advanced pitchability, locating his fastball to both sides of the plate, elevating effectively and pitching down in the zone as well. He has reached 92-93 mph, and while his lower half is relatively filled out, his arm is quick enough that he could add velocity. His curveball elicits swing-and-miss and is a potential out pitch for him, and he has flashed early signs of feel for a changeup as well.
Daniel Hernandez, represented by Steward Salazar, is a 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop the Nationals gave $300,000 in July. Hernandez’s lefthanded swing stood out as an amateur. After signing, the Nationals asked Hernandez to try hitting from the right side, and he’s now developing as a switch-hitter. Hernandez performed well last summer during the Tricky League (an unofficial, informal league for July 2 signings), with a line-drive stroke and a chance for his doubles to turn into more home runs as he adds strength to his 6-foot, 170-pound frame. Hernandez might ultimately end up at third base or possibly second, but he’s improved his footwork and will develop as a shortstop, with his high baseball IQ an asset on both sides of the ball.
A third Venezuelan player the Nationals signed for $300,000 in July is Ivan Murzi, a 16-year-old catcher. At 6 feet, 165 pounds, Murzi is a defense-first catcher with a strong arm and soft hands while receiving pitches. As a righthanded hitter, Murzi relies more on timing than pure bat speed, but he has shown solid contact skills for a catcher his age with doubles power.
Another $300,000 signing, 17-year-old Wilfredo Matos, is a flashy shortstop from the Dominican Republic. At 5-foot-11, 160 pounds, Matos is a quick-twitch athlete with a tick above-average speed and an arm that flashes 60 at times, with both tools having a chance to be consistently plus once he gets stronger. He has slick actions at shortstop, making plays to both sides of the ball, charging in on slow rollers, and going back on fly balls to the outfield. He’s a righthanded hitter whose bat is still catching up to his defensive skills.
Dominican third baseman Addiel Matias signed with the Nationals for $250,000 on July 2. He is 6-foot-1, 170 pounds and fields his position well for a 17-year-old, with a strong arm and good hands. Matias flashes power in batting practice but isn’t a pure hitter, with an uppercut stroke from the right side. He trained with Luis Mejia.
Franli Turbi, a 17-year-old from the Dominican Republic who signed for $250,000 on July 2, is another defensive-oriented catcher. At 6 feet, 165 pounds, he’s an athletic catcher with a high baseball acumen for his age to go with good hands and a fringe-average arm that plays up due to his quick release. Turbi has more physicality, athleticism and better bat speed than Murzi, although he’s going to have to improve his bat-to-ball skills from the right side. Turbi trained with Mon.
Out of Colombia, the Nationals signed 18-year-old outfielder Leandro Emiliano for $175,000 in July. Emiliano is a 6-foot-1, 180-pound lefty who stood out for his bat. He has performed well in games, flashing power at times in BP but showing more of a line-drive approach against live pitching. Emiliano’s value is tied into what he does in the batter’s box, as he’s a below-average runner who fits best in left field or possibly at first base. Emiliano is a little bit older than the other 2017 signings, and with his hitting ability, he has a chance to debut in the U.S.
Viandel Pena, a 17-year-old Dominican shortstop, is only 5-foot-8, 148 pounds, but he’s a gamer with a knack for hitting and a high baseball IQ. Pena, who signed for $150,000 on July 2, is a switch-hitter with good bat control. He doesn’t have much power and probably never will, but he puts the ball in play with a high contact rate. He’s an average runner with a quick first step and smart baserunning skills. Pena could start out at shortstop but probably fits better at second base. He’s a baseball rat who will likely be a favorite among his future managers. Pena, like Turbi, also trained with Mon.
Venezuelan outfielder Jorge Hurtado, who signed for $125,000 in July, has a strong tool set without much baseball experience. While he’s still raw for a 17-year-old, Hurtado has shown significant improvement in his baseball acumen since signing. He’s a center fielder with plus speed, a good arm and projects to be a strong, physical player once he fills out his 6-foot-1, 165-pound frame. Hurtado needs work at the plate, but he has good bat speed and the frame to grow into more power from the right side. He trained with Alex Gonzalez.