BA Newsletter: Get Analysis, Rankings Delivered To Your Inbox!

Israel Pineda Shows Marked Improvement

At minor league camp in West Palm Beach, Fla., catcher Israel Pineda showed just how far he's come since 2019—even without a 2020 minor league season.

Israel Pineda has had a great camp here ever since big league camp,” Nationals farm director Mark Scialabba said. “He’s building a foundation in all phases—really learning how to work with pitchers and their strengths, calling a game and being a leader on the field.”

Pineda, a 21-year-old from Venezuela who signed for $450,000 in 2016, was a non-roster invitee to major league spring training. He left his biggest impression when he hit a 465-foot home run on one of the back fields in an intrasquad game. The blast had an exit velocity of 114 mph.

“He has impressive pull-side power,” Scialabba said. “He’s also making contact and barreling up the baseball. He’s continuing to try to build consistency from at-bat to at-bat.”

After Pineda hit .217/.278/.305 with seven home runs in 101 games at Low-A Hagerstown in 2019, he was challenged last summer by higher-level pitchers at the Nationals' alternate training site.

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Pineda then went to instructional league in the fall. He went 3-for-5 in four games in big league camp this spring and had a home run off Nivaldo Rodriguez, who has major league experience with the Astros.

Though Pineda has a strong arm and has thrown out more than 40% of basestealers, he had a bat-first reputation after hitting .273/.341/.388 in 46 games at short-season Auburn in 2018.

At the plate, Pineda had trouble with breaking balls, but Scialabba says he’s developing into a catcher whose offense and defense are both positives.

“I think they're both moving in the right direction,” Scialabba said. “With him, he's really grown. He’s maturing as a person and a baseball player. He's in a good place right now.”


— Shortstop Yasel Antuña, another 21-year-old who has not played above Low-A, was having a strong minor league camp after hitting for power and average at the alternate site last year.

“He’s driving the baseball on a line and working extremely hard,” Scialabba said of the switch-hitter.

Evan Lee, a 15th-round pick in 2018 out of Arkansas, is emerging as one of the highest-upside lefthanders in the organization.

“He has a fastball with late life that he can throw up in (the) zone,” Scialabba said.

That fastball sits at 92-96 mph. Lee also has a plus curveball, a changeup and an occasional cutter.


Baseball America Prospect Report -- May 14, 2019

A pair of Rockies infielders make today's prospect report, Jarren Duran keeps hitting, Buddy Reed flirts with a cycle and more.

of Free Stories Remaining