Steven Fuentes Rides Breakout To 40-Man Spot

Righthander Steven Fuentes made his case for joining the Nationals’ 40-man roster so clear that he was added on Oct. 30. Otherwise, he would have qualified for minor league free agency.

The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Fuentes has been in the organization since signing out of Panama in 2013, meaning he will be 24 years old next season.

Fuentes had success at high Class A and Double-A in 2019 and then built on that in 2020 as a member of Washington’s 60-man player pool. He wasn’t able to work out much during the early stages of the coronavirus shutdown, but he eventually caught up with his fellow prospects.

“Steven reported this summer to our alternate site behind the group due to massive restrictions back home in Panama combined, unfortunately, with a quarantine situation as well,” Nationals farm director Mark Scialabba said.

“He worked his way back into shape and finished up the season getting back to where he was the year before.”

In addition to pitching at the alternate training site in Fredericksburg, Va., Fuentes went to instructional league and then pitched in a Panamanian national tournament in the fall. His plus changeup and control and his above-average slider help his average fastball play up.

Fuentes had a breakout 2019, when he recorded a 2.23 ERA in 23 games (11 starts) while striking out 89 and walking 22 in 80.2 innings. The Nationals expect him to begin 2021 in a rotation, barring a bullpen need.

“Steven’s ability to throw strikes consistently and keep hitters off balance with his three-pitch mix is his main focus,” Scialabba said. “He commands his fastball extremely well, can pitch to both sides of the plate effectively and complements it well with his changeup that has late sink and fade movement. He repeats his arm action and tunnels both pitches consistently.

“He’s also making strides with the action and feel for his slider and is beginning to utilize it more to put hitters away.”



— On the final day to protect players from the Rule 5 draft, the Nationals added shortstop Yasel Antuna and righthander Joan Adon to their 40-man roster. Two days earlier, they signed lefthander Sam Clay, a 27-year-old free agent who had been in the Twins organization, to a major league contract. Minnesota drafted Clay in the fourth round in 2014 out of Georgia Tech.

— Washington will send its Triple-A players to Rochester, N.Y., after facing the logistical challenges of having its top farm team in Fresno, Calif., in 2019.

“We are very excited to partner with the Rochester Red Wings and to have our Triple-A affiliate back in the region,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. “The Red Wings are a well-built, well-run organization that will be an asset to our player development system.”

The Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate was in Syracuse from 2009 to 2018, but the Mets purchased that franchise in order to relocate their top affiliate from Las Vegas.

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