Before today’s deadline to protect Rule-5 eligible players of which the Washington Nationals had many, they chose to add switch-hitting infielder Yasel Antuna and RHP Joan Adon to their 40-man roster which now is at 33-players with seven open slots. On October 30th, the team had already added RHP Steven Fuentes to the 40-man roster. They did not protect 20-year-old catcher Israel Pineda who we were told yesterday was almost certain to be added. Things change quickly as we know. Pineda was listed as the 14th best prospect in the Nats system by MLB Pipeline. This morning, Baseball America published their Top-10 prospects in the Nats system, and Antuna was Nº 4 on the list.
Here is Baseball America’s scouting on Antuna on the 20/80 scale:
Hitting: 50. Power: 60. Run: 50. Fielding: 45. Arm: 50.
TRACK RECORD: Antuna struggled with injuries after signing for $3.85 million in 2016, but he accrued hundreds of reps at the alternate training site against upper-level pitchers in 2020. He hit 11 home runs during one two-week period and showed arguably the best hitting ability and power potential in the Nationals’ system.
SCOUTING REPORT: Clear from the Tommy John surgery and leg injuries that kept him off the field for nearly two years, Antuna showed what he can do when healthy. The switch-hitter has plus bat speed, a relaxed approach and a repeatable swing from both sides of the plate. He hits home runs to all fields from both sides and has no problem catching up to upper-90s velocity. He has among the best strike-zone judgment in the system and an advanced two-strike approach. He also showed improved ability to recognize and hit offspeed pitches. Antuna’s future positional home is up for question. He has improved his footwork and exchanges around second base to give him a better chance to stay in the middle infield. He’ll remain a shortstop for now but may move to a corner as he gets bigger.
THE FUTURE: Antuna’s bat gives him a chance to move up the system quickly as long as he stays healthy. His fantastic summer gives him a chance to see the upper minors in 2021
We had a conversation with Yasel Antuna in Spanish, and this is my attempt to translate it back:
“I see myself playing as a shortstop, but I also have the skills to perform at third base or anywhere they want to play me,” Antuna said.
If you recall, Antuna had Tommy John surgery and also had some leg injuries that held back his growth. He feels that the progress he made at the Alternate Training Site this year was a big step up and Baseball America agrees.
“I am super healthy, strengthened physically and mentally,” Antuna continued.
We did not ask Antuna if he was added to the 40-man as to not put him in a position to get in trouble with the team as they want to keep that under wraps “officially” until the team announces it. But on the subject of being added to the Baseball America list today, Antuna was ecstatic. Maybe he was ecstatic because he also knew he was added to the 40-man roster.
“I am very happy about this Baseball America news. I really have gone through some difficult moments in my young career, but they have not limited me to continue working hard and this news is due to that work,” Antuna said.
For a kid who just turned 21 at the end of October, he has a lot of polish and a lot of promise. It was good news that Baseball America looked past the injuries and weighted what he did at the Alternate site to impress along with Andrew Stevenson, Jake Noll, and Israel Pineda who were the other three names that kept coming up from the pitchers who faced them as impressive.
For the two pitchers the Nats added, Adon and Fuentes were also part of the Nationals’ 60-player pool this summer at the Alternate site in Fredericksburg. They both got long looks from Nats minor league coaches and front office personnel while both worked extensively with Nats MiLB pitching coordinator Brad Holman. Fuentes was the one that impressed Holman the most as he worked through the camp. Adon jumped onto radars with a good 2019 season in Low-A Hagerstown in 2019.
Antuna’s highest level was Low-A Hagerstown before he was added to the 60-man player pool and assigned to the Alternate site in Fredericksburg. Antuna will now be at big league camp in Spring Training and from there should be assigned to High-A or Double-A depending on how he is evaluated.