We connected with TalkNats.com last month, and we thought it might be fun to give the readers here a little more in-depth look at some of the players we like both in their system and those that recently signed with the organization. So, for the next 3 weeks, we’re going to be writing guest posts about players in the Washington Nationals system that you might already be familiar with, and one player that just signed that you’re apt to know much less about. We hope to provide you with a more robust look at each of the players than you’d find elsewhere.
We’re looking forward to this series and our interactions with the passionate Nationals fanbase! Obviously Steve Mears just wrote a piece on Jeremy De La Rosa on Tuesday, and we wanted to expand our thoughts in our analysis because De La Rosa is the top outfield prospect in the Nats system.
Jeremy De La Rosa – OF
The lost 2020 minor league season makes evaluation difficult without the in-person scouting, especially so with a player like Jeremy De La Rosa. Readers here are familiar with him at the surface ($300,000 sign out of the Dominican Republic) and what Mears just wrote on Tuesday, and surely they were excited that the Nationals saw enough promise to his play to aggressively promote him to play 26 games in the GCL in 2019 as a 17-year-old, an age where most players with a bonus in that range would expect to play in the Dominican Summer League, and then of course they made a late decision last summer to send him to the Alternate Training Site in Fredericksburg to be with the top prospects.
De La Rosa held his own given these circumstances, slashing .232/.343/.366 in 82 ABs in the GCL in 2019. While his 29 K’s were a little high, they’re also not unprecedented for a player his age in his first stop in the states.
It’s easy to see De La Rosa’s 2019 as a positive development year even if it wasn’t perfect. As evaluators, we often give a player a pass for not dominating in a lower level with unique circumstances like this. However, we’d expect such a player to come out and grow from that performance. Through no fault of his own, De La Rosa didn’t get the opportunity to do such- so now what? How much credit do we give him for his being young in his league for 2019? How much should we start to worry about the strikeouts?
We can look for positive word-of-mouth reports for his work at the alternate site (and the fact that he was invited at all — shows something of what the Nats think about him), but there’s also an old scouting adage that “everyone has a great instructional league since there are no stats.”
As evaluators, we then lean on what we do know about the player — his present physical traits and tools — and his projection — what we think he might become — in order to put the pieces of our scouting report together. While the report from our scouting lens is always the driver in our opinion of the player, we also like to consider the performance of what the player is doing on the field. The older a player gets, the more heavily we weigh on-field performance. So, a player like De La Rosa, though he will be entering his 3rd season as a professional, we still have to treat much the same as we treat an amateur player given that he’s had no meaningful performance data in well over a year — just the talk from the alt training site.
De La Rosa has a strong, compact build; he’s already strong (part of the reason he was ready to handle the GCL in his age 17 season), though, at a full height of just over 6 feet he has worked hard to add size through weightlifting and weighs in now at over 195 pounds. He doesn’t have a frame where we’d expect to see a ton of physical projection or growth from his current size unless he broadens out. Still, it’s a pro body capable of handling the rigors of pro baseball.
The swing of De La Rosa is short, compact. He’s got a little bit of an arm-bar to his lead arm; as a shorter levered player, it’s not going to be a huge issue, though it might hinder his ability to get the ball in the air to the pull side regularly. I like his base and how well he stays on balance. His path is flat through the hitting zone and he stays through the ball well. His bat speed is closer to average, and while he figures to add some, I don’t see the violence or hand speed to think he’ll have plus bat speed or power down the line.
We mentioned the strikeouts earlier, and I do think they’re something to watch, though I’m not ready to wave a red flag just yet. His swings and misses tend to come in the zone instead of chasing pitches out of the strike zone. Experienced scouts will tell you that swings and misses in the strike zone have a better chance of being rectified, so I think leaning on that offers some hope. Still, De La Rosa tends to work underneath pitches up in the zone, and with modern velocity and attack plans, this is something he’ll have to clean up as he climbs the ladder.
In a few different videos, De La Rosa’s 60 time comes in around 6.8, and to my eye, he looks about an average runner underway and Baseball America rates him slightly above average with a 55 on their 80/20 scale where 50 is average. As such, he’s apt to end up in a corner outfield spot, and his average arm should be playable in either corner.
Putting all the pieces together- average to solid hitter, average to solid power, average runner, an average arm, and the hope of average defense- De La Rosa is a well-rounded prospect that offers something from each tool. While that doesn’t lead to any superstar projections at this point, I think a realistic best-case scenario for him is something like Jacque Jones, who slashed .277/.326/.448 for his career. And while that’s a reasonable upside for De La Rosa, he’s still got some work to do to get there. Still, Nats fans should be excited to have a young player like De La Rosa in their system- certainly, he’s a nice sign for $300,000 and another feather in the hat of the Nationals’ International Scouting department.
– Lukas McKnight
Gabriel Agostini – LHP
Agostini is a native of Cantaura, Anzoategui, which is in the eastern half of Venezuela approximately two hours south of coastal Puerto La Cruz., an area of the country that’s produced Avisaíl García and Orlando Arcia (both from Anaco, just 30 minutes north of Cantaura).
As with many amateur level pitchers, Agostini was more known for his ability as an outfielder than as a pro pitching prospect when he first came onto the prospect scene. At 15 years old, he only stood 5’10 while weighing in at 150 lbs, but he displayed above average athleticism, a strong left arm from the outfield and a projectable frame. Over the next year, he began maturing physically and his fastball- hovering in the mid-80s as a 15 year old- was now beginning to touch 90 MPH. Now at 6’0” and 170 lbs, the Nationals’ scouts covering Venezuela took note of this velocity increase and by the second half of 2019, they began selling the idea of Agostini (the pitcher) as part of their 2020 international signing class.
On video, the first takeaway of Agostini is that he is athletic (visualize a young Martín Pérez) and able to consistently repeat his delivery. Working from the left side of the rubber, he takes a very small drop-step while keeping both hands nearly shoulder-high. The start of his windup begins slowly and deliberately, which allows him to maintain a solid foundation for balance. There’s an ever-so-slight hip rotation at the top of his right leg lift in addition to (I believe) a fairly conscious effort to toe-point his right foot perpendicular to the ground. That can be cause for concern in a delivery leading to some lower-half stability issues at foot strike by landing too far forward on the ball of his foot. Further, the toe-point could also result in sacrificing an inch or two of stride length to the plate. Agostini comes out of this okay, however, with a stable-but-soft landing of his front foot. His stride is slightly offline, causing him to work across his body. Because of the off-center landing, his momentum is a bit more rotational rather than linear, so he trails off to the third base side of the mound after release. All of these “flaws” are a little nitpicky that will likely be ironed out through both his continued physical maturation process, strength training and quality instruction from Nationals player development. Further, none of these are red flags that can’t be corrected. It’s important to keep in mind that Agostini is still six months shy of his 17th birthday- were he a U.S. high school pitcher, he’d currently be in his Junior year and under far less scrutiny from pro evaluators.
Another highlight of Agostini is his arm quickness. It’s of little surprise that he’s been able to increase his velocity, which scouts in VZ are reporting to be regularly in the low 90s. I am bullish on his chances of tapping into more velo in the coming years, especially when noticing he’s sacrificing some glove side usage to be utilized towards adding a couple more ticks on the radar gun. He releases from a ¾ arm slot. His fastball playability is promising as it already has some “hop” as it nears the plate. On video, hitters swing underneath his FB and he maximizes this by locating in the upper half of the strike zone with his four-seamer. His breaking ball is often a big, looping, more-vertical-than-horizontal CB which currently ranges from 68-72 MPH. Though the video look is a bit incomplete, the consistency on the break of his CB is lacking (which isn’t surprising given his age and lack of time on the mound). However, the fact he did throw a few with tight rotation, depth and lateness to them shows the potential for upside is there. One quick fix would be to get him working on maintaining a more anchored, prolonged contact with his back foot on the rubber. Early release from the rubber can often affect the quality of all pitches, especially the breaking ball. Scouts report Agostini has been working on a change-up (reportedly in the high 70s when he first introduced it). Though it wasn’t shown on any available video, one would expect the velocity on his CHG to be in the 80-82 range now.
I see Agostini as being a strike-thrower, most likely the type who will rely on inducing weak-contact rather than missing a ton of bats. Connected sources in Venezuela heap praise on Agostini for his work ethic and competitive nature.
As MLB teams constantly work by using all their resources to add quality left-handed pitching to their organizations, the international amateur market is a cost effective method. Last year, in fact, Mike Petriello of MLB.com wrote an interesting piece about the declining lack of quality left-handed pitching. The Nats certainly did a nice job in their aggressive pursuit of Agostini. While other organizations did express late interest (such as the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago Cubs), the relationship Washington built early on helped seal the deal on a reported signing bonus of $170,000 for the left-hander. Agostini is slated to begin his pro career in the Dominican Republic in 2021 with the Nationals’ Dominican Summer League rookie club.
Feel free to check out this recent post featuring another player the Nationals could be eyeing for the 2021 signing period.