Centerfielder Cristian Vaquero has established himself as one of the top international amateur prospects for the Class of 2021. Today, Baseball America broke the news that the 16 year old has been rumored and tied to a commitment to the Washington Nationals, but this cannot become official until the next international free agent signing period which is expected in July or it could be pushed back to January as we saw happened during the 2020 season.
“The Nationals paid the top bonus for a 16-year-old international prospect in the 2020-21 signing class, when they spent most of their bonus pool money on Dominican shortstop Armando Cruz. In the next signing period, it looks like they’re going to invest most of their pool space into one player again, this time with Vaquero the headliner,” Baseball America wrote.
Also, it appears Vaquero has committed to the Boras Agency for representation if you trust social media posts as he was previously tied to the Republik Sports agency. His updated social media posts seem to confirm both choices as he is seen wearing a Boras shirt in his most recent photo on Instagram, as well as several photos in Nats gear.
Ben Badler, Senior Writer for Baseball America, released his 2021-22 International Big Board today, which currently lists Vaquero as BA’s No. 1 prospect in terms of projected bonuses.
Our first international prospect board for the 2021-22 class is up today at Baseball America.
An overview of some of the top 2021 players with reports, teams and videos.https://t.co/JykXtBM35s
— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) March 2, 2021
Originally from Havana, Cuba, Vaquero eventually made his way to the Dominican Republic in order further develop his baseball skills. Vaquero trains under the guidance of the Javier Rodriguez Academy outside of Santo Domingo Este.
The lean, lanky, 6’3 Vaquero began showing advanced baseball ability at an early age. He made his first Cuban National Team at the age of eleven. Cuban National Team competition took him to events at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex as well as to Chicago. It was there he had the opportunity to meet fellow Cuban Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox, giving him a taste of what professional baseball is like in the States.
He was born into an athletically accomplished family. His mother Elizabeth competed as a swimmer on the Cuban National Team. Also, while in Cuba, his father competed nationally in Judo.
Below: Video of Cristian Vaquero running the 60, throwing from the outfield and hitting:
Vaquero has forged his own path in baseball, though, and it’s not hard to see why he’s drawn the attention of so many scouts and prospect enthusiasts. His lanky frame figures to fill out nicely in time, and he’s likely to settle in somewhere around 6’4” and 215 pounds. Despite his present thin build, his swing already stands out for his bat speed, the looseness of his hands, and how well he’s able to engage his lower half. The bat speed is already close to average, and both his bat speed and power figure to be plus attributes in time. Further, Vaquero employs a leg kick as a timing mechanism, and it’s one that he’s already able to sync up with regularity. Though any player signed at age sixteen carries an immense amount of risk, the building blocks of Vaquero are exciting and these are components teams should be betting on when signing young offensive talent.
Presently, Vaquero has the pure speed to play centerfield with numerous 60 yard dash times in the 6.4-6.5 range. With his future growth potential, there’s a chance he might move to a corner outfield position with the added mass sapping some speed. Some taller players like Dexter Fowler and Bradley Zimmer have maintained the speed to stay in center through their late 20’s. Even if Vaquero is ever pushed off of centerfield, his plus arm will be a great fit in right field.
Vaquero receives high praise for his maturity and his intelligence. He has studied English for three years. He also spent a portion of his youth living in the Republic of Angola. His trainer, Javier Rodriguez, sees a player like Cristian Vaquero as very unique in his ability to make adjustments. He says Vaquero absorbs information quickly and that he is coachable. Vaquero has always been considered physically big for his age. This has afforded him the opportunity to face older, more advanced competition. Rodriguez says in all his time spent training players, he has never had one with the total package athletically as Vaquero, who he likes to call “El Fenomino” which translates in English to “The Phenomenon.”
“I want to say that I thank God, my parents, and the coaches of this Academy, mainly Javier [Rodriguez] for everything that I am living in these moments,” Vaquero told Steve Mears of TalkNats.
In January of 2020, Vaquero got to visit the Nats complex in the Dominican Republic, and got to meet Juan Soto and Victor Robles (photo below) and work out with them.
“That was a great experience meeting them since they were able to advise me, and I liked practicing with them,” Vaquero continued.
“I will work hard and continue to work on hitting from both sides of the plate. I have good coaching and look to continue to get better.”
As for Major League organizations, Vaquero has obviously received plenty of attention from scouts responsible for covering Latin America. Thus far, the Washington Nationals have appeared to be the most aggressive club in looking to secure Vaquero as the crown jewel of their 2021 signing class. You can follow Cristian Vaquero on Instagram at @cristian_vaquero_21 and see him dressed in Nats gear.
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According to a conversation between Steve Mears of TalkNats and Armando Cruz, the teenager confirmed that he and Vaquero are already friends as seen in a photo taken over a year ago at the Ágora Mall together in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Cruz, as most remember, was the Nats top signing in the international free agent period that began in January.
Turns out that Armando Cruz & Cristian Vaquero are already good friends.
— Talk Nats ⚾ (@TalkNats) March 2, 2021
Check out this recent post where we provided a breakdown on an intriguing Class of 2020 international signee of the Washington Nationals organization. This piece was part of a larger three-part series we did in a collaboration with TalkNats.com, the leading community blog of the Washington Nationals.