Wave of Dominican prospects starts work in accelerated development program

Today is the first day of the accelerated development program for the Nationals prospects in Viera, Fla.

Earlier this week, we got an exclusive look at the roster, so now let’s break down some of those roster highlights.

Focusing on the pitchers, right-handers Lucas Giolito, Jake Johansen, Dakota Bacus and Austin Voth, and left-hander Brett Mooneyham are on this roster.

It will be intriguing to see how standout pitchers from the Dominican Republic, such as right-handers Pedro Encarnacion, Wirkin Estevez, Jefry Rodriguez and Wander Suero, and left-hander Hector Silvestre do in this program and where they end up by the end of the season.

I believe this will be the first significant wave of Dominican talent to start making a move up the Nationals chain with a good chance to see some of these guys in high Single-A Potomac soon. Reynaldo Lopez, 20, and Warner Madrigal, 29, round out the Dominican talent on the accelerated development roster.

Madrigal is the oldest pitcher in the program, while 19-year-olds Giolito and Matt Derosier, and 20-year-olds Lopez, John Costa and Rodriguez are the youngest.

There also are some imposing pitchers on this list with no less than six pitchers standing 6-foot-5 or taller and six pitchers 220 lbs. or bigger. Giolito (6-foot-6, 220 lbs.) and Johansen (6-foot-6, 235 lbs.), Ian Dickson (6--foot-5, 215 lbs.), Mooneyham (6-foot-5, 235 lbs.) and Nick Pivetta (6--foot-5, 220 lbs.) comprise this formidable list.

It is nice to see Spencer Kieboom back on the catching roster as he recovered from a right ulnar collateral ligament injury he suffered almost exactly a year ago. I have heard nothing but good things about Cole Leonida and the two Dominican backstops, Raudy Read and Pedro Severino. With Adrian Nieto lost in Rule 5 draft to White Sox, this group has a chance to move if it can play well.

The infielders offer two Dominicans as well, including 19-year-old Osvaldo Abreu and Wilmer Difo. Difo was able to showcase his strength pound-for-pound against other Nationals at the end of last season in their inaugural strength and conditioning program.

There are some movers on this list with vets like Cutter Dysktra, Jason Martinson, Shawn Pleffner and the recently acquired John Wooten. Tony Renda had a big year last season and 19-year-old Drew Ward expects to get a good look with low Single-A Hagerstown this season.

Cody Gunter, a 19-year-old lefty bat, and David Masters, 20, will be fun to watch, and switch-hitter Stephen Perez continues to learn and improve.

The outfielders in this group boast speed in newcomer Theo Bowe and Isaac Ballou, who made a nice splash at short-season Single-A Auburn and in Hagerstown last season. Vet Destin Hood is in this group, as well as Drew Vettleson, who was just acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays. Brandon Miller has experience in Potomac while Dominicans Narciso Mesa and Rafael Bautista will get a chance to turn heads early this season.

They have got some time before their opener against the Astros on March 4, so the coaches will have a good opportunity to work with each player and concentrate on their fundamentals and tendencies with intrasquad activities before the month comes to an end.

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