The Nationals’ early camp roster is set for 2017. The team will separate into teams for intrasquad matchups beginning next week.
Nationals director of player development Mark Scialabba says each member of this roster came in looking in good shape and several are physically stronger than they were last season. In particular, the college players drafted in June 2016 have made strides.
“To a man, they are all in incredible shape,” Scialabba noted. “They have worked extremely hard. We’ve seen some guys like Sheldon Neuse really put himself in much better physical position. Nick Banks looks strong, physical. Daniel Johnson, as well. Kelvin Gutierrez looks really good physically as well. Pitching side, guys just continue to build off the programs. We will see some live bullpens here shortly and we will get to see these guys compete a little bit.
“Some guys from the draft, we are seeing what an offseason can do. Building off the strength and conditioning program we have in the year. They have really taken that and putting their bodies in the best shape possible. We are excited about that.”
Scialabba says the Nationals will schedule those intrasquad games starting around March 5. With their new location in West Palm Beach, he said they are still looking around at other teams that might have early camp-style rosters where they could set up exhibition games. The Astros, who share the new complex with the Nationals, do not have a similar program.
In our preview, we will break down the early camp roster by position. As was the case last year, Scialabba is very excited about the position players, and we begin with the outfielders, especially No. 1 Nats prospect Victor Robles. The 19-year-old hit a combined .280 over 105 games between low Single-A Hagerstown and high Single-A Potomac, with 17 doubles, eight triples, nine homers, 37 stolen bases and 42 RBIs.
“(It’s) the outfielders, how athletic and toolsy these kids are and the very sound approach they have offensively,” Scialabba said. “Obviously, the person with the highest expectations and we feel like is still improving in all areas is Victor Robles. Then you have the young, advanced hitter, a very mature young man in Juan Soto.
“You talk about some of the other up-and-coming players like Blake Perkins and the two left-handed hitters from the draft last year in Nick Banks and Johnson. Could be a really exciting group probably breaking in Hagerstown. That level could be very exciting with some of the athletes that you’re going to have there. Along with a guy like Carter Kieboom, potentially. Kieboom came back in terrific shape, as well. He is really doing a nice job for us at shortstop right now. We haven’t gotten into games but you see the tools, the ability and the athleticism in these men and its pretty impressive.”
Telmito Agustin, 20, makes his way to the early camp roster this season and brings an advanced swing.
“Telmito’s tools are his bat. He’s got very good hitting instincts,” Scialabba said. “Barrels up the ball. Approach is mostly middle away, but he is someone that continuing to work on trying to use the whole field. But we like the way he takes his at-bats. He’s got no fear at the plate. He’s someone that can go out in the outfield and play multiple positions but is someone also that has a knack for hitting. That’s kind of his separator. He really barrels up the ball well.”
The other outfielders in the camp are Rhett Wiseman, Yadiel Hernandez and Armond Upshaw. Wiseman was at Hagerstown last season. Hernandez is a 29-year-old Cuban and Upshaw was with the Rookie-level Gulf Coast Nationals.