I continued my visit with Nationals minor league roving coordinator and former Triple-A Syracuse manager Billy Gardner Jr. and asked him about the breadth of Dominican talent that the organization continues to stockpile.
In their 2018 Nationals prospect watch, MLB.com has Victor Robles and Juan Soto listed No. 1 and No. 2. Shortstop/third baseman shortstop Luis Garcia is at No. 6 and infielder Yasel Antuna is at No. 7. Gardner said all of these players have improved each season, which is the best compliment the Nationals coordinators can be give them.
“I really have (been impressed),” Gardner told me. “It starts at the top with (general manager and president of baseball operations) Mike (Rizzo) and (vice president international operations) Johnny DiPuglia has done an outstanding job of bringing the talent. You look at (Victor) Robles, obviously you got (Juan) Soto, you got the kids - (Luis) Garcia and (Yasel) Antuna. It’s a really good stable of young players, good athletes, live body type guys who at some point are going to make an impact on our major league club.”
On this list at No. 24 is right-handed reliever Wander Suero, who was named organizational pitcher of the year last season.
Gardner has been told the 26-year-old Suero’s straight changeup has really improved. Gardner says the changeup has fade and deception and Suero could make an impact with the Nationals this season.
“I think he could,” Gardner said. “What he does is he is a strike thrower. He’s got a very good cutter, along with breaking ball that he can spin, and a changeup. He has three pitches that are very effective, he can throw all of them for strikes. He controls the running game. He fields his position really well and he has no fear on the mound. He has a lot of things we really like. He’s not too far away.”
Suero went 3-1 with a 1.70 ERA last season in his time at Syracuse. In five spring training games, Suero did not allow a run over four innings and recorded seven strikeouts. If he doesn’t break camp with the Nationals this spring, it is likely he will get a shot as a call-up during the season.