Report: Nationals eyeing Cuban Vaquero on international front

When the new international signing period begins, likely in January, the Nationals are expected to make a big splash to sign one of the top outfielders in the class.

Baseball America reports the Nationals are expected to use most of their pool money on Cuban outfielder Cristian Vaquero, a 16-year-old left-handed hitter.

"Vaquero is a dynamic center fielder with plus speed, a strong arm and good defensive instincts for his age," Baseball America wrote, listing Vaquero as the player who will likely receive the top bonus in the next international cycle. "At the plate he has a sound lefthanded swing and a chance to grow into plus power, with a lean, projectable frame for those already impressive tools to get better as he gets stronger."

baseballs-in-bin-sidebar.jpgShould the Nats commit most of their international pool money to Vaquero, a 6-foot-2 170-pounder from Havana, it would be the second consecutive signing period that they have used this strategy to sign a coveted player. In January, they signed Dominican shortstop Armando Cruz to a record $3.9 million bonus.

The international signing period usually begins in July, but will likely be moved to next January. The Nationals' financial commitment to Vaquero is unknown, as is the total of the team's international bonus pool for the next cycle.

Vaquero is expected to fill out his lanky frame, but possesses good bat speed and uses a leg kick as a timing mechanism. Some evaluators think Vaquero could eventually move from center field to a corner outfield spot, if he loses speed as he adds muscle, but a plus arm would be a strength in left or right fields.

He has reportedly committed to be represented by The Boras Corporation.

Triple-A season delayed: Major League Baseball will delay the start of the Triple-A season by about a month. The Triple-A campaigns that were supposed to start on April 6 will now be delayed until early May, with teams beginning their seasons on May 4 or May 6. Games that were scheduled from April 6 onward will not be made up.

The Nationals will have their Triple-A affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., this season after two campaigns with Fresno as their top farm club. Now, minor league seasons in Triple-A, Double-A, high Single-A and low Single-A all will begin in early May.

"This is a prudent step to complete the major league and minor league seasons as safely as possible, and we look forward to having fans back in ballparks across the country very soon," Morgan Sword, MLB's executive vice-president of baseball operations, said in a statement.

Additionally, the alternate training sites used by MLB teams during the shortened 2020 season will return at the start of the 2021 season. The Nationals used Fredericksburg, Va., as their alternate camp site last year. It is unknown how many players will be assigned to alternate camps while players await the start of the minor league seasons. Last year, teams designated a 60-man player pool with those players not in the major leagues or on the major league taxi squad assigned to the alternate camp sites.

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