Winter ball updates on Robles and Barrera, plus other notes

Center fielder Victor Robles is hitting well in the first week of Dominican Winter League play, slashing .316 with a .908 OPS. He has one homer, two RBIs and only three strikeouts in 19 at-bats over five games for Aguilas Cibaenas. Emilio Bonifacio is hitting .300 in three games and Wilmer Difo is hitting .250 over five games.

Right-hander Paolo Espino did not allow a run for Toros del Este in his first appearance, with one hit, one walk and one strikeout. Espino made his major league debut for the Nats this season, starting once and appearing in two games.

Outfielder Yadiel Hernández is hitting .324 with a .985 OPS, three homers and 12 RBIs for Naranjares de Hermosillo in the Mexican Pacific League. He has already played in 21 games.

Barrera-Postgame-High-Fives-Sidebar.jpgHere is catcher Tres Barrera lining a single to right-center for Escogido in the Dominican Winter League. Their Twitter account (@EscogidoBBClub) does a nice job with game highlights. He went 2-for-4 in that game and is hitting .231.

Espino, Difo and Bonifacio are currently free agents while the others are on the Nats' 40-man roster.

* Free agent Michael Brantley would be a good fit with the Nationals, but it looks like he's on track to return to the Astros, according to a recent report from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. A left-handed-hitting outfielder who can also play first base is a coveted commodity for the Nats in the free agent market this winter.

Brantley hit .300 with five homers and 22 RBIs in 2020 and has a career Wins Above Replacement of 30.2. Brantley is a four-time All-Star and earned a Silver Slugger in 2014, but the Astros feels like they still have the young pitching to contend now and need to keep his bat in the lineup with the likely departure of George Springer.

* transactions last week reported the Nats signed right-hander Matthew Merrill to a minor league contract. He pitched for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Astros in 2017 but was released in May 2018. He appeared in six games and started two, accumulating only 9 1/3 innings, going 1-1 with an 11.57 ERA.

Perfect Game had this report on the 6-foot-4, 202-lb., hurler back in 2016: "Has a large frame, large build, and clear sign of present strength with projection left. Posted a 7.21 second sixty-yard dash. On the mound, showed a good arm speed from a high, three-quarter arm slot with good extension out front, arm works well. Slight crossfire because of closed landing delivery with good extension out front. Fastball has good sinking action. Curveball had 11/5 shape with big breaking action. Does a nice job of turning over the changeup. Goes right after hitters, very efficient."

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