The Nationals continue to do a very good job of fortifying their roster with quality prospects who started out at their Dominican baseball academy.
It is one main reason why MLBPipeline.com has ranked the Nationals’ international prospects in their top 10 in Major League Baseball. In a recent ranking, the Nats overall system was rated No. 5 in the top 10 of the 2010’s.
Being in the right place at the right time for Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg had a lot to do with that, but so did the Nats’ ability to find top-flight prospects in the Dominican Republic, with Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Wander Suero being the most prominent examples.
Many of these top prospects for the Nationals were introduced to pro baseball at the club’s Dominican academy. Nats minor league pitching coordinator Brad Holman appreciates the importance of the academy in building the organization’s prospect roster.
“Looking at the guys that have come through that academy who are in our organization, it’s pretty special,” Holman said. “Not just (assistant general manager) Johnny (DiPuglia) but his staff and all the coaches that are down there grinding. It’s a tough gig.”
Holman said one major reason it is a tough job is that the scouts who work in the field hear often from coaches claiming their young player is the next big thing. The scout has to figure out which prospect is legit and which prospect might be fool’s gold.
“You’ve got a bunch of people telling you what you want to hear about certain individuals, and you have to be able to use your own eyes and decipher what’s true and what’s not,” Holman said. “They get those kids when they are 16 years old and project them to be major leaguers. I just don’t see how they do it, but they are really good at it.”
The club works their prospects hard in the field, but also in the classroom, teaching English as a second language as a requirement to be a part of the Nats organization.
“That’s another thing this organization does well,” Holman said. “They get those kids to take Rosetta Stone. It’s like continuing education, they have to take tests. If they don’t past the test, they hold them accountable. The English language is held in very high regard. They put these guys in a place where they can really learn, especially if they’re adamant about it.”
At one point a few seasons back, the Nats had more prospects from foreign countries than from the United States, a testament to the outstanding recruiting the organization has done over the years outside the 50 states. This next wave of international prospects is critical to filling out Nats rosters down the road, with an eye toward quality over quantity.