It was great to get an update regarding shortstop Yasel Antuna after the young Nationals prospect was out of almost all games due to injury for more than a year. The 20-year-old Antuna lasted only three games last season for Rookie-level Gulf Coast League after playing in 87 games at low single-A Hagerstown in 2018.
MLBPipeline.com rates Antuna as the No. 12 Nats prospect in their 2020 top 30 list. He is a 6-foot infielder that hails from the southern coastal area of Peravia, Dominican Republic, and was signed on July 2, 2016.
Nationals minor league hitting coordinator Troy Gingrich said Antuna arrived early in spring training to West Palm Beach ready to play.
“He was down early, so we got to do a lot of work,” Gingrich said. “It was nice to have him healthy. It’s been 18 months. He hasn’t really been able to do anything. He tried to come back last year, but pulled a hamstring and a groin, so that delayed the process. But it’s just nice to have him healthy and see him smiling again. He’s enjoying it. He feels good.”
Antuna is unique in his ability to hit well from both sides of the plate. Gingrich said Antuna’s swing is identical from the left side and right side, making him a coveted switch-hitter.
“Yes, we will keep him a switch-hitter,” Gingrich said. “His swing (form) both sides is mirrored. I love that as a switch-hitter. His swings are almost identical. If he feels off right-handed, he can turn around and hit left-handed. He can kind of feel what makes him off right-handed and make adjustments quickly with that. It’s very easy for him. He’s been doing it for a long time. Both sides are mirrored, (so) you can watch one side and he can flip around and go to the other side and the swings are identical.”
Gingrich said the focus for Antuna this spring was to get him to use his lower and upper half together in his swing. Antuna worked very hard on loosening up his lower half to join together his legs with his arms in his approach.
“The big thing he has to work on is just getting connected,” Gingrich said. “He is tight from the hips down to his feet. So, a lot of times, his lower half doesn’t always work, so the strength guys are in there with him, stretching out his hips, getting him more flexible in his lower half. Just so he can fully rotate both sides.
“He’s another kid that we have that is very handsy. ... Left-handed, he is little ahead of himself, (more) than he is from the right side, being more connected. Once we get him comfortable knowing what he’s doing from both sides, he has a very, very nice swing. He just needs to play. We just need him to play some games.”
Antuna will get that shot when games return and could get time again at Hagerstown or even high Single-A Fredericksburg. He is an important prospect at a position where the Nats are looking to add quality depth.