Nationals minor league pitching coordinator Brad Holman has insight on a couple of younger prospects who have reached the top 10 in the Nationals top 30 prospect list according to MLBPipeline.com, pitchers Andry Lara and Eddy Yean.
Lara is only 17 and demonstrated the raw talent that the Nationals respect from instructional league in October to this spring training in February and March. Lara is 6-foot-4 and 180 lbs. out of Coro, Venezuela. The right-hander was the top-rated (No. 16) signing last July 2 for the Nationals’ international class, enjoying a $1.25 million signing bonus.
No. 5 Andry Lara
“Lara is so much of a baby he’s still got baby fat,” Holman said. “He’s really in a place where he is learning and learning a lot in a short amount of time. ... I think he probably just got tired (in his) first year of pro ball and then coming in this year, he’s just super talented with that inconsistency in there. He will make four good pitches and then all of sudden one of them will just spray and miss by a lot. I am sure it’s just a youthful thing. With more reps, he’s just going to get stronger and he’s going to be able to focus better and he gets older.”
Holman has taught Lara how to harness his elite stuff and adjust on the fly. The youngster is progressing well from this coaching.
“His fastball is mid-90s mph and just once and a while he will like overthrow it a tick and catch a little misfire and yank it left,” Holman said. “He’s just learning how to make adjustments and how to get back on track when he’s off. But he makes a lot of really good pitches, too. It’s (all about) just becoming more consistent for him and, of course, he is just a baby. He just turned 17.”
No. 6 Eddy Yean
Right next to Lara on the list is 6-foot-1 right-hander Eddy Yean out of Sabana Grande de Boya, Dominican Republic. The 18-year-old got Holman’s attention with a very good breaking pitch from a unique delivery.
“Eddy Yean is like a three-quarter slot pitcher,” Holman said. “So far to this point, he has made it look pretty easy. He’s got an incredible arm. He can spin a breaking ball. He’s got good instincts. A good example was last year he figured out that he could throw a two-seamer and it would move. So he started kind of relying on that a lot. He continues to hone his arm strength. ...
“We just got to watch him and make sure that whatever he is doing is productive for the sake of his future, not necessarily to get outs now. With him, it’s just kind of focusing on the big picture and helping him to understand who he needs to be as a major leaguer. That sometimes we might push him in a direction that doesn’t necessarily make him successful now, but in hopes that it will make him a better major leaguer.”
The Nats want him to be a pitcher and not just a thrower.
“He can throw a really good two-seamer and that’s fine,” Holman said. “We are going to help him become who he is going to be as a major leaguer, like I said, but at the same time, we don’t want to take from what he’s been blessed with in his arm strength. So to be able to create that delicate balance where you’re developing him without taking away from what he does well.”
Watching these teenagers perform so well in their first full years as pros gives Holman pause to appreciate what the Nats have accomplished each year in their Latin American scouting.
“It’s crazy to me how polished these guys are now at such a young age,” Holman said. “I think back to my own career - when I was 16 years old, I was big around as broom stick and no strength and just raw, sloppy delivery. These guys are strong as horses and they are already pitching a little bit and all got exceptional stuff. Kudos to our draft department, too, because we’ve got some horses. Some guys with big size and strong arms and cerebral and they are good people.”
It will be fun to see how Lara and Yean improve as the season progresses. At No. 5 and No. 6 on this list, they are important parts of the Nats’ future from the mound, and they have some time to learn their craft at the professional level.