The Washington Nationals farm system has had an influx of talent recently and it looks like they may be adding two more top-level guys to the organization.
Back in March Baseball America put out a new International Big Board and it had the Nationals linked to their top international prospect Christian Vaquero. Vaquero is a 16-year-old outfielder that has been given the nickname “The Phenomenon” on the international circuit. He looks like he has all the potential in the world to live up to that nickname. At such a young age he is already 6 foot 3 and 180 pounds. He will certainly continue to fill out as time goes on. On the field, he has a solid left-handed swing and has also begun experimenting with being a switch hitter. Defensively Baseball America says,
"Vaquero is a dynamic center fielder with plus speed, a strong arm and good defensive instincts for his age."
Obviously, this is huge in itself to bring in another elite-level prospect, but things got even more interesting with MLB Pipeline’s most recent international rankings.
Two top 10 International Prospects?
On the original International Big Board on Baseball America they had us tied to Vaquero and also mentioned that the Nationals were the favorites to sign Venezuelan Outfielder Anthony Gutierrez in the following signing period as they expected him to wait until next year to sign. Now MLB Pipeline has him signing this year and they say he has one of the best right-handed bats in the class.
He is another outfielder with a lot of potential and he ranks as the 6th best international prospect according to MLB Pipeline. His trainer in the Dominican Republic also trained Eloy Jimenez and Rafael Devers and according to MLB Pipeline Gutierrez shows similar skills at his age. He is still linked with the Nationals and the combo of Vaquero and Gutierrez in the same signing class is an amazing thing to think about.
Don’t get too excited just yet
Vaquero is all but a guarantee to sign with the team, as he is already in his Nationals gear and practicing at their academy. The only thing I could see stopping his signing is if something changes in regards to international signings when the new collective bargaining agreement is settled. Gutierrez on the other hand is a little more concerning. The main reason for concern is the international pool.
In the 2017-2021 CBA each team starts with a pool of $4.75 million and that can go up or down based on luxury tax spending, trading, or having comp picks in the draft. So assuming CBA rules stay close to similar and the Nationals walk into this singing period with around $4.75 million then the question is can they sign both of these top players. The truth is a lot will go into that answer but looking at past signings similar to their rankings, it might be difficult.
Those signings range from a $5 million dollar bonus for the 2019 #2 prospect Robert Pauson to prospects like Cristian Hernandez and our own Armando Cruz who signed for around $4 Million. Obviously, that math does not look good for us as there is no way we would be able to fit two signings of that size into our international pool. That is not to say that it is impossible as a lot could still happen.
The CBA could increase pool size or the Nationals could trade for some more international pool money. Right now I would say that the chances of signing Vaquero are at >95% while Gutierrez is looking more like a 50/50 shot. The good news is MLB Pipeline still has us linked to both and Vaquero alone would be a huge boost to our system. It is going to be an interesting winter Nationals fans.