I’m admittedly not the most knowledgeable person when it comes to international free agency. If the Nats had given a sliver of effort in chasing IFAs since Smileygate went down, I may have shown some effort following IFAs myself. My interest level did bump up a little bit just now, though, as the Nationals have signed 16 year old Dominican 3B Neivy Pilier/Nievi Pelier (I’m sticking with Neivy Pilier for now) for $225,000 (the most they’ve given to an IFA since Smileygate).
Pilier is certainly an interesting prospect. DPLBaseball.com described him in October as a “solid bat with occasional power, defensive skills and arm strength” and today as a “hard nose (sic) player with game instincts…(with) raw power and shows signs that average game power will come with development.” DPL Baseball goes on to note that Pilier is only average with the glove, but has a very good arm, so he should be able to play the corners in both the infield and outfield as he develops. Matt Garrioch of Minor League Ball put Pilier close to the end of his 2012 MLB International Preview (61st out of 66 names), but it’s always better to be low on the list than not there at all.
Ben Badler of Baseball America put together a similar description of Pilier, saying he “has a quick bat with lift and occasional power in his right-handed swing, though he’s at his best when he stays with a line-drive approach and uses the middle of the field. He has a strong arm that fits well at third base, though with his youth and size he’s still trying to improve his footwork.” Both DPL Baseball and Badler note his connection to a well-known Dominican baseball trainer named Christian “Niche” Batista; Batista has produced top Giants prospect Gustavo Cabrera as well as Nationals farmhands Raudy Read and Randy Novas, amongst others of course.
16 year old signees are always going to be long-shots to be MLB contributors (or even AAA contributors in many cases), so this isn’t something that is too exciting, but it is nice to see the Nationals get back on the international stage at least attempting to sign quality players. With a $2.9 million international spending cap and few (if any) other significant signings so far, the Nationals still have plenty of room to be competitive with other major IFA prospects.
For more reading on the Nats and IFA’s, I would suggest checking out Brian Oliver’s overview from June at Nats Farm Authority as well as Adam Kilgore’s feature on the Nationals’ administrative and philosophical changes in the Dominican Republic back in 2011.