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Nationals Johnny DiPuglia named International Scout of the Year

Nationals Johnny DiPuglia named International Scout of the Year

Both Juan Soto and Victor Robles were vital pieces to the 2019 Washington Nationals team that finished the season hoisting the Commissioner's Trophy as World Series champions.

Johnny DiPuglia -- the man who is largely responsible for both of the Nationals young, star outfielders in D.C. -- was named the International Scout of the Year, Major Leauge Baseball announced on Monday.

Earlier this month, he was promoted to assistant general manager in charge of international operations. He had previously served as the Nationals vice president of international scouting.

The Nationals acquired both Soto and Robles as international free agents, rather than through the annual June Amateur Draft. When the Nationals signed Soto, it was the most they had spent on any international free agent in team history.

DiPuglia scouted Soto when he was just 15 years old, and Washington signed him a year later for $1.5 million in 2015. 

In an interview with NBC Sports Washington earlier this year, DiPuglia admitted not even he could have predicted Soto's rise to stardom so quickly.

"[Nationals field coordinator] Tommy Shields is a guy that I talk to quite a bit. He loved the kid," DiPuglia told NBC Sports Washington. "He kept telling me 'this kid is gonna be special.' I had an inkling that he was, but you keep hearing it from [people]. I kept seeing the maturation process speed up. This kid was just unbelievable at the plate."

Soto just turned 21 during the World Series, but already has two big league seasons with a .900-plus OPS under his belt. In 2019, he posted a slash mark of .282/.401/.548 with 34 home runs and 110 RBI.

Robles signed with the Nationals in 2013 and has been in the organization since. He made his MLB debut in 2017, but the 2019 season with his first full year in the big leagues. Robles slashed 255/.326/.419 with 17 home runs and 65 RBI in 2019 while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense in centerfield.

Soto and Robles are two of the most important components of the future of the Nationals organization. After their stellar 2019 campaigns, DiPuglia, the man who orchestrated it all, is deserving of the award.

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Astros players plan to make a team statement on sign-stealing scandal during Spring Training

Astros players plan to make a team statement on sign-stealing scandal during Spring Training

The Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal has rocked MLB and left a dark shadow over the league during offseason. Up until this point, despite a fired general manager and on-field manager, the players at the root of the scandal have remained silent on the subject and avoided questions from the media.

That will all change in Spring Training as the Astros players plan to make "a strong statement as a team," according to Astros' owner Jim Crane. 

"When we get down to Spring Training, we'll all get them together and they'll come out with a strong statement as a team and apologize for what happened and we'll move forward," Crane said in a media scrum.

Over the weekend the team held their annual winter FanFest where several players had to face the music as many players met with the media for the first time. Jose Altuve, who is one of the players who allegedly benefited from the sign-stealing, dodged the question as best he could. The Astros shortstop's comments coincide with Crane's, saying “I think the time to comment about that will come. It’s a little early for me to say something about it.” 

Outside of their FanFest event, there is little that has come out of the clubhouse. Their owner acknowledged the lack of communication from the players and said the players were advised to stay out of the conversation. 

"The players have been beaten up a little bit and they've been all spread out. They've just kinda getting [sic] advice to take it easy."

Already Spring Training in West Palm Beach is going to be awkward between the two teams that made the World Series last season. The Nationals, who won the World Series whether or not the Astros used their system to gain an advantage, have their facilities next door to Houston's.

And if the Astros sign former Nationals' manager Dusty Baker to the same position in wake of A.J. Hinch's firing, there will be even more tense situations at Spring Training this year. 

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MLB Rumors: Braves reportedly agree to one-year contract with OF Marcell Ozuna

MLB Rumors: Braves reportedly agree to one-year contract with OF Marcell Ozuna

The Braves had a massive hole in the middle of their lineup after Josh Donaldson signed a four-year, $92 million contract with the Twins last week. 

In response, the Nationals' biggest rival in the NL East has reportedly agreed to a one-year, $18 million deal with outfielder Marcell Ozuna. 

The Braves and Nationals both have to focus on replacing significant production at third base with Donaldson and Anthony Rendon moving on with lucrative contracts. The Nationals acquired Starlin Castro, brought back Howie Kendrick and Asdrubal Cabrera and are hoping for a big step forward from Victor Robles. 

With Ozuna, the Braves may have a better chance at replacing Donaldson in the lineup than the Nationals have with replacing Rendon. 

In two seasons with the Cardinals, Ozuna posted a .262/.327/.451 slash line with 52 home runs and 177 RBI. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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