Over a quarter of the players rostered across Major League Baseball to begin the 2022 season were born outside the United States with the Nationals among the most internationally heavy teams, MLB announced in a press release Thursday.
Washington enters the year with 15 international players from six different countries between their Opening Day roster and injured lists. Only the Houston Astros (16) have more.
President of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo has led the overhaul of the Nationals’ international pipeline throughout his tenure, working with assistant GM Johnny DiPuglia to revive a side of their organization once riddled with controversy. Their biggest success stories include Dominican outfielders Juan Soto and Victor Robles with Joan Adon (also from the DR) cracking the starting rotation out of camp this spring.
“Mike and Johnny DiPuglia, they do a great job on scouting and scouting internationally,” manager Davey Martinez said Friday. “We try to get the best players. That’s what it comes down to and to me, it doesn’t matter where they come from. It really doesn’t, but it’s nice. I’ll tell you one thing is that I really am brushing up on my Spanish.”
The countries represented on the Nationals’ roster include Venezuela (six players), the Dominican Republic (five), Cuba (one), Panama (one), Mexico (one) and the Bahamas (one). Nine signed with the club in free agency, two arrived in trades, three joined as amateur free agents and infielder Lucius Fox was claimed off waivers this offseason.
Their various backgrounds have made for a unique clubhouse, one that Martinez said has shown strong chemistry early on.
“Some of these older Latin guys have taken on some of these younger Latin kids and really helping them really getting them to understand because it is difficult,” Martinez said. “The culture is different here [in the U.S.] and some of these guys [are] first time in the majors leagues full time. First Opening Day, I heard Nelly tell Adon and those guys, ‘Hey, take a look around. Enjoy it. This doesn’t happen every day and let’s have fun.’ It was good to see that.”
Latin American veterans such as Nelson Cruz and Aníbal Sánchez have taken on leadership roles on a Nationals team that’s shifted its priorities toward prioritizing youth development. Sánchez has seen division in some clubhouses where a majority of players were from similar backgrounds, so he’s tried to help bridge the bond between teammates that speak different languages.
“For me, it’s try to help everybody because not many teams have so many Latin players but at the end I think we need to understand that we have to play for a team,” Sánchez said. “When we have a lot of people from the same place or something like that, it’s sometimes really hard to focus. But at the end, if you share that bond it’s really awesome playing together. So, for me, I would like that everybody understand if we stay together we can have so much fun outside.”