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Vettleson, Rivero come aboard to Nationals

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Vettleson, Rivero come aboard to Nationals

The biggest piece -- literally -- that the Nats got from the Tampa Bay Rays in return for pitching prospect Nate Karns is Jose Lobaton, the 6-foot, 210 lb catcher expected to compete for the backup backstop role with the big club.

But one of the lesser-known commodities that Washington received could end up making a much bigger impact down the road. 

Outfielder Drew Vettleson, 22, and Felipe Rivero, also 22, are likely still years away from from donning a Nationals uniform -- if they ever do. However, an American League source said over the phone that fans in Washington have reason for anticipation.

Vettleson, a plus defender with a cannon in right field, profiles as a strong 4th outfielder on a first-divison team, or as a second-division starter. The 2010 sandwich round pick makes solid contact and flashes gap power.

However, 15 home runs in 2012 became 4 homers last season, as he moved up to High-A Charlotte. Part of the problem may have been contextual: The Florida State League consistently features a dearth of offense, and advanced analytics had Vettleson hitting 12 home runs had he been in an offense-neutral league.

The jury remains out on how far his bat can take him -- but if all breaks right, his doubles power would make him a useful hitter in the lower half of the order.

Vettleson also swiped 20 bags in each of his first two minor league seasons. If he makes it to Washington, he'll make baserunners think twice about stretching singles from his spot in right thanks to an arm that brought a low-90s fastball in high school.

Rivero, a teammate of Vettleson's last year in Charlotte, went 9-7 with 91 strikeouts as a starter -- and, according to the source, "may be better than Karns -- right now."

Still, "his future is probably at the back end of the bullpen."

Capable of hitting 97 with his fastball, the lefty may lack the repertoire and the control for starting. He has experimented with a curve and a slider, but neither has yet developed into a reliable pitch. A fierce competitor who clamors for the ball in big situations, the Nats may find the most success by keeping him engaged in high-leverage, late-inning situations.

All of this is merely hope and conjecture -- but if things turn out the way Mike Rizzo and co. think they could, the Nats may have pulled one over one Tampa Bay, and nabbed a pair of key contributors in the process.  

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.

Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Bryce Harper had a homer and an RBI double.

Soto's drive highlighted a five-run second inning for Washington. The promising outfielder, who played for three minor league teams this season, hit the first pitch from Robbie Erlin (1-3) over the Nationals bullpen in left-center field. Soto also singled.

Soto's homer traveled an estimated 442 feet at Nationals Park. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd and the teenager responded by taking a curtain call. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.

Called up to Washington on Sunday, Soto became the first 19-year-old to make his major league debut since Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in 2016. He entered that game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

Washington's starting left fielder began the season at Class A Hagerstown. He hit a combined .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in his three minor league stops.

Gio Gonzalez (5-2) allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings.

San Diego's Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game, also hit his first career home run.

Trea Turner hit a pair of RBI doubles for Washington. Reynolds had three hits.

Erlin surrendered six runs and seven hits over four innings in his third start of the season. San Diego had won three in a row.

Reyes connected for a two-run homer in the fourth inning, but the Padres' lineup generated little else against Gonzalez, who allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision at San Diego on May 9.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.

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Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

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@MLB

Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

Juan Soto, the highly-regarded 19-year-old Nationals' prospect, got his first major league start of his career tonight. 

How did it go, you ask? Surely it would take Soto - who was in Single-A less than two weeks ago - some time to adjust? 

What were you doing at 19??

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.