This is a free preview of content that is normally reserved for premium users.
Drafted by the Nationals in the fifth round of the 2008 Draft.
Weight: 200 pounds
November 12, 1989
Gulf Coast League Nationals
American Heritage HS (Florida)
There are few young players who can tell the stories that Adrian Nieto has to
offer. His family defected from Cuba when he was just four years old and spent
13 hours on a rickety old boat that was drifting aimlessly in the middle of the
ocean when they were found by the Coast Guard. Nieto went from that tumultuous
start to hitting two home runs to help his high school team win the Florida
state championship. And from there, Nieto turned that into becoming a fifth
round pick of the Nationals last June to start his pro career.
Nieto's baseball career started shortly after he arrived in the United
States, but back in those days, he wasn't a catcher. He played shortstop and
also spent some time on the mound before heading behind the plate when he was 13
or 14. Nieto told Scout.com that he was a good shortstop, but as he started to
develop he was a little too slow to play the position as well as he had in the
Batting and Power: Nieto was initially a right-handed hitter, but
picked up switch-hitting and as he's developed, it's almost impossible to tell
which side was his original side. He took to switch-hitting thanks, in part, to
Ken Griffey Jr. A friend of Nieto's - who happened to hit left-handed - had the
Ken Griffey Swing-A-Way batting trainer and it became too much of an issue to
switch the machine for Nieto to hit right-handed. He simply decided to keep the
machine the way it was and learn to hit left-handed. All of that was at the age
of nine. In his first game hitting left-handed, Nieto went 3-for-3 with three
home runs and never looked back. One key to Nieto's offensive success is being
smart enough to figure out what pitchers are trying to do to him. He's got
average to slightly above average power to all fields and from both sides of the
Baserunning and Speed: His speed started to decline as he developed
and had to give up playing shortstop. Nieto doesn't have great speed and won't
steal many bases, but his natural instincts for the game carry over to
baserunning and he doesn't run into many jams.
Defense: Nieto admits that he was a little unprepared for catching in
the Gulf Coast League. His first few games behind the plate, he was stabbing at
pitches and underestimated the movement that the pitchers would get on their
breaking balls. Sinkers were especially tough for Nieto, but he quickly started
to develop the skills that he needed defensively. By the end of the season,
Nieto actually had pitchers coming up to him to find out if he was going to be
catching them that day. When pitchers want to throw to a particular catcher, you
have to know that his defensive skills are above average. The only area of his
defense that will need more work is his footwork. The plus is that Nieto knows
his shortcomings and has a good enough work ethic that he'll conquer the problem
Projection: Don't be fooled by Nieto's numbers in 2008. First, he had
just 23 at bats and second, there is a lot of adjusting for a high school player
to do when he turns pro. This is a young kid with a lot of tools and he has a
brilliant future ahead of him. He's likely going to wind up being a defensive
catcher in the realm of Ivan Rodriguez and have plenty of offense to go with the
ETA: Even with his tough start to pro ball, Nieto believes that he can
reach the majors in three or four years. He's going to be the type of player
that starts off as a bit of a project until all of a sudden he starts putting up
big numbers and likely starts skipping a level here and there. Look for Nieto to
be pushing for a major league spot around 2013.
Comparison: The comparisons to a young Ivan Rodriguez are worth
making. Rodriguez has always been a player who concentrates on his defensive
skills and has all of the natural offensive skills that he needs to be
successful. Nieto's offensive skills may not be quite where Rodriguez was in his
prime, but he'll be putting up good enough numbers that he'll be considered a
serious offensive threat.
*Publisher's note: Baseball America recently ranked Adrian Nieto as the
eighth best prospect in the Nationals organization, while D.C. Baseball News has
him at 24. You may ask "why the difference?" DCBN judges players partly on
potential, but takes a bit of a skeptical look at players in their first pro
season. We prefer to see more of them in the pro level before we anoint them
with a high ranking. The pro ranks are quite an adjustment for a young player,
especially one coming to the pros from high school and we give preference to
players who have a couple of pro seasons under their belt when putting together
our rankings. Our ranking is not indicative of the potential that we see in
Nieto or other young players in their first season of pro ball.
If you're not a premium subscriber, you'll miss out on information like this and much more on the Washington Nationals organization. Don't be left on the outside looking in. Sign up for your premium content today. Remember, all of our subscription plans come with a seven-day money back guarantee.
Current premium subscribers - and you too, if you sign up today - can read our exclusive interview with Adrian Nieto: We Haven't Seen The Best Of Nieto.