Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Nationals make big mistake with Gonzalez
Oops. Looks like the Nationals have stepped in it again:
A top Washington Nationals prospect and recipient of the largest international signing bonus in team history is not who he appeared to be. Esmailyn Gonzalez, who is listed as 19 years old on the team's roster, is actually 23-year-old Carlos Alvarez Daniel Lugo, four sources have told SI.com.
The Nationals, owned by the Lerner family, gave the shortstop from the Dominican Republic a $1.4 million signing bonus on July 2, 2006, and trumpeted his arrival as a sign of their commitment to acquiring top-tier talent. (Players from Latin America are not subject to the draft and can sign with the team of their choice.) "This signing is symbolic of the Lerner family's and incoming club president Stan Kasten's pledge to become an industry leader in scouting and player development," Washington general manager Jim Bowden said at the time of the deal.
The revelation of Gonzalez's true age reduces his perceived value as a player. In 2008, his second season in the Gulf Coast (rookie) League, Gonzalez was named league MVP and won the league batting title, hitting .343. He was second in the league in on-base percentage (.431) and runs (42), and third in RBIs (33) and hits (62). One scout who has seen Gonzalez play, says, "Those are great numbers, but you should be hitting that well if you're that much older than your competition."
Well, let's put it this way
I have in my hands on John Sickels' new book, and Sickels gives Gonzalez a grade of C+, writing, "That grade will rise if he repeats this kind of performance against better pitching."
John thought Gonzalez was 19 last year. He was 22. A 22-year-old playing in the Gulf Coast League wouldn't deserve even a mention in the book, even by hitting .343. That sound you just heard was the Nationals flushing $1.4 million down the toilet.
And it's simply inexcusable. I know that $1.4 million isn't a lot of money to a modern baseball team, but a miss this big suggests dereliction of duty, and as result heads should fall.