Nationals sign four prospects

Nats sign four prospects

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals agreed to terms on professional contracts with catcher Sandy Leon, shortstop Adrian Sanchez, center fielder Jesus Morales and first baseman Juan Urdaneta on Wednesday. All four players are from Venezuela.

The news comes three days after assistant general manager Mike Rizzo and amateur scouting director Dana Brown conducted private workouts in Maracaibo, Venezuela.

Sanchez, Morales and Urdaneta most likely will start their professional careers in the Dominican Summer League, while Leon will make his debut with the Gulf Coast Nationals.

Leon, 17, is a switch hitter, who has above-average skills behind the plate. He is expected to learn the art of catching from assistant general manager Bob Boone, a prolific catcher from 1972-90.

"Being a switch hitter makes Leon more attractive," Rizzo said. "There is not a lot of guys like that running around in the world."

Sanchez, 16, is also a switch hitter. According to Rizzo, Sanchez already looks polished with the glove.

"He really has good instincts on the field. He has great hands," Rizzo said of Sanchez. "He has an above-average throwing arm. He is very fluid with his actions. He has great range and balance on defense. He has all of the signs of being a premier defensive player. What he needs now is strength like most 16-year-olds."

Morales, 17, is a left-handed hitter and has a chance to be the best player out of the four signed on Wednesday.

"He is very tools-oriented player," Rizzo said. "He is [more] kind of an unpolished gem than Sandy or Adrian, but he has a very high ceiling, probably as high of a ceiling as any of the four. Morales has an above-average throwing arm and he really has long strides in center field. He swings the bat well. We just have to clean him up a little bit."

Urdaneta, 17, is another left-handed hitter. He is 6-foot-4, 170 pounds.

"He has a big left-handed swing with power potential," Rizzo said. "If we teach him the finer points of hitting and grows into that 6-foot4 frame, he could be some kind of power hitting prospect for us."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.