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Washington Nationals: Yunesky Maya Named Dominican Winter League Pitcher Of The Year.

In a May 20, 2010 post at entitled, "Maya Unblocked, Yankees Interested", writer Nick Collias discussed possible destinations for Cuban-born right-hander Yunesky Maya, a then-28-year-old defector who would soon be available league-wide as an international free agent. Mr. Collias said quotes he'd read from Maya and his agent left him with the impression that it was important that, "...teams approach Maya as a polished talent who is big-league ready right now." In introducing the right-hander to the D.C. press corps on July 31, 2010, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo described the starter as not only the team's "first major international signing" but also someone, "...we think is going to impact our major league ballclub immediately." Maya, who described himself as, "an aggressive pitcher who pounds the strike zone and a guy that hits the corners with good command," also said he hoped, " be able to help out at the major league level as soon as possible."

The right-handed pitcher who signed with Washington for 4-years and $8 million dollar after what the Nats described in a press release touting the signing as, "a stellar career in the Cuban National Series, which is Cuba's Major League Baseball equivalent," where he pitched for the Pinar Del Rio Vegueros, and, "...earned Cuba's equivalent of the Cy Young during his final season in his homeland, going 13-4 with seven complete games and a 2.22 ERA."

The Nats' General Manager said the pitcher had been scouted by, "...five separate scouts on separate occasions, during international competition over the years, [and] most recently during the World Baseball Classic," and, Mr. Rizzo added, "...we had multiple reports on him and we scouted him very in-depth in the Dominican Republic once we got over there." In just 5 starts and 21.1 IP in the Nats' system with the Rookie level Gulf Coast Nationals, Class-A Potomac Nationals and Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs, Maya, who'd turned 29 less than a month after signing, allowed 18 hits, 10 runs, 8 earned, and 10 walks while recording 18 K's before he was called up in September. 

In his debut against the New York Mets, Maya was hit hard, giving up back-to-back one-out singles and a 3-run HR by Mets' first baseman Ike Davis in his first inning of major league work, and a one-out double and RBI single in the second before settling in and holding New York off the board for the next three innings. In 5 starts and 26.0 IP, including his debut, Maya gave up 30 hits (10.4 H/9), 18 runs, 17 earned (5.88 ERA, 69 ERA+, 5.16 FIP), 3 HR's and 11 walks with 12 K's collected. As Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell noted in a 12/16/10 chat entitled, "Ask Boswell", however, the Nats, "thought they were getting a No. 3-4 starter for several years. The stuff he showed in September just wasn't going to be good enough."

Mr. Boswell, in the chat, quoted Mr. Rizzo saying that, "'It was unfair of me to throw him into that mix last year after only five games (in the minors).'" Rather than taking time to adjust to his new home, Maya's spent his winter working in the Dominican Winter League, and the Nats, according to the WaPost writer, "think [Maya's] stuff has moved up a whole level this winter." In 8 starts and 41.0 innings pitched for the Leones del Escogido, the Pinar del Rio, Cuba-born righty has K'd 42 (9.22 K/9), walked 9 (1.98 BB/9) and given up 27 hits, 1 HR and 8 runs total, 7 of the earned. As the Nats announced this afternoon via Twitter (@NatsTownNews), Maya's eight Liga de Beisbol Dominicano outings were impressive enough that he was named 2010's Dominican Winter League Pitcher of the Year.

The Nats also announced that Maya's teammate with the Leones del Escogido, Nats' center field prospect Eury Perez (whose name came up recently when it was reportedly on the Royals' radar in Zack Greinke trade talk) was named the DWL Rookie of the Year. The 20-year-old Dominican-born center fielder who put up a .299/.345/.381 slash line with 17 doubles and 64 (yes 64) stolen bases in 131 games for the Class-A Hagerstown Suns this season, hit .345 with a .397 OBP and .388 SLG in 37 games and 116 at bats in the DWL, stealing 21 bases in 25 attempts.

Perez is likely some time away from the Majors, but Maya's expected to be part of the Nats' 2011 rotation. Whether his DWL success will translate is debatable. Several teams who scouted the right-hander before he signed with Washington questioned whether or not he would fit into a major league rotation. After a long DWL Round-Robin playoff and the Caribbean Series, should the Leones advance that far, Maya heads to Spring Training with something to prove. The Nats, with these two successful (so far) international signings, have proven that they're not only willing to spend for the best available free agents like Jayson Werth, but also for the best players around the world. Speaking of which. Have I told you about Yu Darvish, the Japanese pitcher who's reportedly considering a move to MLB next season?