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The rapid rise of Washington Nationals’ prospect Steven Fuentes

Right-handed pitcher overcame huge odds while at home in Panama during the shutdown to land spot on the 40-man roster of Nats …

Photo screencap via @MLBPipeline.

WASHINGTON – Throughout the summer and fall, pitching instructors in the Nationals’ farm system raved about a right-handed pitcher who had been in the system since 2014 but had never pitched above Double-A Harrisburg.

That pitcher was Steven Fuentes, 23, whose efforts were rewarded on Friday as he was added to Washington’s 40-man roster.

“I saw him in Instructional League. He kind of has a pretty good sinker and changeup,” Justin Lord, who was slated to be the Single-A Fredericksburg pitching coach this year, told Federal Baseball on Friday just a few hours after the move was official.

“He has a chance to get (his infielders) to make plays on those balls in play. He can get two outs [with] one pitch with a runner on first base,” Lord said of his sinker. “He has a good professional approach to what he is doing.”

Fuentes overcame some big odds this year.

During the shutdown that began in March, he had very few options to work out, let alone pitch.

“He is from Panama and was home during the pandemic and very restricted,” player development pitching coordinator Brad Holman told Federal Baseball in September.

“He often could not come out of his house. Actually, he could have been arrested” if found by authorities more than a mile radius from his house.

Besides Seth Romero, who was on the MLB injured list, there were only two pitchers on the original Instructional League roster this fall who had never pitched above Single-A: Fuentes and Jackson Tetreault.

“He is a polished pitcher,” infield prospect Jackson Cluff, who was also part of the 60-player pool in Virginia and the Instructional League in Florida, said of Fuentes.

Holman told Federal Baseball two weeks ago that Fuentes had left Instructional League and headed to his native Panama to pitch in the winter league there.

Fuentes went 74 pitches deep in his first outing in Panama, noted Holman.

In 80 2⁄3 innings pitched between High-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg in 2019, Fuentes, who made 23 appearances (11 starts), gave up just one home run, (0.11 HR/9). He walked 22 batters (2.45 BB/9), and struck out 89 (9.93 K/9) overall on the year, and was promoted from the P-Nats to the Senators after tossing 17 innings in which he allowed just one earned run (0.53 ERA).