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Washington Nationals’ prospect countdown: No. 22 - Israel Pineda

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Catcher has pop in his bat, getting more experience while in Arizona …

2021 Arizona Fall League Headshots Photo by Michael Gonzales/MLB Photos via Getty Images

[ed. note - “With interest in the Washington Nationals’ farm system at a high level, Federal Baseball has begun a series featuring the top 30 prospects in the system as of late last season, according to Baseball America. We will start with No. 30 and work our way to the top over the next few weeks, with one prospect highlighted each weekday.”]

WASHINGTON – Mark Scialabba, assistant general manager, player development (until he was promoted to Asst. GM/Player Personnel this winter according to a Washington Post story last week), got a first-hand look at the new catching depth in Washington’s system earlier this month.

The farm director was on hand for the Arizona Fall League, where catcher Israel Pineda was part of the mix in a reduced role with the Surprise team.

“He is part of the taxi squad,” Scialabba told Federal Baseball earlier this month. “We wanted to get him that exposure to the league.”

“He has done a great job with the limited exposure he has had,” Scialabba added. “He is in a much better hitting position. He is learning to lay off the breaking ball out of the strike zone. Defensively, he is working before the games in the bullpen on things that may now show up in the boxscore.”

Pineda broke into pro ball in the Gulf Coast League in 2017 with the Nationals and hit .288 in 17 games.

The next year he advanced to short-season Auburn of the New York-Penn League, as he hit four homers with an average of .273 in 46 games.

Pineda played in 101 games with low Single-A Hagerstown in 2019 and hit .217 with seven homers.

He was part of the alternate site roster in 2020 as the pandemic wiped out the minor league season.

Pineda was in Instructional League in 2020, then hit 14 homers with an average of .208 this past season for high Single-A Wilmington.

The most likely next step is Double-A Harrisburg for Pineda. He provides depth in the system after the Nationals acquired catchers Keibert Ruiz and Riley Adams, who are expected to be the big league catchers in 2022, in two July trades.

“There’s a strong catching core now that we’ve acquired,” Scialabba told Federal Baseball this past August.

“Obviously, Keibert Ruiz, and Riley Adams is doing well in the big leagues, and we have Tres Barrera and Jakson Reetz.

“Then we have some other catchers we have in the A-ball levels in Drew Millas, who we just acquired, and Israel Pineda. So, the catching core is definitely improved.”

Previous: No. 22 - Tres Barrera; Next: No. 21 Drew Mendoza