Signed for just $35K out of Panama in 2013, Fuentes has risen slowly but steadily through the Nationals’ system. Still just 21-years-old, the righty is enjoying his best season as a professional and ranks among the best “sleeper” prospects on Washington’s farm. He dominated for Hagerstown before being moved up to High-A Potomac where he has turned it up another level since mid-July, posting a 0.52 ERA while striking out more than 25-percent of opposing hitters. Fuentes is currently used as a multi-inning reliever, but given a playable three-pitch mix with strikethrowing ability, I wonder if he will be stretched out as a starter as he climbs the ladder.
Listed at 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, Fuentes has a thick and husky build that looks heavier than the listed weight. Pitching exclusively out of the stretch, he works in the 90-to-94 mph range on an extremely heavy fastball with hard bore down and armside in the zone. The heater passes the eye test as a groundball pitch, and the statline matches up: opposing hitters have put more than 50-percent of balls in play on the ground against Fuentes this year. He showed flashes of a big league slider during my 2017 looks, though he has filled out noticeably since. The strength gains are behind the slider improvement, a pitch that now shows sharp bite and two-plane depth with mid-80s power. His change is too close in velocity to the fastball at 86-to-88 mph, and while it’s more of a distant third pitch, he sells it well and the changeup flashes late dive at best.
Overshadowed by other pitching prospects in the system the last few years, Fuentes is quietly becoming one of the team’s better minor league arms. The best-case scenario is a #5 starter if he takes to a rotation role. Realistically, Fuentes’ sinker/slider mix profile as a FV 45 swingman who can start games or pitch multi-inning stints in the middle innings.