The Nationals gained 6 players in the infamous trade that sent Juan Soto and Josh Bell to the San Diego Padres. In addition to veteran Luke Voit, who is no longer with the team after being non-tendered after 2022, they acquired prospects CJ Abrams, MacKenzie Gore, James Wood, Robert Hassell III, and Jarlin Susana. CJ Abrams and Mackenzie Gore came to DC having already played major league games in 2022 and are poised to be top impact players for the Nationals in 2023. While neither has played in a big league game, James Wood and Robert Hassell III have been widely talked about as top outfield prospects in the minor leagues. Of course, this is for good reason, with Wood and Hassell being the 5th and 9th ranked outfield prospects across the league respectively according to MLB Pipeline. The 5th and final prospect the Nationals got in return for Soto and Bell is the least talked about, but has perhaps the most unique and impressive profile.
Jarlin Susana is a right-handed pitcher signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Padres on January 15th, 2022. Like so many international prospects, Susana has an early start on his path to the big leagues, already having thrown 45 career minor league innings at just 18 years old. While the scouting reports of most 18-year-old prospects note their potential to develop physically and gain size, Susana’s shows no such need. Already towering over his peers at 6 ‘6” and weighing in at 235 pounds, Susana possesses the physicality needed to become a high-octane power pitcher. This immense size feeds into Susana’s profile on the mound as he utilizes a smooth and efficient delivery to power his fastball into the triple digits. His fastball is what makes Susana so interesting. Pitchers are throwing harder than ever before, with the average four-seamer being thrown an even 2 mph harder in 2021 than in 2008 according to Fangraphs. This rise in velocity has been seen in the commonality of non-fastball-reliant pitchers being able to pump it up to the mid-90s as well as high-velocity pitchers pushing the bounds of what we know to be possible. Shutdown closers like Ryan Helsley, Emmanuel Clase, and Edwin Diaz have shown their ability to eclipse the 100 mph mark frequently. Yet even in the age of the high-velocity fastball, Jarlin Susana stands out.
Starting pitchers, even those who are capable of triple digits, don’t reach that mark routinely as they prefer to preserve their energy deeper into starts rather than tire themselves out in the first couple of innings. Susana’s size and efficient delivery combine for a seemingly effortless fastball that has been clocked at up to 103 mph. Even when not throwing at full effort, the 18-year-old’s physicality still enables him to sit at 99-100 mph, well above what a typical major leaguer maxes out at. Susana’s fastball is one of the best across the minor leagues and propelled him to be the Nationals’ second-ranked pitching prospect according to MLB Pipeline, only beaten out by fellow flamethrower Cade Cavalli. Of course, Susana has several secondary pitches to complement his blistering fastball, the most notable of which is his above-average slider. Susana’s theme of high velocity stays true with his slider, as he throws it in the low 90s, a similar velocity to most pitchers’ fastballs. The high velocity of Susana’s power slider limits the pitch’s movement but allows it to be thrown along the same tunnel as the fastball, increasing its deception. Susana also throws a slower curveball that generates more vertical breaks and a changeup, with both pitches being given average ratings at best.
What does a 103 mph fastball look like? 🔥
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 25, 2022
Susana’s first taste of professional baseball in 2022 led to promising results. Across time spent with the Padres’ and Nationals’ rookie ball teams and low-A Fredericksburg, Susana pitched to the tune of a 2.40 ERA with 66 strikeouts in just 45 innings. His dominant fastball made Susana nearly unhittable, with opposing hitters managing just 28 hits against him throughout the year. Susana’s Achilles heel, like many young pitchers, is his command. Opposing hitters were walked or hit by a pitch 23 times, getting on base via a free pass almost as often as with a base hit. As such, Susana’s future is largely dependent on his ability to command his blazing fastball and slider.
Currently, Susana is slated as a starter, but his ability to stick in that role is in question. So far in his young career, Susana has not shown the ability to pitch deep into games, often throwing no more than two or three innings per start. Struggles with control contribute to this issue, as Susana is unable to put away batters without wasting pitches and running to deep counts. It’s safe to assume the physical exertion of throwing so many triple-digit fastballs as well as his youth and inexperience also fuels these short outings. However, as his velocity is such a product of his size and efficient motion, there is hope that Susana will be capable of building up to more of a starter’s workload as he matures.
With his unicorn of a fastball blowing by batters and fueling his rise up the prospect rankings, Jarlin Susana shows the potential of a future frontline starter. If unable to build up his outings to a starter’s capacity, he shows potential to be a lockdown closer. Expect the fireballer to start and spend at least most of the 2023 season in low-A Fredericksburg. At just 18 years old, Susana has plenty of time to blaze his own path to the big leagues and has already established himself as one of the most unique and impressive minor league pitchers to watch across the league.