Back in 2006, the Washington Nationals believed they completed a major coup by signing Esmailyn Gonzalez out of the Dominican Republic. At the time, the Nats gave the then 17-year-old a $1.4 million signing bonus, the largest in team history.
However, things haven’t worked out so smoothly for Gonzalez. His first pro season in the Gulf Coast Rookie League wasn’t too impressive, only hitting .245 with 11 RBIs. Then Esmailyn had to deal with visa problems last season that delayed his arrival to spring training.
Could be that Esmailyn isn’t the player the Nats thought he was. Now it turns out that it’s more truthful than the team thinks.
Melissa Segura of SI.COM reports that at least “four sources have told” the site that 19-year-old Esmailyn Gonzalez is actually 23-year-old Carlos Alvarez Daniel Lugo.
The revelation came about as MLB & the FBI investigated reports that agents & representatives of Latin American prospects have been reportedly skimming off more than their fair share of their clients’ signing bonuses. The courting of Esmailyn/Carlos got a little more notice because of how chummy Nats officials were with E/C’s Dominican rep:
Agent Rob Plummer negotiated with all teams on behalf of Gonzalez — except the Nationals. Those negotiations were handled by Basilio Vizcaino, Gonzalez’s buscon (a person who trains amateur youth baseball players in exchange for a percentage of future signing bonuses). Vizcaino is a childhood friend of (Nats GM Jim) Bowden’s special assistant, Jose Rijo, and a protégé of Jose Baez, the Nationals director of operations in the Dominican Republic. The size of Gonzalez’s bonus and the close relationship between Vizcaino, Baez and Rijo drew the attention of the FBI and Major League Baseball’s department of investigations.
Gonzalez a.ka. Lugo did do better in his 2nd Gulf Coast season last year, winning the league batting title & being named league MVP. But as one scout pointed out, “Those are great numbers, but you should be hitting that well if you’re that much older than your competition.”
So far, Nats officials have declined to comment about Esmailyn/Carlos. They’re probably trying to think up some good lies of their own. And if you’re going to use a fake name, you could at least pick something better than “Esmailyn”.