Mike Elias promised the Orioles were going to have an infusion of Dominican and Venezuelan talent added to the organization on international signing day July 2.
The team's general manager certainly lived up to his word with 27 new players, most notably outfielder Luis Gonzalez, left-handed pitcher Luis Ortiz and shortstop Leonel Sanchez. Twenty-four of the 27 players are age 16, which is the minimum age to get signed. This is key because many of these players could potentially reach the major leagues by their early 20s.
"These young players from all parts of Latin America will bolster our burgeoning farm system and jumpstart the continual flow of talent we are building," Elias said. "[This] is only the beginning of our efforts, as we will continue to sign more players throughout the 2019-20 signing period. Our international scouting staff has already begun laying the groundwork for future classes."
The top 30 prospects had already reached agreements with other teams before Elias took over. Overall, the New York Yankees signed the most highly coveted international player in 16-old center fielder Jasson Dominguez, who received a club record $5.1 million bonus. Dominguez is a switch hitter and widely regarded as a five-tool player who can be a cornerstone of a franchise.
Elias and Koby Perez, the Orioles senior director of international scouting, are confident the club will compete for the highest-rated international prospects, such as Dominguez, moving forward.
"We still have a lot of work to do," Elias said. "We're not just racing against ourselves. There's a lot of teams that frankly are ahead of us in this area. So, we're playing catch-up a little bit, but I see no reason that within the next year or so we're not fully up to speed internationally. It's a very big and important thing for us because it's going to be a big part of our pipeline going forward. It's a fun challenge."
The Orioles certainly were thorough with their evaluations and have a diverse group of players consisting of:
- 16 from the Dominican Republic
- 8 from Venezuela
- 1 Aruba
- 1 Bahamas
- 1 Colombia
Of the 27 signings, the positions were broken down as:
- 10 right-handed pitchers
- 6 shortstops
- 5 left-handed pitchers
- 4 outfielders
- 2 catchers
Most of the players will report to the Orioles' Dominican academy in Boca Chica to get acclimated to the club. The goal is to play two or three seasons in the Dominican and then make their way to the Gulf Coast League as they begin their ascent through the formal minor-league affiliates.
The Orioles' most productive amateur international signing thus far has been infielder Jonathan Schoop, who was signed as a 16-year-old from Curacao in 2008. He made his debut with the Orioles five years later before being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers last season.
González, Ortiz and Sánchez are 16 years old and hail from the Dominican Republic. They are still a couple of years away before being ready for the physical demands of minor-league baseball, but each of the players has a tremendous upside. Their young age also gives the Orioles ample time to develop them into a productive players. It will also add some pizazz to minor-league system has been short on talent the last several years.
González has shown power from the left side of the plate, according to the club. He is also able to play all three outfield positions, which makes him even more attractive because of the value placed on versatility in today's game. The Orioles reportedly paid González a $450,000 signing bonus.
Ortiz will add another potential left-handed starter to the Orioles' farm system. He already has three solid pitches in his arsenal -- fastball, curve and changeup. That gives him an edge with his development. Ortiz's fastball has been clocked at 90 mph, which allows him to challenge hitters and gives him an intimidating presence on the mound. The Orioles reportedly gave Ortiz a $400,000 signing bonus.
Sánchez gives the Orioles even more depth at shortstop. The team also selected prep shortstop Gunnar Henderson in the second round of this year's draft. Henderson just turned 18 last month. Sánchez has enough arm strength and agile footwork to move around the infield, which could potentially provide the Orioles with another versatile player. He also has the potential to drive the ball over the outfielders heads if they play too shallow. Sánchez reportedly received a $400,000 signing bonus.
"We are excited about the round of talent we were able to bring in with this first group of signings," Perez said. "Everyone in the organization hit the ground running after our department was put together, and it's a testament to their hard work that we were able to sign the quality group of players joining us today. We look forward to continuing to grow the relationships we've established in the Dominican Republic and other countries for years to come."
Here is a list of the full signings:
RHP Charbel Abboud, Venezuela
SS Cesar Aguasvivas, Domnican Republic
OF Jesus Alvarado, Venezuela
RHP Cesar Alvarez, Venezuela
RHP Harol Arias, Venezuela
C Kenny Baez, Dominican Republic
RHP Randy Beriguete, Dominican Republic
LHP Johan Berroa, Dominican Republic
RHP Erick Caines, Dominican Republic
RHP Moises Chace, Venezuela
RHP Francisco Crispin, Dominican Republic
SS Rolphy Cruz, Dominican Republic
OF Luis De La Cruz, Dominican Republic
OF Luis Gonzalez, Dominican Republic
SS Robert Martinez, Dominican Republic
RHP Alejandro Mendez, Dominican Republic
LHP Adrion Lacle, Aruba
RHP Erinson Placencia, Dominican Republic
RHP Edgar Portes, Dominican Republic
LHP Luis Ortiz, Dominican Republic
LHP Jose Ramirez, Venezuela
RHP Raul Rangel, Venezuela
C Ricardo Rivera, Colombia
SS Anderson Rogers, Dominican Republic
LHP Moises Salas, Venezuela
SS Leonel Sanchez, Dominican Republic
OF Dax Stubbs, Bahamas
Video of Anderson Rogers:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles