Koby Perez joined the Orioles as international scouting director in January. It’s been a busy eight months. For years, the Orioles lagged behind the rest of the industry internationally, and Perez is trying to change that — in perception and in reality.
Question: How does the Orioles’ international scouting look eight months after you took over?
Answer: “I feel right now we’ve got a better grasp of the landscape of the international talent. We’ve got prep lists going on different classes: the eligible class, the 2019 guys. We have a pretty good idea of the 2020 guys that are still available, and we’re doing work on them, and we’re in a pretty good spot of 2021, as far as identifying where the talent lies. Eight months ago, we didn’t have too much of a structure. Right now, we feel pretty good about where we’re at.”
Q: You referred to both 2020 and 2021. Do you have to look a year or two in advance for international players?
A: “It’s almost a bit like college recruiting where the kids have commitments already. If you don’t get to know them early, you’ll never get to know them because they would have committed verbally to another team. The only way to have the opportunity to acquire the better players is getting to know them early.”
Q: On July 2, you announced signings of 27 international players. Do you think you’ll get a better class of players on July 2, 2020?
A: “Yeah, we’re continuing to sign more players for the 2019 period. We met a lot of guys that are being looked at now that we’re considering. We’ve signed 27, but we’re going to sign some more before this is over.
“In 2020, we feel good about what’s still out there, although a lot of the top guys are spoken for already. It’s early in the period, so a lot of these guys come on later, and we’ll be able to attack when and if we feel the player’s a fit.”
Q: How close do you feel the Orioles are to being a real competitor, a top-tier competitor in the international market?
A: “I think we are a competitor right now just because the industry knows and the rest of the international market knows that we’re prepared to strike, whereas in the past, [the Orioles] were not committed to the international market. I think everybody is well aware that we’re willing to sign the better players. Even though the better players are spoken for, the players that [we’re] competing for now, we’re usually in the conversation.”
Q: How much time do you spend personally scouting international players?
A: “Typically, I do around 220 days a year on the road, whether it’s the Dominican, Venezuela or other parts outside the U.S. I’m usually away from home often. That along with our staff organizing and putting stuff together, we do a lot of days.”
Q: You just mentioned Venezuela. How has the political climate there affected scouting in Venezuela?
A: “It has affected it a lot. It’s not the best place to visit with the political climate. Any given day, anything can happen so it’s very dangerous and risky. A lot of the agents down there are doing a good job of taking the top players and bringing them to Colombia, Aruba and the Dominican, so we’re able to get extended looks at their players. It’s not perfect, but we’re still able to evaluate talent there.”
Q: Around baseball, we haven’t heard much about Cuba recently. What’s the outlook for getting players from Cuba?
A: “It’s just evaluating their national team when they come out because some of them defect. We wouldn’t know if they defect until they defect, and even when they do defect, there’s a certain process that they need to go through before we’re even able to evaluate them. That basically happens on the spot, day-to-day. There’s nothing you really plan other than knowing the Cuban National teams as well as you can so that if and when one these guys defect, you can be prepared to know the player.”
Q: Prior to your coming to the Orioles, the team did have facilities in the Dominican Republic. How good are the facilities, and are they being improved?
A: “There are first-class facilities in the Dominican that other organizations have. Ours is improving steadily, and I know Mike Elias is working hard to get us in a better situation down there. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, we can upgrade from what we have.”
Q: Scouts in the U.S. are looking at players who are usually 18-22. Scouts internationally are looking at players who are younger, 16 and 17. How difficult is it to project when players are that young?
A: “It’s very difficult, and we make a lot of mistakes in the international market, all the scouts do, just because these kids are so far away and you see the ability in them. It can go good or it can go bad. It’s much different than seeing a 20-year-old that’s a lot closer …to the major leagues. The kids we’re signing are very, very far away. What we’re trying to do is project as much as we can to make the best decision.”
Q: What’s a realistic timeline for a player that the Orioles signed in July? How many of them progress from the Dominican Summer League to the Gulf Coast League?
A: “It all depends. Every player is different. Some guys take longer than others. Typically, next year they start out in the Dominican Summer League and the ones who excel there get promoted to the GCL. Every kid is different.
“Just to give you an example, when I was with Philadelphia, about eight years ago, I signed a kid named Deivy Grullon, who just got a major league callup here in September. The time frame is difficult to tell. I’ve signed guys that got there in four years and then other guys, it takes them eight years. Every kid is different. Some kids need more seasoning than others. It’s hard to say an exact timeline, but it could be anywhere from four to eight before you see them in Baltimore.”
Q: Who are some of the guys that you signed that you’re most excited about?
A: “We’re really excited about a left-handed pitcher named Luis Ortiz. He’s pretty advanced for his age as far as pitchability and stuff is concerned. He may be one of the guys that can move quickly.
“There’s a left-handed hitting outfielder named Luis Gonzalez who has a lot of physical ability. He’s a little cruder, so to say than what the pitcher is. The upside is there. He may need a little seasoning, but he has a really big upside.
“We signed a couple of good Venezuelan pitchers, one named Moises Chace, who’s pretty advanced for his age. He will be participating here in the Instructional League as well as the other two guys [from] the D.R …We signed 27 of them, and I could go on and on about each kid having an attribute that we like, but those [three] kids stand out.”