Koby Perez is preparing for his second international signing period since joining the Orioles. Perez, who came to the Orioles in January 2019 as the team’s senior director of international scouting, has had to wait because the 2020 signing period was pushed back from July 2nd to January 15, 2021.
This interview was edited for style.
Question: What have you been able to accomplish during the pandemic?
Perez: “We’ve been able to get a lot of work done, virtually through Zoom for future classes. As you know, we try to work ahead in learning the players that are going to be involved in the future. Basically for the 2020 class, we’d done a lot of that work ahead of time. A lot of it was just keeping tabs on the players of interest.”
Q: Do you have a lot of interesting prospects that you expect to sign?
A: “We think so. Again, we worked ahead of time and kind of identified the players of interest, made sure those players liked us, and we liked. We think we’re the front-runners for a pretty good group.”
Q: You’ve said it was going to take a couple of years to become a major player in the international market. Do you think the teams’ higher ranking among minor league systems has made signing international players easier?
A: “Yeah, absolutely. I think our whole baseball operations is improved, including all of our minor leagues and affiliates. Our minor league system is showing [improvement]. That’s definitely helped. I think a lot of what’s helped is [general manager] Mike Elias has made about four trips down to the Dominican Republic with me.
“Your top leader, kind of showing face down there, shows everyone that we’re really serious about our work in international. That has really put us kind of on the fast track a little bit.”
Q: In your last interview with us, you mentioned a pitcher, Luis Ortiz, who was a July 2019 signing as a hot prospect. Ortiz is now ranked No. 30 in the system by MLB Pipeline. What about him stands out?
A: “He’s a left-handed pitcher with a good pitcher’s frame, and he shows average velocity for a young kid, but what stands out more for him is the pitch ability that he has. He goes after hitters. He has a good breaking ball, and he throws a bunch of strikes. For a young kid to be able to do those things, it’s really exciting because we know he’s going to get bigger and stronger. We know the velocity is going to improve even more than what he’s showing, which is already average.”
Q: Who are some other guys that you’re excited about for 2021?
A: “Our highest-paid guy, Luis Gonzalez, is definitely showing well. He showed well in Instructional League, showing why he was our highest-paid guy. (Gonzalez received a signing bonus of $475,000 in July 2019.)
“His raw power was definitely shown in Instructional League. He’s one of the guys that we’re excited about.
“We also have a couple of guys that didn’t make the Instructional League because they were from Venezuela. All flights [to the U.S] were canceled. Moises Chace, he’s a right-handed pitcher that we were excited to try and get to the Instructional League, but unfortunately we couldn’t. He and Raul Ringel, also from Venezuela, also a right-handed pitcher, show a lot of promise.”
Q: One thing that Elias has done is getting a number of international prospects in trades. It began with the Andrew Cashner deal to Boston in July 2019 and has continued since. Are these players that you scouted and knew something about?
A: “For sure, these guys are players that we’ve had history with as amateurs. Our pro department did a good job of identifying and looking at some of the intriguing statistics [they’ve accumulated], and things that they’ve done.
“There are some that haven’t played yet, and we relied on our amateur scouting reports.”
Q: When domestic prospects are interviewed, they talk about how the Orioles have been able to keep up with them during the pandemic. Were you able to keep up with the prospects from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela?
A: “Absolutely. Our player development staff did an amazing job being able to do Zoom calls and send player programs to each player individually and keep tabs on [them]. I think they did as good a job as they can do, given the situation. I’m keeping tabs on players.
“I’m really excited about this year to come, and once these academies start opening up and we’re able to get back into baseball, we’re going to have a lot of pleasant surprises.”
Q: Before the pandemic, you’d spent about 220 days on the road scouting. How much of an adjustment has it been to be working from home?
A: “It’s been a little bit different, but it kind of worked out family-wise because my kids are basically homeschooled, and I’ve been able to help my wife by being around. Being off the road with the pandemic was able to give me more time with my family, and help out around the house more than I normally would.”