Elias praises Orioles' Latin American signings - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Elias praises Orioles’ Latin American signings

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

Signing teenaged players in Latin America is a long process. The 16-year-olds who were signed on Friday by the Orioles have been in team’s sights for several years.

“We started working on these guys even before I started with the Orioles,” Koby Perez, the Orioles’ senior director of international scouting, said in a video conference call.

Perez came to the Orioles in January 2019.

“These guys had been followed from beforehand, so we knew who they were coming in. I think we did a really good job of recruiting them once they came in.”

Perez has lauded Mike Elias, the Orioles’ executive vice president/general manager, for personally scouting players in the Dominican.

“These players that we got were very eager to sign with us,” Perez said.

The biggest price tags were the reported $1.3 million bonus given to 16-year-old Dominican catcher Samuel Bassalo and another seven figure deal for 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Maikol Hernández, the most handed out to international amateur players.

Elias praised Perez, who had roughly 18 months before the July 2, 2020 signings were scheduled. The announcement was pushed back to January 15th because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Teams can sign players through December 15th. In 2022, the signing period will also begin January 15th.

“To get two of the premier guys in the class, starting that late is difficult, “ Elias said, “Koby was opportunistic, and we’re excited about these players and others in the class.

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“I thought it was going to be difficult to put together a class with real headliners in 2020, and I think this is a tribute to the connections and experience that Koby has that he found ways to do that.”

In Perez’s first signing period, July 2, 2019, outfielder Luis Gonzalez received the highest bonus, $475,000. Another player signed then, left-hander Luis Ortiz, is the 30th -anked prospect on MLB Pipeline.

“I do think we’ve got guys here who immediately enter the conversation for some of our top prospects,” Elias said. “It’s going to be exciting to see a couple of these guys play well and rise up the ranks, a big step for us.”

Perez thinks the Orioles are now considered seriously as an international player.

“This year, we’ve kind of shown that we’re ready to go all in,” Perez said. “Year-by-year, it’s going to be different. We’ve just got to weigh the market and analyze what’s best for the Orioles and make a decision. We’ve already put our feet to the fire down here, and we’re seeing all the top guys. We’re in a good situation there.”

The Orioles were allowed to spend $5,899,600, and most of it was spent on the 17 players signed Friday.

“We still do have remaining money, and it’s very likely that we will see a few more guys before the signing period is over,” Perez said.

For years, the Orioles avoided large dollar signings in the international market and were not considered a serious contender to deal with top prospects, but that is changing.

“The lack of activity will haunt us less and less as we go forward,” Elias said.

Perez isn’t sure where the players will start 2021. The Orioles have two Dominican Summer League teams and perhaps some of the more advanced ones could play for one of the two teams the Orioles will have in the Gulf Coast League.

Just two pitchers were among the 17 signed.

“Part of that was just random,” Elias said, “and the other part of it was these players are so young, and pitchers have a much stronger tendency to evolve late in life. Teams, overall, I think, are less oriented to signing 16-year-old pitchers on the signing date whereas the premium positional talent, it’s a much more stable evaluation when you’re watching them when they’re 13, 14, 15 years old, and even those guys change a lot, too.

“For pitchers, velocity is such a huge part of it, and you don’t get that part of the picture, often until they’re 17 or 18, so it just leads to a lot of later, older pitcher signings in the Dominican in particular.”

Elias is pleased with the Orioles’ growth in Latin America.

“The importance of the Latin American, July 2nd-style international scouting has been fueled by the changes we’ve seen in the game of baseball the last 20 years,” Elias said.

“Younger players being able to come up and impact the game so immediately because of the quality of player development that’s improved across the game, and also the quality of player development in these countries. Now, they comprise about 30 percent of the overall talent in Major League Baseball, and I think it’s arguably more in the star talent right now. It’s looking that way.

“Being really good in this market is essential to any team. We had and really have some catch-up to do still, but this class was a gigantic step.”

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. CalsPals

    January 16, 2021 at 8:03 am

    I’m not sure where Mikey gets two of the premier guys in the class, obviously he has more knowledge about it than us but the 16 yr old catcher hasn’t even been mentioned on MLB.com, the SS is #30, not sure I would even call him a premier guy, I’d think top 10 would be…go O’s…

  2. Orial

    January 16, 2021 at 8:39 am

    I’m impressed–finally. Just saw an article placing the O’s in a group of 6 teams having the best International draft. Future of MLB lies in these young players as American youth especially African Americans head in other directions. Curious as to why a Catcher with the first pick though. Being forced to use the allotted money instead of trading a lot of it off could have been a blessing. If only Angelos hasn’t been so pig-headed Dan Duquette may have been able to partake in this process. Only 2 pitchers taken–kinda like it. Load up on position players.

    • BarstoolSleeper

      January 16, 2021 at 9:02 am

      I don’t understand why everyone is concerned about taking a catcher and paying him. He’s only 16 years old and in no way will interfere with Adley. We’re all assuming Adley is going to be great for 15 years and I hope you are all correct. I want that too, but as Rich has stated many times, it doesn’t matter how many catchers or any position you have in the pipeline. The more quality you have, the better for trades, reloading for injury, reloading due to free agency etc. It only makes the organization better. You don’t ignore a position because you THINK you drafted a starter in Adley at that position already who’s 6-7 years older. Look at Sisco, everyone including myself was excited for him in the pipeline and excited to get him to the majors. How’d that work out? There are no guarantees in MLB. This isn’t the NFL draft.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 16, 2021 at 9:02 am

      Orial, please don’t overthink the process. The more good players you get at key positions, catcher, middle infield, center field, the better.

      Those players can be traded for other positions of need. Rutschman is 22, Basallo is 16. One will be in the major leagues either this year or next, the other is several years away, at best.

  3. Boog Robinson Robinson

    January 16, 2021 at 10:28 am

    “when you’re watching them when they’re 13, 14, 15 years old” ….. Mike Elias

    I don’t know about the rest of our readers, and I’m not saying we should close up shop in the D.R., but that quote alone gives me a bit of an ooogie feeling about this business. I mean we’re dealing with children, no?

    Maybe Papa Angelos had a bit of a point here after all, ‘eh boys?

    • dlgruber1

      January 16, 2021 at 11:54 am

      I couldn’t agree more BRR. Why do I have a feeling there’s a horror story going unreported in these Latin America countries. Are the kids there SO much better that they’re signed en masse at 16-17 years old while only a handful of kids in this country are? What happens to their education? Do they ever even graduate high school? We all know the minuscule number of players that actually make it to MLB, even those drafted in US during or after their college careers. I really hope there’s someone looking out for these kids and their families. Wishing them all the best but why do I get the feeling it would be a very sad movie doing an expose about “what’s become” of a lot of these kids by the time they’re 25-30 years old.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        January 16, 2021 at 12:29 pm

        Don’t get me wrong DLG…I’m not trying to get on my high horse here. It’s just that this does seem a bit shady.

        That being said … I”m sure that Beisbol could well be the best shot at getting out of a life of poverty for a lot of these kids. Let’s face it, the D.R. is an impoverished nation is it not? (I read that 40% of it’s 10 million inhabitants live in poverty) I doubt most these kids have a fair shot bettering their lives through education and such … so the baseball pipeline that is MLB, can’t be all bad for many of them. Even if a kid doesn’t ever make the major leagues, I’d have to imagine that just making it stateside could be of great benefit to him.
        .
        Now all that being said … I stand by my original point that Mr. Angelos may have been standing on ethical grounds that we shouldn’t so quickly eschew.

        I guess it’s sort of a Jungian “duality of man” kind of thing.

      • Birdman

        January 16, 2021 at 4:27 pm

        To describe the signing of these teenagers from the Dominican as a “horror story” seems way over the top … what’s so horrific about a teenager and his family, who are living in poverty, suddenly receiving a bonus of hundreds of thousands of dollars or more?

        As Elias pointed out, nearly 30% of MLB players (and an even higher percentage of star players) are from the Dominican and other parts of Latin America. So if you want the Orioles to sit out the Latin American market, don’t complain when they are unable to field a competitive team.

    • CalsPals

      January 16, 2021 at 4:51 pm

      I think people have brought up legitimate concerns, no one said horror story, it’s a lil creepy watching young kids, then they asked if there was any protection for them, who helps them, legit questions, what would people do in the US if they saw some guys they don’t know taking notes, video on 13 -14 yr olds…no ones pointing fingers, just asking questions….go O’s…

    • BarstoolSleeper

      January 16, 2021 at 6:12 pm

      13-14 year olds get recruited all the time for travel teams, club teams and even college teams if they’re really good by scouts. That’s the point of playing competitive ball is to get exposed to the next level. It happens all the time in the U.S. the only difference is that they don’t pay the kids… at least they aren’t supposed to but don’t tell the ncaa that

  4. ctevans

    January 16, 2021 at 10:39 am

    I love the idea of being back strongly in the International market but I don’t understand the logic of giving 7 figure deals to 16 and 17 year olds and we can’t give several million to established everyday players. Money is money regardless of where it’s spent. Neither of these kids may make it beyond AA. How about a happy medium? A little more to established starters and a little less dive throws on teenagers?

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 16, 2021 at 10:51 am

      Christian, in order to compete in the international market, these types of bonuses must be given.

    • Bhoffman1

      January 16, 2021 at 1:24 pm

      I understand that but in order to complete in the major league market players have to be paid in the millions too. So his point is well put why can’t we spend a little more on major league ready players to fill out the roster or add one or two decent free agents instead of always saying next year

  5. willmiranda

    January 16, 2021 at 11:01 am

    Information question: What does it mean that the O’s “have” two teams in the DR Summer League? Is it total ownership and control? If US minor leagues are closed for covid or something, can they send non-DR players to play there? Since most of our DR signees are teeny-boppers, is there an age-limit on the players?

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 16, 2021 at 1:03 pm

      MLB clubs own and operate their short season minor league clubs. For the Orioles, that’s true in the Dominican and in the Gulf Coast League in Sarasota.

      The Dominican Summer League didn’t operate last summer, either.

      In the past, only two players older than 21 could be on a team, not sure if that’s still the case, but by the time they’re 22, they move on, if they’re good enough to the GCL.

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