Koby Perez is preaching patience with the Orioles’ international players. He is optimistic the future remains bright for these young athletes.
“They kind of grow up together,” said Perez, the team’s senior director of international scouting. “They sign and they play in the Dominican. They play in Florida and the good ones keep going up the lines. It definitely helps they all signed young whereas, in the draft, you get some college and some high school. For the most part, these kids are all 16 or 17 when they sign.”
Perez, who joined the Orioles in January 2019, remains confident.
“Some guys are going through growing pains, but all these players will get better,” Perez said.
Catcher Samuel Basallo, who is playing for the Florida Complex League Orioles, is batting .287/.358/.472 with five home runs and 25 RBIs in 29 games.
“Samuel Basallo has been playing very well down in Florida,” Perez said. “His raw power is impressive. His arm strength is high-end for not only his age but for anyone. He’s a guy that throws 86 miles per hour down to second, which is like unheard of. The fact that he is only 17, he’s younger than the kids that just got drafted. We’re very, very excited about Sammy.”
Eighteen-year-old shortstop Maikol Hernández, who is the 18th-rated minor league prospect, according to MLB.com, has a solid glove but he is still finding his way at the plate, batting .140/.287/.170 over 28 games for the Florida Complex League Orioles. Perez expects Hernández to turn the corner.
“Defensively, there’s no one better at that level,” Perez said. “He’s going through some growing pains hitting-wise. He’s trying to make some adjustments and he’s working on some things. His batting average has been hurt by him working on some things. We’re not too worried about him bouncing back once he makes these adjustments.”
Outfielder Braylin Tavera, a 17-year-old from the Dominican Republic, was rated as the 18th-best prospect by Baseball America and rated 22nd by MLB Pipeline. He signed for $1.7 million, the most given to an international prospect by the Orioles. Tavera, the 19th-rated Orioles prospect, is playing in the Dominican Summer League and has a .751 OPS with two homers in 18 games. The goal is to move him to Florida next season.
“He’s playing well,” Perez said. “Tools-wise, there is really no one better there. We think we have something there. We think he is going to be a really good player.”
Shortstop Leandro Arias, who signed for $600,000 in January, is batting .226/.364/.302 with a homer and 10 RBIs in the Dominican. Arias, 17, is the Orioles’ 22nd-rated prospect by MLB.
Most of the international players are 16 and 17 so there is an adjustment to the pro game. Even Yankees Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter had trouble adapting to rookie ball his first year as a pro, and he wanted to give the money back because of his struggles.
But the key is the Orioles have these players in their system and they’re helping them adjust on and off the field.
“They’re really young and they are away from their families,” Perez said. “Every kid is different. Sometimes it takes a long time for them to adjust, others adapt really quickly. The sooner player development gets their hands on them, the sooner you can start teaching them all the things they need to learn to be athletes — nutrition and behavior of how to be a professional. The sooner you get them the better it is.”
There are a number of other international players beginning to make an impact in the Dominican Summer League or with Single-A Delmarva. Some flew under the radar during the international signing period.
One of the Orioles’ methods is finding unheralded players, getting them in the organization and teaching them proper habits.
“We have a whole lot of guys that weren’t highly coveted, like Aron Estrada in the Dominican who is having a really good year. He’s one of the kids who has figured it out pretty quickly,” Perez said. “We have [an infielder] named Frederick Bencosme who is at Delmarva and performing well. Deivy Cruz, is an 18-year-old at Delmarva who is pitching extremely well. Juan De Los Santos is at Delmarva as well. His numbers aren’t as good as his pitching. He throws 100 miles per hour and he is showing that he has a chance to start in the future.
“Anderson De Los Santos in Florida is a guy who hits the ball real hard and shows great plate discipline. We’re super excited. There’s a lot of guys that are coming along.”
Perez expects many of these young international players to take the next step with their development at Delmarva. They will have more experience as players and will continue with their development under Oriole coaches.
“We have a whole lot of teenagers at Delmarva and a lot of them will go back there next year,” Perez said. “Having that experience under their belt is going to be very big for them. We think that next year will be really good at Delmarva with the number of young but experienced kids coming back.”