Baseball’s international signing period begins Sunday and, according to Baseball America, the Orioles have a commitment from Dominican shortstop Luis Almeyda, whom they project to receive the 16th highest bonus of the signing class. MLB.com ranks Almeyda as baseball’s 20th highest international prospect.
Almeyda, 16, grew up in New Jersey, and instead of waiting to be drafted, moved to the Dominican Republic where he’s now eligible to sign.
Almeyda, who’s 6 feet 3, 180 pounds, is expected to receive a bonus of more than $2 million. That’s the equivalent of what the top pick in the domestic draft’s second round received last year.
Last year, the Orioles signed three top international prospects — Cuban infielder César Prieto, Dominican outfielder Braylin Tavera and Dominican shortstop Leandro Arias.
MLB.com ranks Prieto 18th on its Orioles’ top 30 prospect list, Tavera 28th and Arias 29th.
Prieto, who received $650,000 to sign, was a Cuban defector and is 23, older than the typical international prospect who signs at 16 and 17. Last season, he hit .340 with seven home runs and 20 RBIs and in 25 games for Single-A Aberdeen and .255 with four homers and 37 RBIs in 90 games for Double-A Bowie. His bons
Tavera, who signed for $1.7 million, at the time the highest given to an international prospect by the Orioles, turns 18 next month. In 2022, he hit .243 with two home runs and 14 RBIs in 47 games for the Orioles Black team in the Florida Complex League.
Arias, who will also turn 18 next month, received $600,000 and hit .217 with a home run and 15 RBIs in 46 games for the Orioles Black team. He also stole 10 bases in 13 attempts.
Koby Perez, the Orioles’ head of international scouting, was one of general manager Mike Elias’ first hires four years ago and has made inroads in what was once a market the team ignored.
Catcher Samuel Basallo, who received more than $1 million to sign in January 2021, is the highest rated international prospect in the Orioles’ system. The 18-year-old, who hit .279 with six home runs and 32 RBIs in 43 games in the Florida Complex League, is the 12th highest prospect in the system.
Shortstop Maikol Hernández, who also received a seven-figure bonus to sign in 2021, hit just .155 with 10 RBIs in 42 games in the FCL, is rated as the 27th highest prospect in the system.
Infielder Frederick Bencosme, who’s ranked 25th, had an excellent stint for Single-A Delmarva, where he hit .336 with three home runs and 29 RBIs in 59 games. He hit .154 in 12 games for Aberdeen.
Bencosme and outfielder Luis Valdez, who stole 71 bases in 113 games for Delmarva and Aberdeen, are perhaps the most advanced home-grown Latin American prospects but neither was signed on the first day of international signings when the most publicized prospects agree to terms. Bencosme was signed in August 2020 and Valdez in May 2019.
The Orioles have seven Latin American players on their 40-man roster — Cuban pitchers Yennier Cano and Cionel Pérez, Dominican pitcher Félix Bautista, Dominican shortstop Jorge Mateo, Mexican infielder Ramón Urías, Dominican first baseman Lewin Díaz and Venezuelan outfielder Anthony Santander.
None of the seven was originally signed by the Orioles. The Orioles haven’t produced a major leaguer from Venezuela and haven’t had a home-grown player from the Dominican Republic since infielder Pedro Florimón played four games for the Orioles in 2011.
Promotion schedule: The Orioles will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 1983 World Series championship on August 5th by handing out Eddie Murray bobbleheads. The team also will feature bobbleheads for Ryan Mountcastle (May 27th), Adley Rutschman (June 10th), Félix Bautista on August 26th and an Oriole Bird nickelodeon on April 9th.
Floppy Hat Night returns on June 30th, followed on July 1st with the Hawaiian shirt giveaway.
Other promotions include an MLB Network Cap on April 23rd, a Crossbody Bag on Mother’s Day (May 14th), an Orioles Purple Pride Jersey on June 24th, an Orioles Soccer Jersey on July 15th, an Oriole wearable flag on August 25th and a lightweight hoodie on September 30th.
Oriole T-Shirts will be handed out on May 29th, July 16th and September 15th, caps on June 23rd and September 17th and visor sunglasses on June 15th.
There will be fireworks on July 14th and August 4th.
Notes: Centerfielder Cedric Mullins and reliever Dillon Tate will participate in next month’s Birdland Caravan, the team announced. … Right-handed pitcher Chris Vallimont, who was designated for assignment when the team claimed first baseman Ryan O’Hearn off waivers, has cleared waivers and been assigned outright to Triple-A Norfolk. O’Hearn was designated for assignment on Thursday, two days after he was claimed when the club reacquired first baseman Lewan Díaz off waivers.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB