On the first day of the international signing period, the Orioles signed 16-year-old shortstop Luis Almeyda, a native of Paterson, New Jersey who moved to the Dominican Republic, for $2.3 million, a team record for an international prospect.
Almeyda was rated as the 17th top prospect by Baseball America and 20th by MLB Pipeline. MLB.com reported the bonus.
The son of a New Jersey firefighter and a banker, Almeyda moved to the Dominican Republic at 15 to help his mother care for his grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s disease.
“I matured more here, as a baseball player and as a person off the field here,” Almeyda said in a Zoom call. “I knew the Orioles were the organization for me. My decision is how I want to develop as a player … Me as a baseball player, I’d like to develop with this organization. I’m just very happy. I can’t wait for my journey to start.”
It’s the fourth international signing period for Koby Perez, Orioles international director of international scouting, who came to the Orioles shortly after executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias in January 2019.
“A lot of the work to sign these players starts years ahead,” Perez said. “When we like a player, we have to keep watching him, fencing off other suitors.”
The Orioles had $5,825,000 to spend, and they still have about $500,000 remaining in their pool. “Any time we give people significant money, we’ve got to check all the boxes,” Perez said. “We have to make sure we’re doing it with the right kid and the right family.”
Perez said that the team is making considerable progress internationally.
“We’re in a good place now. We’re already working on next year’s class,” Perez said.
Because there’s no language barrier and not having to adapt to the United States, Perez said Almeyda would spend some time in the U.S., and wouldn’t train exclusively at the Orioles’ facilities in the Dominican Republic.
“It’s tough to put a timeline on the kid’s development,” Perez said. He didn’t know if Almeyda would start in the Dominican Summer League or Florida Complex League.
Last year, the team signed Dominican outfielder Braylin Tavera to a $1.7 million contract, and the $2.3 million is $100,000 more than the team gave outfielder Dylan Beavers, the 33rd overall pick in the domestic draft last year.
The Orioles signed 27 players, 13 for more than $100,000. Besides Almeyda, the most prominent are shortstops Joshua Liranzo, Félix Amparo and Luis Guevera, infielder José Mejía, right-handed pitcher Keeler Morfe and left-hander Francisco Morao.
Liranzo, Amparo and Mejía are from the Dominican Republic. Morfe, Guevera and Morao are Venezuelans. The Orioles say that Mejía speaks English, which will help in his transition.
Of the players signed, 14 are from the Dominican, 11 from Venezuela and one each from Colombia and Cuba.
Right-handed pitcher Xavier Alvero is the Cuban, and right-hander Javier Gonzalez is from Colombia.
Shortstop Junior Aybar, right-hander Luis Beltrán. Both from the Dominican, Venezuelan outfielder Abraham Cohen, shortstop Sébastian De Los Santos and Raúl Leonte, both from the Dominican, Venezuelan catchers Adrianer Mejía and Juan Ortega, infielder Diorky Ortiz and outfielder Brieny Ramírez, both from the Dominican, right-hander Juan Rasquin and catchers Jhohnanderson Robain and Miguel Rodríguez, from Venezuela, outfielder Elvis Rojas and right-handers Raymond Sosa and Rafael Suero from the Dominican, catcher Omar Urbina and right-hander Kevin Velasco from Venezuela and catcher Luis Vicioso from the Dominican Republic.
All of the players signed are 16 or 17 except Beltrán, who’s 18 and the 19-year-old Vicioso.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB