Orioles' Dominican Academy, Basallo's rise highlight team's progress - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Orioles’ Dominican Academy, Basallo’s rise highlight team’s progress

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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Last week illustrated just how far the Orioles have come in the last five years. Four months before Mike Elias took over as the team’s head of baseball operations, the Orioles traded Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Elias’ predecessor, Dan Duquette, announced that the Orioles were not only rebuilding but getting into the long-ignored international market.

One of Elias’ first moves was to hire Koby Perez to head up their international baseball scouting department, and to announce plans to build a state-of-the-art complex in the Dominican Republic.

That complex opened last Tuesday, a day after the Orioles announced their latest class of international signings.

Elias, Perez and manager Brandon Hyde were on hand in the Dominican Republic, and so were former Orioles, including Nelson Cruz, Ubaldo Jimenez and Melvin Mora, who’s from Venezuela. The old Orioles were delighted to see evidence of a physical presence in the Dominican, and it can only help the team continue to compete for talent in this vital market.

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The Orioles are inching closer to having their first Elias/Perez graduate make it to the majors. Catcher/first baseman Samuel Basallo is their fifth-highest ranked prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.

Basallo, who won’t turn 20 until August, has progressed rapidly through the system, playing for the Orioles’ Dominican Summer League entry in 2021, in the Florida Complex League in 2022, and last year, progressing through Single-A Delmarva, High-A Aberdeen to end the season at Double-A Bowie.

He hit .313 with a .953 OPS, 20 home runs, 86 RBIs and threw out a third of the baserunners attempting to steal against him.

Those numbers compare favorably with the 18-year-old seasons of some of the top young international players in the game, including Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr., Seattle’s Julio Rodríguez, Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr., New York’s Juan Soto,  and Cleveland’s José Ramírez.

The Orioles hope there is another Basallo among the 19 players they signed. The most notable was shortstop Emilio Sánchez, a 16-year-old who signed for a reported $1.3 million, the same as Basallo’s bonus in 2021.

Outfielder Stiven Martinez and shortstops Elvin Garcia and Jemone Nuel, all 16 year-olds from the Dominican Republic, are also considered important signings.

Others signed last week were: catcher Christian Astudillo and outfielder Anthwan Brea, both 16-year-olds from Venezuela; shortstop Héctor Campusano, a 16-year-old Dominican; 16-year-old third baseman Frannier Chirinos, from Venezuela; outfielder Emmanuel Corniel, from the Dominican, who just turned 17; right-hander Luis Espinoza, outfielder Angel Garcia, and catcher Juan Adames García, all 17 year-olds from Venezuela; third baseman Saúl Gómez, right-hander Esteban Mejía, both 16 from the Dominican; 17-year-old Dominicans right-hander Yaki Mondesir; and outfielder Alexander Rincón, left-hander Victor Santos, outfielder Argenis Valdez and shortstop Cleudi Valenzuela. Rincon, Santos, Valdez and Valenzuela are all from the Dominican Republic. Valdez turned 17 on signing day while the others are 16.

“We explained to them it’s going to take a lot of hard work, and it’s going take a lot of dedication on their part,” Perez said after the signings were announced. “They know that they have the backing of the Orioles, especially with our new academy that we have, giving them all the resources that they could need to succeed.”

Domestic strength continues: For the third consecutive year, the Orioles have the top-rated prospect in Baseball America. Shortstop Jackson Holliday succeeded Adley Rutschman (2022) and Gunnar Henderson (2023) in the number one slot.

The Orioles have six prospects in Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects. Besides Holliday, Basallo is rated 10th, infielder Coby Mayo (25), outfielderd Colton Cowser (34) and Heston Kjerstad (41) and left-handed  DL Hall (93).

Promotion schedule: The Orioles announced their promotional schedule for 2024. Included are bobblehead giveaways for Brandon Hyde (April 27th), Mr. Splash (May 10th), Anthony Santander (June 1st), Adley Rutschman (July 28th) and Gunnar Henderson (August 23rd).

They’re also handing out City Connect Hawaiian shirts (June 29th) and City Connect Reversible Floppy Hats (July 26th).

Other interesting giveaways are Orioles’ 70th anniversary replica jersey (May 17th), LGBT!+ Pride Night (June 27th), Orioles Soccer Jersey (August 24th), Football Jerseys (September 7th) and Crewneck Sweatshirts (September 22nd).

Bark at Oriole Park returns on April 16th and September 18th.

Single-game tickets will go on sale Thursday at 10 a.m.  at Orioles.com/Tickets

Call for questions: I’ll be answering Orioles questions this week. Please email yours to: [email protected].

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