Fred Ferreira said it doesn’t happen often. But there have been times in his long career of signing international baseball talent that he saw someone play and agreed to sign him that same day.
It happened several weeks ago when he watched a 16-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic named Olelky Peralta pitch. It was part of a showcasing of players by the Arias & Goodman Sports Agency at their academy in San Pedro de Macoris.
Ferreira, the Orioles’ executive director of international recruiting who has signed players like Vladimir Guerrero and Bernie Williams during a four-decade career, obviously was impressed by the young right-hander who was throwing the ball by hitters that day late this summer.
Peralta had a dominant three-inning outing and touched 97 mph with his fastball. Ferreira didn’t wait to see more. He got O’s vice president Dan Duquette on the phone and quickly got a deal done.
It wasn’t just any deal, but one where Peralta was signed to a bonus of $325,000. That is believed to be the largest the club has ever given a Dominican-born amateur, topping the $300,000 bonus given to then-16-year-old Hector Veloz in July 2010.
“There have been players that I’ve scouted and followed and a few that I signed the same day I saw them, and (Peralta) was one where we got it done immediately,” Ferreira said. “I knew the more he got exposed (seen by other scouts), the more chance we’d have of losing him, at least at the rate we signed him for. We’ve seen bigger bonuses for stuff less than that.
“No one even fouled anything off for three innings. It was a total overmatch against some good hitters. I got Dan on the phone and told him what we might have here and Dan said let’s follow up and we got the job done.”
From Bonoa, Dominican Republic, the 6-foot-5, 195-lb. Peralta officially signed with the Orioles on Sept. 7 after passing his physical. Like the Orioles’ top 10 draft picks, he came to Baltimore for his physical, further proof of both the club’s interest in him and the amount of his signing bonus.
“He throws nice and easy now, not maximum effort and he touched 97 (mph) for us,” Ferreira said. “He throws 93, 95 and hit 97 (mph). And he’s just 16 years old. You can just project what he’s going to look like in two or three years. He is going to be raising that velocity close to 100. I can see it.
“He looks like he will have two good breaking pitches. He is very, very impressive with good command. I’m glad we have him.”
Right after he signed, the Orioles sent Peralta to their instructional league workouts in Florida, where he impressed the staff there. Some of the O’s player development staff believe Peralta already ranks among the organization’s top 15 prospects. We shouldn’t overhype someone before he has ever pitched in a game for the club, but it’s clear he’s already on the radar.
Peralta will likely begin pitching next season in the Dominican Summer League with possible advancement later to the Gulf Coast League.
There were some organizations that believed Peralta could not be signed until 2014, but he was born April 20, 1997 and was an eligible 2013 sign. Ferreira saw him and pretty much got the deal done in one afternoon. That fast.
“Yes, it’s unusual, but it does happen. You can’t expect that every time. I just got back from Panama yesterday (Tuesday) and I have two good follows, Players I want to see again the next time I’m there, they’re not quite ready. But here was a young man ready to sign. I felt if I left the island, by the time I got back to see him again, he’d be signed,” Ferreira said.
A man that has signed 65 major leaguers - including Miguel Gonzalez and Henry Urrutia for the Orioles - Ferreira knows Peralta has a long road ahead to try and reach the majors, but maybe one day he will be able to add him to the list.