Orioles are getting better on the international front

For an organization that often lagged behind plenty of others in international signings, there is evidence now that the Orioles are finally making some gains in that area.

Last year, just three international players signed by the O’s were among their top 15 prospects, according to Baseball America. Now the Orioles have five international players who will likely be ranked among their top 15 prospects.

In Baseball America’s O’s top 30 prospects list published last winter, Jonathan Schoop was ranked third with Eduardo Rodriguez fifth and Henry Urrutia 13th.

When the new list comes out next month, it is likely that pitcher Olelky Peralta and outfielder Dariel Alvarez, both signed just this year, will be added with those three.

Schoop, signed out of Curacao in 2008, has been a top O’s prospect the last few years and could be the club’s future second baseman. Rodriguez was signed out of Venezuela in January 2010. A Cuban outfielder, Urrutia was signed for $778,500 in July 2012. Another Cuban outfielder, Alvarez was signed for $800,000 in late July, while Peralta, a 16-year-old right-hander from Bonoa, Dominican Republic, was signed for $325,000 on Sept. 7.

We’ve seen the Orioles add pitchers like Koji Uehara, Wei-Yin Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada over the last few years, as well.

Just yesterday, the Orioles added three foreign-born players when they signed lefty Kelvin De La Cruz from the Dominican Republic and added the reliever to their 40-man roster. The club also announced four minor league signings Monday, including outfielders Chih-Hsien Chiang, a native of Taiwan, and Kyeong Kang, a native of South Korea.

In March, the club hired Nelson Norman, a former major leaguer with plenty of player development experience, to run its Dominican program. The O’s fielded two teams in the Dominican Summer League in 2013 for the first time in three years and they plan to have two clubs next summer.

Of the eight O’s prospects that played for the Arizona Fall League champion Surprise Saguaros, four were international signings, with Schoop, Urrutia, Alvarez and Rodriguez on that team.

What does this all mean? It means the Orioles are active internationally and they certainly need to be. To win in the American League East, you better hit on all cylinders. Clubs like the Red Sox and Yankees have been forces internationally for a long time.

The Orioles have some ground to make up here, but under Dan Duquette, they are clearly active in international markets, as he has said they would be.

Foreign-born talent makes up around 25 to 30 percent of major league clubhouses, according to estimates, so it cannot be ignored. Now the Orioles can say 33 percent of their top 15 prospects were international signings and that is a solid number.

The O’s are far from an international juggernaut, but they are sure making nice gains here and if they want to be a consistent winner, it was something they simply had to do.

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