A few takeaways from the international rankings series

Another year - the third here at MASNSports.com - of producing a top-20 list attempting to rank Orioles international prospects has come and gone. It’s an exercise that takes some time and some help. The first one I need to take care of myself and the second one I get from some nice people around baseball.

This list of 20 this year was quite strong, and now the O’s have a shining example of what an international signing can turn into with catcher Samuel Basallo at age 19 becoming the No. 10 prospect in baseball per Baseball America.

Again this year, this ranking helped hammer home how far the O’s international program has come.

It produced these other takeaways for me:

The top 30 rankings: The international players are really breaking through now in the team top-30 prospect rankings. When I did the top 20 last year the O’s had five international prospects in the Baseball America top 30, and now they have eight. It would be nine had they not traded César Prieto to St. Louis, where he ranks No. 17 in the Cardinals’ top 30.

Right now on the Baseball America list, the O’s have Basallo (No. 2), pitcher Luis De Leon (No. 14), outfielder Braylin Tavera (No. 18), infielder Luis Almeyda (No. 19), pitcher Juan Nunez (No. 20), infielder Emilio Sanchez (No. 23), outfielder Stiven Martinez (No. 24) and infielder Frederick Bencosme (No. 28).

That is a pretty strong international contingent among the Baltimore top 30. Of the eight, seven were original Orioles. Only Nunez was not, coming from Minnesota in the trade for Jorge López.

Also, while five of the eight were signed for $950,000 or more – they were big-dollar signings – the other three got combined bonuses of $65,000.

Yep, Bencosme was signed for $10,000 on Aug. 14, 2020, Nunez for $25,000 in November 2019 by Minnesota and De Leon for $30,000 in December 2021.

Note when those three players were signed: late in the signing year (that now begins each Jan. 15). They are so-called “late bloomers” that teams continue to watch and scout after the signing date and see something in those players that makes the clubs want to give them a shot, often at a small-dollar amount. The players take the lower bonus (to avoid not getting a chance with someone) and run with it.

Check out the good swing decisions: The O’s player development staff can really teach a good batting eye, and now that is starting to impact the youngest kids in the international program.

Just check out some of the numbers.

Basallo with a .402 OBP. Tavera with a 16.5 walk rate and .391 OBP. Edwin Amparo at .384 OBP, Leandro Arias .370 and Joshua Liranzo .393 with a 15.4 walk rate. Aneudis Mordan at .390 and Thomas Sosa a .385 OBP. Even Bencosme, who had just a .657 OPS at High-A Aberdeen, produced an 11.6 walk rate.

The average walk rate in the major leagues was 8.4 in the 2023 season. This is not an apples-to-apples comparison, of course, as these players were far from the big leagues. But showing some strike-zone control at such a young age should bode well for them moving forward.

They were bringing the heat: We had just five pitchers on the list this year (six in each of the first two years) but one, De Leon, rose to No. 2, and four of the five had some big-time velocity. De Leon was touching 98 and 99 mph with his heater while Nunez, ranked No. 11, touched 97 and 98. At No. 12, Deivy Cruz reached the mid-90s, and at No. 13 righty Luis Sánchez touched 102 mph during the 2023 season. Velocity is just one element of pitching, but you can’t teach 102.

How about those catchers?: In the first two years doing this list in 2022 and 2023, Basallo was the only catcher to make the top 20. This year there were three, and one other was among those other 10 players mentioned that missed the list but not by much.

Basallo was, of course, No. 1 on the list, with Mordan No. 17 and Adriander Mejia ranked No. 20. Catcher Miguel Rodriguez was mentioned as getting considering for the list but not in the top 20. Also worth noting, catcher Yasmil Bucce, who signed for $300,000 in January 2021, hit .302 last year with an OPS of .849 in 23 games in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League.

I didn’t realize the O’s had this much catcher prospect depth among their international talent until completing this year’s top 20.

So while we still wait for that first international player under the Mike Elias front office to make the majors - likely Basallo, of course - we can wait knowing he is far from the only talent worth following this year on the farm.

Here is the entire ranking of the international top 20:

1 - C Samuel Basallo
2 - LHP Luis De Leon
3 - IF Luis Almeyda
4 - OF Braylin Tavera
5 - IF Leandro Arias
6 - IF Joshua Liranzo
7 - OF Thomas Sosa
8 - IF Frederick Bencosme
9 - IF Emilio Sanchez
10 - OF Stiven Martinez
11 - RHP Juan Nunez
12 - LHP Deivy Cruz
13 - RHP Luis Sánchez
14 - IF Jose Mejia
15 - LHP Francisco Morao
16 - IF Anderson De Los Santos
17 - C  Aneudis Mordan
18 - IF Maikol Hernández
19 - IF Elvin Garcia
20 - C Adriander Mejia

The series ran in three parts with the blog/article about No. 1 prospect Basallo here. And the others about players rated No. 2 through 10 here and No. 11 through 20 here.

Hope you enjoyed it and learned a bit more about an aspect of the organization that is sure important to the O's future.

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