For a team looking to build an elite pipeline and support and grow its organization with quality home-grown talent, the last week or so have been good days for the Orioles.
It began a week ago today, when the club announced an international signing class of 27 players, headed up by 16-year-old shortstop Luis Ayden Almeyda. He got a $2.3 million signing bonus, the largest ever handed out by the Orioles to an international amateur.
The O's class featured 13 players signing for $100,000 or more, and Koby Perez, the club's senior director of international scouting, told reporters the club has about $500,000 remaining from its pool allotment of $5,825,500. They could sign more players through Dec. 15.
MLBPipeline.com, which ranked Almeyda as its No. 20 international prospect, gave him tool grades of 50 for hitting, running and fielding and 55 grades for power and arm.
“I’m very excited and blessed,” Almeyda told MASNsports.com in his first one-on-one interview as an Oriole prospect. “I am ecstatic to start out with this organization and develop as a ballplayer and a man as well.
“It really wasn’t a tough decision. I had my mind set on this team from the start since they started with me. I know that they have one of the best farm systems in the minor leagues, or maybe the best farm system in the minor leagues. You know, I’m just excited to get on this journey.”
Almeyda is confident in his abilities as he gets set for a long journey that is likely to start in the Dominican Summer League this year.
“I am the type of ballplayer where God has blessed me with five tools," he said. "I can run, field, hit. I feel as a ballplayer I am a complete ballplayer. But one thing I have to improve on, and I see myself improving with this organization, is having a stronger mental approach to the game. Yeah, there are times, remember I am 16 and still working on things in my life as well.
“I know that as I mature and get older, I have to learn how to work with failure. I think that is a big thing. I am starting to really improve with it, but it’s still not 100 percent. I know with this organization I can really, really master and just be tougher on the mental side of my game.”
We know how important international players have become in Major League Baseball. International talent made up 28 percent of opening day rosters last year. And in the new Baseball America top 100 released this week, 29 of the 100 were international signees.
About that top 100: The Orioles led the majors, getting eight players ranked on the Baseball America top 100 prospects list, led by No. 1 prospect Gunnar Henderson. It is a massive haul on this list. A list where the Orioles had never before had more than five players ranked.
Here is a rundown of each year - and the Baseball America top 100 began in 1990 - that the Orioles had four or more players on this list, with the names and where they ranked at that time.
* 1991 (4): Arthur Rhodes (6), Mike Mussina (19), Leo Gómez (61), Ricky Gutierrez (82).
* 1992 (4): Arthur Rhodes (5), Manny Alexander (39), Mark Smith (57), Luis Mercedes (80).
* 1993 (4): Brad Pennington (18), Jeffrey Hammonds (19), Manny Alexander (57), Alex Ochoa (89).
* 1994 (4): Jeffrey Hammonds (3), Alex Ochoa (42), Manny Alexander (65), Armando Benítez (71).
* 1995 (4): Armando Benítez (11), Alex Ochoa (35), Jimmy Haynes (45), Curtis Goodwin (68).
* 1999 (4): Matt Riley (20), Calvin Pickering (38), Jayson Werth (52), Darnell McDonald (74).
* 2004 (4): Adam Loewen (13), John Maine (54), Denny Bautista (59), Nick Markakis (90).
* 2006 (4): Nick Markakis (21), Adam Loewen (45), Hayden Penn (81), Nolan Reimold (99).
* 2008 (5): Matt Wieters (12), Chris Tillman (67), Radhames Liz (69), Troy Patton (78), Nolan Reimold (91).
* 2009 (4): Matt Wieters (1), Chris Tillman (22), Brian Matusz (25), Jake Arrieta (67).
* 2010 (4): Brian Matusz (5), Josh Bell (37), Zack Britton (63), Jake Arrieta (99).
* 2021 (5): Adley Rutschman (2), Grayson Rodriguez (22), DL Hall (59), Heston Kjerstad (62), Ryan Mountcastle (63).
* 2022 (5): Adley Rutschman (1), Grayson Rodriguez (6), DL Hall (52), Gunnar Henderson (57), Colton Cowser (98).
* 2023 (8): Gunnar Henderson (1), Grayson Rodriguez (6), Jackson Holliday (15), Colton Cowser (41), DL Hall (75), Jordan Westburg (76), Connor Norby (93), Joey Ortiz (95).