A take on Samuel Basallo from a coach he is very close with

Orioles catching prospect Samuel Basallo can make a nice first impression. Like when he reported to Low-A Delmarva last April for his first shot at full-season minor league ball. He homered in each of his first two games with the Shorebirds.

His manager then was Felipe Rojas Alou Jr. and the kid had long since made a nice first impression on Alou. As he remembers it, he first saw Basallo at the O’s Dominion academy, not the new one that just opened but the previous edition.

On a sunny field then, somewhere around January of 2020 or maybe earlier, Alou recalls that he saw the young kid with a potent bat that the Orioles were looking to sign.

The skills impressed him that day as he watched Basallo and another young man work out. But it was as much about how well he handled himself that impressed the man who would be his future manager.

“I remember his first day at the academy when he was having a tryout. You could see right there, for a young kid, his demeanor and body language,” recalled Alou recently. “Everything about him looked good from the beginning, but it was the fire he had to be better that really came through.

“It started there. How he handled himself that day. He was very polite. He would come by and thank us for the workout and shake our hands.”

The two men – Alou and Basallo – remain very close and the kid ranked as the sport’s No. 10 prospect by Baseball America knows he has someone important in his corner in Alou, who is entering his 17th year in the Baltimore organization.

“It can be true with a lot of these young kids. You are there, not just as a staff member but as a father or relative figure. That is where all this begins,” said Alou of their close relationship.

Basallo signed with the Orioles as a touted international amateur for $1.3 million on Jan. 15, 2021. Baseball America now grades both his power and his throwing arm as 70 grades. The kid who showed promise under the Dominican sun really burst on the scene last season. In 114 games between Delmarva (83 games), High-A Aberdeen (27 games) and Double-A Bowie (four games) he hit .313/.402/.551/.953 with 27 doubles, seven triples, 20 homers, 75 runs and 86 RBIs.

He began his first year of full season ball ranked as the Orioles’ No. 15 prospect on their team top 30 at this time in 2023 and now has both entered and shot up top 100 lists.

The drive to be good is a big reason why he has come both far and fast said Alou.

“With him and this is a huge part of his personality, is that he demands a lot of himself. He is a kid that is constantly trying to get better. At times he can get frustrated as he wants to be the best player on the field.

“He works so hard. Like this offseason he does his conditioning program and then makes sure he takes time for hitting and defense. He is so demanding even during the season, say in batting practice and the round he is taking is not what he is looking for, that frustration can actually drive him and helps get him to where he is.

“We remind him that there are going to be some failures in this game. That is the only way you get better at 18, 19. He knows the superstars in this game are always working and constantly trying things and that is what makes him what he is. What makes him special.”

His quick start in those first two games with Delmarva, continued as he finished April batting .313 with a .866 OPS and drove in 23 runs in 20 games.

“At the start of the year I thought he might struggle some," said Alou. "An 18-year-old kid and his first full season club. But he didn’t at all. He had some spots throughout the year, but he didn’t struggle.

“As a young, talented kid he grew a ton. Like I said he is very demanding and wants to be so good every single day. At times that could impact him. But he got better at that. We are talking about a kid at 19. He grew a lot and continues to mature,” said Alou.

Even though he didn’t play with Delmarva after July, advancing on Aug. 1 to Aberdeen. Basallo was named the winner of the Carolina League MVP award at season’s end.

In 83 Shorebirds games, he batted .299/.384/.503/.887 with 12 homers and 60 RBIs.

And Basallo is not just a big guy that can run into a fastball. He is a good all-around hitter, who also has big all-fields power. And an improving batting eye. He had a 11.6 walk rate in Delmarva that was 16.5 with Aberdeen.

“Huge. It’s part of his work ethic (the plate discipline),” said Alou. “When he swings, he wants to do damage, but he cares about controlling the strikezone. He even shows care in how he runs the bases. How can he impact the game there, which he knows he can by running the bases the right way. He would hit an RBI single with a throw to the plate and he would read the throws and take the extra base. And he stole double-digit bases."

His huge year put him big-time on the map with prospects analysts. In addition to his No. 10 BA ranking, Basallo was rated the No. 7 prospect by FanGraphs.com, No. 17 via MLBPipeline.com, No. 20 by The Athletic and No. 27 by ESPN.com.

Now he needs to handle the added attention and pressure of being one of the game's top prospects.

“I think he will very well," said Alou. "I think he has already been exposed to what being a prospect is all about. Everyone is always paying attention to him and the fans outside of the game want his time or a picture. And he got drafted in the first round here (the Dominican) by one of the teams in winter ball. I think he understands where he stands right now as a prospect, and I have no doubt he will handle it very well.

“Plus, this kid comes from a very nice humble family that is very supportive and spent a lot of time with him (in the States last season). As a group and family, he has that great support to help him handle added attention just fine.”


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