Almeyda heads up large O's international class (updated)

The Orioles have announced a large international amateur signing class today of 27 players headed by shortstop Luis Ayden Almeda, age 16, from the Dominican Republic. Almeyda’s signing bonus is $2.3 million, per, the largest ever given an international amateur by the Orioles. He becomes the club’s first international signee with a bonus exceeding $2 million.

Last year’s top signee, outfielder Braylin Tavera, did have that distinction until today, signing for a $1.7 million bonus to head up the class announced last January.

Almeyda sets an O’s record and becomes the fourth player to sign for $1 million or more under the regime of executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias and senior director of international scouting Koby Perez. In the 2021 class, they signed catcher Samuel Basallo for $1.3 million and shortstop Maikol Hernandez for $1.2 million.

“I’m very excited and blessed,” Almeyda told in his first one-on-one interview as an Oriole. “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 mindset on this team from the start since they started with me. I know that they have one of 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.”

The Orioles highlighted seven players in the class of signees in a team press release and the club said that in total 13 players signed for $100,000 or more.

But the top three O’s signees account for just over $3 million of the club’s allotted amount of $5,825,500 for this international period. Almeyda’s bonus represents 39.5 percent of that total pool amount.

“I am the type of ballplayer where God has blessed me with five tools,” Almeyda told me. “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 more tougher on the mental side of my game.”

The Orioles’ second-highest bonus signee, per sources, is shortstop/third baseman Joshua Liranzo, 16, from the Dominican Republic who got $500,000. And right-handed pitcher Keeler Morfe, from Venezuela, signed for $210,000. At age 16, he has already touched 95 mph.

Almeyda was born in the United States and grew up in New Jersey and before he entered high school, according to Baseball America, was already getting recruiting offers from some of the top programs in college baseball. Instead of staying in the United States and becoming a potential first-round pick for the 2025 high school class, Almeyda moved to the Dominican Republic and immediately drew attention. His mother and mother’s parents are from the Dominican Republic, and he qualified as an international signing.

In a scouting report passed on to reporters, the O's believe he will impact the game with his offense. His hit/power combination is one where he is short to the ball with a quick and explosive swing. He begins his pro career at short, but at 6-foot-2 when he physically matures, could move to third base. He is said to be a solid defender with plus arm strength.

Almeyda is ranked No. 17 on the Baseball America ranking of this class’ top international prospects and No. 20 by Almeyda is known by his middle name Ayden to his family but he said his friends and teammates refer to him by Luis, his first name. 

As for Liranzo, the Orioles like his hit/power combo and foresee him as a solid everyday player. He has plus-plus bat speed with a loose swing and the ball can jump off his bat. The club can foresee future plus offense here and he adds loose defensive actions and a plus arm.

Liranzo’s brother, Thayron, is a 19-year-old catcher in the Dodgers system. He produced an OPS of .826 in 41 games last season in the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League and has an OPS of .801 in two years in their organization.

Morfe, in addition to touching 95, shows plus command and good sinking action on his fastball. A sharp slider has been effective against right-handed hitters in the 81-83 mph range and his changeup shows deception and good arm action at 85 to 87 mph. He has shown advanced pitch ability for his age.

The O’s announcement also highlighted infielder Jose Mejia, 17, from the Dominican Republic. Right now he profiles as an offensive second baseman and is considered one of the best hitters in the class. He sees spin well and has hit fastballs well. Some scouts feel he could be a 60 grade hitter with a chance for 50 power. An English speaker, he is said to have good leadership skills.

The O’s also signed shortstop Felix Amparo, 16, from the Dominican Republic. He has a shot to be a future plus hitter who strikes fastballs well and has surprising pop for his size of 5-feet-10 and 145 pounds. On defense, he has good feet and soft hands with a plus arm and excellent body control. He is also a plus runner that figures to be able to stay at short on defense.

The club has also added switch-hitting shortstop Luis Guevara, 16, from Venezuela. He is said to be a leadoff type with excellent bat to ball skill and gap power potential. He shows a nice and easy swing thru the zone and is one of the better hitters from Venezuela. Sound on defense with plus arm strength, he should stay in an up-the-middle spot. He is said to have excellent makeup and is a 65 grade runner.

Lefty pitcher Francisco Morao, 17, was signed out Venezuela. He projects as possible middle of the rotation starter with an athletic body. His fastball has been up to 92 mph with solid movement and plus life. He also features a 12-to-6 curveball with good rotation that profiles as his strikeout pitch. He shows good mound presence with a changeup that could become major league average in the future.

The Orioles have signed 14 from the Dominican and 11 from Venezuela with one each from Colombia and Cuba. They added nine pitchers, eight infielders, six catchers and four outfielders.

Here is the Orioles' entire signing class announced today, listed alphabetically by last name:

SS    Luis Almeyda                                 R/R                      4/17/2006         Dominican Republic

RHP   Xavier Alvero                                R/R                      12/1/2005         Cuba 

  SS   Félix Amparo                                R/R                      2/27/2006         Dominican Republic

  SS   Junior Aybar                                 L/R                      7/14/2006         Dominican Republic

RHP   Luis Beltrán                                  R/R                      4/6/2004          Dominican Republic

  OF   Abraham Cohen                           L/L                      6/15/2006         Venezuela

 SS   Sebastián De Los Santos               S/R                      6/16/2006         Dominican Republic

RHP   Javier González                            R/R                      9/22/2005         Colombia

  SS   Luis Guevara                                S/R                      2/6/2006          Venezuela

  OF   Raúl Leonte                                 L/L                      5/7/2006          Dominican Republic

  SS   Joshua Liranzo                             R/R                      8/25/2006         Dominican Republic

    C   Adriander Mejía                            R/R                      8/29/2006         Venezuela

INF   José Mejía                                    R/R                      9/29/2005         Dominican Republic

LHP   Francisco Morao                           L/L                      11/15/2005       Venezuela

RHP   Keeler Morfe                                 R/R                      6/9/2006          Venezuela

    C   Juan Ortega                                 R/R                      4/10/2006         Venezuela

INF   Diorky Ortiz                                  S/R                      11/15/2005       Dominican Republic

  OF   Breiny Ramírez                             L/L                      5/19/2006         Dominican Republic                 

RHP   Juan Rasquín                                R/R                      12/24/2005       Venezuela

    C   Jhonanderson Robain                   R/R                      1/14/2006         Venezuela

    C   Miguel Rodríguez                          R/R                      12/29/2005       Venezuela

  OF   Elvis Rojas                                   L/L                      9/25/2005         Dominican Republic                 

RHP   Raymond Sosa                             R/R                      5/3/2006          Dominican Republic

RHP   Rafael Suero                                R/R                      5/7/2006          Dominican Republic

    C   Omar Urbina                                R/R                      9/1/2005          Venezuela

RHP   Kevin Velasco                               R/R                      1/11/2006         Venezuela

    C   Luis Vicioso                                  R/R                      5/7/2003          Dominican Republic

In the team announcement, Perez spoke about this class.

"We are thrilled to welcome these talented individuals and their families to Birdland,” he said. “Today’s announcement is tied for the most contract agreements to open the International signing period in Orioles history with 2019-20 – as well as the club’s highest-paid international signee, Luis Almeyda – would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of our staff, and of course the continued support of our international efforts from Mike Elias and the Partnership Group.”

Later today, Perez will speak with reporters via Zoom and this entry will be updated with some of those comments.

And here they are from that Zoom.

Perez with more on Almeyda: “Ayden is a kid we first saw in a tournament in Mexico and we were really excited about it when we saw him and were happy to know he was going to move to the Dominican Republic or had already moved to the Dominican Republic. The Jersey connection, we knew some people in common from Jersey baseball circles. We think his ability speaks for itself. Also, growing up in the U.S., the battles that players internationally go through, he’s already got that system ready to go since he grew up in New Jersey.”

Perez on the bonus amount of $2.3 million: “I think it’s super significant. Anytime we give people significant money like this we have to check all the boxes and make sure we are doing it with the right kid and the right family. Just to ensure that the kid can continue growing and progressing as a Major League baseball player.

“I think, it’s very personal to me because it’s the highest bonus that we’ve given out here and it just says a lot to our faith and trust in this kid’s ability, not only as a player but as a person.”

Perez, with Almeyda's background in the U.S., could he start at a higher level than some international prospects?: “He will spend some time in the U.S.A. this year. We also want to take it slow with Ayden. We want to be sure he is ready for whatever level. We don’t want to rush him too much either. It’s tough to put a timeline on the kid’s development, but he’ll have a full opportunity to grow. Some kids do it quickly, others take a little more time. Matt Blood and his player development staff can make the assessment of where Ayden will play for the best of his development.”

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