The announcement of 27 international signees by the Orioles Sunday represents their fourth international class under executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias and the club’s senior director, international scouting Koby Perez.
Each year their highest signing bonus has exceeded the previous year. On July 2, 2019, the club’s top signee, in the first Elias/Perez international class, was outfielder Luis Gonzalez at $475,000. Then due to COVID-19, the signing dates were pushed back. On Jan. 15, 2021, the top signee was catcher Samuel Basallo at $1.3 million. That was topped last January by outfielder Braylin Tavera at $1.7 million.
Yesterday the O’s handed out their biggest international bonus yet, adding 16-year-old, right-handed hitting shortstop Luis Almeyda, known to his family by Ayden his middle name, for $2.3 million.
Born in the United States in Patterson, New Jersey, Almeyda’s dad Hector was a firefighter for 25 years. His mother and grandparents were born in the Dominican Republic. Almeyda’s family moved to the Dominican in 2021 and he then qualified as an international signing. His family moved to the DR in part to care for his grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s disease.
At one point he appeared headed for Tampa’s Jesuit High School, but instead of moving to Florida, his family went to the DR. Had he ended up there his entry to pro ball would not have come before the 2025 MLB Draft. Now he gets his bonus and start toward the majors sooner.
He is ranked as the No. 17 international prospect by Baseball America and No. 20 via MLBPipeline.com.
Almeyda speaks English quite well and said that all his time spent in the United States will make his transition back much easier than for most international players when he eventually plays minor league ball here.
“I have played travel ball everywhere when I was in the United States,” he told me in his first O’s one on one interview this weekend. “Played in Texas, California, everywhere. I’m not going to have that culture shock when I come back to the United States because I am from here. I feel like I’m home here, just playing backyard baseball.”
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 summer.
“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.”
As a kid with such a background already in the United States, Perez was asked if that could impact where Almeyda plays this year?
“He will spend some time in the U.S.A. this year,” he said Sunday during a team Zoom call. “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.”
Said Almeyda of his team assignment this year: “It depends on the organization, what do they want to do with me. I just know whenever I step on the field, I have to give my 100 percent. And the rest goes along with it.”
The Orioles like what they call his “short and explosive swing.” They foresee him with solid hit and power tools and with plus arm strength. At 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, he could outgrow short and have to move to third base later.
MLBPipeline.com puts 50 grades on his hitting, running and fielding and 55 grades for power and arm.
He told me he’s ready travel that long road from the DSL to the majors.
“It’s just a journey. A journey where I’m going to meet other ballplayers and make some friends for the rest of my life. Just very excited to ride the wave with this organization. I’m stoked, I’m very stoked. My feelings are like off the roof right now. I’m just riding the wave and feel very blessed and happy.”
“With the Orioles on the international side, they do an amazing job. All the scouts that scouted me and Koby Perez, they do an amazing job. The Orioles are starting to really achieve on the international side – something very exciting for the future. They are building a new academy here coming soon I believe too. Mike Elias is doing a great job in this organization and in the long run this is going to be a great team,” Almeyda said.
Perez told reporters during the Zoom Sunday that the club has spent about $5.3 million of its total pool of $5,825,500. He added that it appears the club can begin using its new facility in the Dominican this year.
Sources said the O’s second-highest signee was infielder Joshua Liranzo at $500,000 and third highest was right-handed pitcher Keeler Morfe at $210,000, a hurler that has already touched 95 mph at age 16.
Click here for more from Sunday on the entire class of 27 signees.