The Orioles had a strong showing recently when Baseball America presented its top 20 prospects for this season from the Rookie-level Florida Complex League.
The Birds had four players represented in the back half of the list. And they are all international signings, another sign that the club’s international program is really starting to get going right now.
Three of the four players were signed for significant bonuses in January 2022 and those investments seem to be paying off.
The New York Yankees had the strongest showing in this ranking, with five players among the top 20 and four in the top 10. But no other team besides the O’s had as many as four players ranked.
Dominican outfielder Braylin Tavera, 18, was rated No. 12 on the FCL list. The club signed Tavera in January 2022 for $1.7 million, the second-highest bonus the Orioles have handed out under the Mike Elias regime.
In 35 games this year in the FCL, he batted .262/.391/.421/.812 with five doubles, four homers, 13 steals and 20 RBIs. He walked 22 times to 23 strikeouts, so he controlled the zone well for a young player.
“We are super excited to have four guys ranked on this list," said O's senior director of international scouting, Koby Perez. "Four guys are our guys. Braylin is a player we gave a good bonus to. He’s got great tools and has a chance to be a five-tool player. And it feels like it’s starting to come together for him. We feel like he’s in for a big year next year. He controlled the zone well, so excited about him doing that.”
Lefty pitcher Luis De Leon, 20, also from the Dominican Republic, ranked at No. 14 among the top 20 FCL prospects. De Leon is already an O’s top 30 prospect, ranked No. 26 by MLBPipeline.com and No. 28 via Baseball America.
Signed by the Orioles for $30,000 in December 2021, De Leon went 5-1 with a 2.01 ERA between the FCL and Single-A Delmarva. He did not allow a homer over 53 2/3 innings, and recorded 30 walks to 67 strikeouts.
Leones took him in the fourth round of the recent Dominican Winter League draft.
“He was the first pitcher selected in that draft, where they go for position players first," Perez said. "Super excited about him. Plus slider, fastball has reached 98 mph. Attacks hitters. Super excited about him,”
Ranked No. 18 among FCL prospects is infielder Leandro Arias, 18, from the Dominican Republic. The Orioles signed him for $600,000 in 2022.
A switch-hitter who made starts defense at second base, shortstop and third base, he batted .271/.370/.414/.784 in 44 FCL games while taking 20 walks and 20 strikeouts. MLBPipeline.com ranks Arias as the club’s No. 18 prospect, and he is considered to have an advanced approach at bat.
Thomas Sosa, an 18-year-old Dominican outfielder, is ranked No. 20 on the FCL list. The Orioles signed him for $400,000 in January 2022.
In 39 games in the FCL, Sosa batted .290/.385/.492/.877 with seven doubles, three triples, four homers and 25 RBIs.
Perez said the Orioles have always felt good about their crop of international talent and now it’s nice to see an outside publication such as Baseball America recognizing their progress in that area.
“It’s nice for them to have results, so now everyone else can see," he said. "But we’ve felt really good about our young international players in Florida. But until this year, no one knew who some of these guys were. But we were always confident in them. And we feel really good about the process we have and what our development is doing. But internally, we’ve always felt good about what is going on."
Click here for the Baseball America top 20 from the FCL (subscription may be required).
Click here for my blog post earlier this week on the Orioles having seven international players selected in the Dominican Winter League draft. That tied for the most among all major league clubs.
Saturday's big win: Left-hander John Means allowed one hit and one run over 7 1/3 innings, coming up with a huge start when the O's needed one badly, as the Orioles beat Cleveland 2-1 last night.
They are 96-59 with seven games left. They maintain a 1 1/2-game lead on Tampa Bay and reduced their magic number for the American League East clincher to five.
The Orioles improved to 8-12 when scoring exactly two runs, and have seen five of their past seven games decided by one run, going 3-2 in that span.
They have now gone 89 straight series without being swept.
As for Norfolk: The Triple-A Tides scored nine runs the last two innings to win 15-10 at Buffalo. Norfolk has clinched the best full-season record in the International League at 90-58 with one game left.
On Tuesday the Tides will host Durham in a best-of-three IL Championship Series.
Jackson Holliday went 3-for-4 with four runs and four RBIs and hit his second Triple-A homer. Kyle Stowers homered twice, Colton Cowser drove in three runs and Coby Mayo was 3-for-6 with four RBIs.