When we published the Orioles' top 20 international prospects list Saturday with players we have ranked No. 2 through No. 10, there were no pitchers, but several do make this list as we wrap it up today.
Among the final 10 players here are six pitchers, five right-handers and a lefty. Several can bring some heat for such young players but most have to work on deliveries and command to lower walk rates as they move up the minor league ladder.
No. 11 - RHP Luis Sánchez: The Orioles signed Sanchez for $200,000 on Jan. 15, 2019. He turns 20 on March 4. He had some small, nagging injury issues and did not pitch in an official minor league game in 2022 while working on a strengthening program. But he did throw innings against live hitters at instructional league after the season and pitched well and impressed, showing some upper-90s velocity.
From San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, Sánchez brings a fastball that has been up to 99 mph and often sits in the mid-90s. His slider has become a solid secondary, and he throws an average changeup at this point. Between the Florida Complex League and Dominican Summer League in 2021, he went 0-4 with a 7.23 ERA. In 37 1/3 innings he walked 29 and fanned 39, allowing a .268 batting average. But the stuff is plus at times and he needs to just harness his command and stay healthy. He could be a starter for low Single-A Delmarva this year.
No. 12 – Infielder Joshua Liranzo: A right-handed hitter, he was part of the January 2023 signing class and, at $500,000, got the second-highest bonus from the Orioles in this class after Luis Almeyda, who received $2.3 million and is fourth on this list.
Expected to play at third base this year in the DSL, Liranzo, 16, has shown a bat that might produce a nice combo of hit tool and some power. Reports say he has plus-plus bat speed and a loose swing and the ball can jump off his bat. The chance for some solid offense seems good here, and he has also shown the ability to handle third base with a plus arm.
His brother, Thayron, is a 19-year-old catcher in the Los Angelos Dodgers organization. He produced an .826 OPS in 41 games last season in the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League and has an .801 OPS over two years in their organization.
No. 13 - RHP Juan De Los Santos: This righty, now 20, got off to a very fast start at Delmarva last year as a starter and had a 1.97 ERA after his first seven outings through mid-May. He ended the year at 2-9 with a 4.29 ERA over 79 2/3 innings with 41 walks, 84 strikeouts and 1.42 WHIP. He has a career 3.99 ERA over 169 innings with 67 walks and 155 strikeouts.
Signed for just $25,000 on March 7, 2019, De Los Santos, from San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, has seen his fastball top at 97 and 98 mph. He also throws a slider and changeup. The slider has flashed plus, but he got into a lot of deep counts last summer and continues to work on command and repeating his delivery. One scout saw him as a “poor man’s Kyle Bradish.” Coaches have seen him as very eager to learn and soaking up every resource available to him. He might be asked to use his changeup more this season, when he could return to Delmarva or get advanced to High-A Aberdeen.
No. 14 – RHP Juan Nunez: Signed at age 19 by the Minnesota Twins for $25,000 on Nov. 14, 2019, Nunez was part of the trade that sent O’s closer Jorge López to the Twins last Aug. 2. Lefty Cade Povich was the headliner coming back in the deal that brought Nunez, fellow righty Yennier Canó and southpaw Juan Rojas to the O’s organization.
A bit older than some other international pitching talent at 22, Nunez has a bit more experience and seems to harness his stuff better than some younger teammates. For three teams in 2022, when he ended the season with Delmarva, he went 0-2 with a 3.58 ERA. Over 50 1/3 innings he walked 24 and fanned 63.
He ended the year with a 1.23 ERA in four Delmarva starts and threw 11 scoreless innings on five hits his last three games. He walked 13, but seven came in his O’s organization debut Aug. 4. Nunez’s fastball has been up to 97. He has a good slider and a changeup that is a work in progress. He could pitch for Delmarva or Aberdeen this year.
No. 15 – LHP Deivy Cruz: Cruz went 1-3 with 3.78 ERA last year, pitching three games in the FCL and 13 games for Delmarva. Over 66 2/3 combined innings he allowed 53 hits and 45 walks with 69 strikeouts and a .217 batting average against. He pitched 53 2/3 innings for Delmarva only, recording a 4.02 ERA, 37 walks, 52 strikeouts and just three homers allowed.
Cruz, from Bani, Dominican Republic, just turned 19, and obviously needs to limit the walks. At 5-foot-11, 154 pounds, he certainly could add a few pounds (O's hope he gets to 170, 175) and gain some strength in the weight room. That could make a difference for a fastball that right now sits at 90, 91 mph, touching 94. Since he is touching 94 now, the O’s feel pitching more often in that range is within reach for Cruz. And if he can sit 93, 94, the O’s really like his package of pitches, which includes a slider and changeup. He could begin this year back at Delmarva, and if he reaches his ceiling could be a mid-rotation starter.
No. 16 – RHP Moisés Chace: He got his first taste of full-season ball last year, making 19 appearances and 14 starts for the Delmarva Shorebirds. Chace (pronounced cha-SAY) went 3-5 with a 4.98 ERA. Over 59 2/3 innings he walked 42 and fanned 64. But he allowed only a .213 average and just one homer, throwing a heavy ball with some sink that got some grounders. He could return to Delmarva to pitch at age 19 in the low Single-A Carolina League.
Signed out of Venezuela on July 2, 2019 for $225,000, Chace has decent, but not overwhelming stuff across the board. He pitches at 91, 92 and up to 94, 95 mph with his fastball and adds a slider, curve and changeup. The high walk total needs to come down but he was not often very wild and was around the zone a lot. He could do a better job repeating his delivery.
No. 17 – Infielder/outfielder Luis Valdez: Signed out of the Dominican for just $10,000 on May 20, 2019, Valdez is a burner with top-of-scale, 80-grade speed. He is the fastest runner on the O’s farm. He has speed that would give Jorge Mateo and Cedric Mullins a real challenge in a foot race. And he has piled up stolen bases over his two years on the Baltimore farm.
A switch-hitter, he played 95 games with Delmarva and 20 at High-A Aberdeen in 2022, batting .265/.339/.339/.678 with 13 doubles, five triples, three homers and 25 RBIs. He stole 71 bases in 86 attempts, and that was second-best in all of the minors last year. He is 92-for-110 in 150 career games.
Valdez could begin this season with Aberdeen, where he has a second base/center field defensive profile. Last year he played 79 games at second and 38 in center. He may be a touch better outfield defender. He could make a run someday at a big league utility job, and a player the likes of Terrin Vavra might be a good comp for him to emulate.
No. 18 Outfielder Raylin Ramos: The Orioles signed Ramos out of the Dominican for $200,000 on Jan. 15, 2022. He shows solid tools across the board. This right-handed hitter had a solid first year of pro ball in the Dominican Summer League. Over 47 games, he hit .288/.359/.410/.769 with nine doubles, two triples, two homers, 25 runs, eight steals and 35 RBIs. He posted a respectable 8.3 walk rate and made good contact on the way to an 11.6 strikeout rate. He is a strong and athletic kid who shows potential to add some power. On defense he profiles as a corner outfielder, and he made all his starts in the outfield in right last season. He is likely headed to the FCL this season.
No. 19 – RHP Raúl Rangel: He was No. 8 on this list last year. In 2022 the Venezuelan-born right-hander went a combined 1-2 with a 6.23 ERA in 13 innings split between the FCL and Delmarva, where he pitched 4 2/3 innings over three games. He walked 14 and fanned 18. Signed for $150,000 on July 2, 2019, he was part of the first international signing class for Mike Elias and Koby Perez. Rangel could be back with the Shorebirds this year.
The 20-year-old Rangel (pronounced ran-HEL) has nice size at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds and throws a fastball, slider, curve and really solid changeup that is his best pitch. He commands it well and throws that change for strikes and chase. He sits in the low 90s, running his fastball up to 94, 95 mph, and could tap into more velocity with added strength. He shows nice acumen for using all his pitches thus far.
No. 20 – Jose Mejia, Infielder: From the Dominican Republic, Mejia, 17, got the third-highest bonus from the Orioles in the class of January 2023 signees at $410,000. Right now he profiles as an offensive-minded second baseman who is expected to also see time at short this year. Some scouts feel he could be a 60-grade hitter with 50 power. A right-handed hitter with a mature approach for a young player, he hits fastballs well and is able to pick up spin well too. His parents are doctors, and he is an English speaker said to have good leadership skills. He will start in the DSL, but could be a fast mover. He has been in the United States several times already, which should help his transition when the time comes to play ball here.