Announcements on the Orioles’ international signings should be trickling out now that they revealed their agreement yesterday with 16-year-old switch-hitting outfielder Isaac Bellony of the Dominican Republic for $220,000.
There are believed to be at least eight others, from what I’ve been told, including 16-year-old Dominican shortstop Moises Ramirez for $225,000, as reported by Baseball America (and confirmed here) but still not announced by the club. The paperwork on the Venezuelan players apparently took a little longer to process.
I’m no expert on the subject. Just passing along what I’ve heard.
MLB.com also lists Dominican outfielder Damien Valdez ($200,000), center fielder J’Rudjeanon Isenia ($125,000) of Curacao and Dominican right-handers Carlos Del Rosario and Kelvin LaRoche in lesser deals.
The Orioles have approximately $7.5 million in bonus pool funds remaining, more than any other team, and figure to make a run at Cuban outfielder Victor Victor Mesa, who still hasn’t been cleared by Major League Baseball to become a free agent.
Baseball America didn’t include Bellony among its top 50 international prospects, but let’s not quibble. The Orioles are active in the international market and acknowledge that it’s a necessary part of the rebuild.
“Bellony is a young, switch-hitting center fielder with power, speed and a strong arm who was recruited by several clubs,” executive vice president Dan Duquette said in a statement. “We look forward to helping him develop into a major leaguer.”
* The Orioles’ catching depth has a tendency to fluctuate.
It was an issue again in recent years, received a boost and became a concern again. But Austin Wynns continues to impress at the major league level as Caleb Joseph’s backup, Chance Sisco is only 23 and still regarded as a prospect, and Martin Cervenka has put himself on the Orioles’ radar with a breakout season at Double-A Bowie.
Cervenka was named the Eastern League and the Orioles’ Player of the Month for July. He went into last night’s game with 20 doubles, 13 home runs and 53 RBIs in 88 games and his work behind the plate has been lauded.
A scout from outside the organization said he anticipates seeing Cervenka, 26, at Camden Yards next summer.
“Late mature, he’s made mega-strides this season,” the scout wrote in an e-mail. “Strong, athletic catcher who seems to have figured out the bat, good chance to hit and have power. His defense has improved and he has a SA/Plus arm. Coming fast.”
The Orioles acquired catcher Brett Cumberland from the Braves as part of the package for Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day, but as I’ve written, his throwing isn’t viewed as a strength and he eventually could change positions.
* The same scout offered positive remarks about Bowie outfielder Ryan McKenna, who went 2-for-5 last night. McKenna batted .377/.467/.556 in 67 games at Single-A Frederick, but he’s registered a .257 average and .714 OPS in 50 games with the Baysox.
“Classic, extra outfielder that can play all three outfield spots,” the scout wrote. “Plus-athlete that will hit enough and he can help a team win with his glove, bat and legs. Intangibles.”
The outfield becomes crowded in an ideal Orioles world with Cedric Mullins the everyday center field and, assuming Adam Jones moves on, guys like Austin Hays, Yusniel Díaz and DJ Stewart competing for right. McKenna could vie for a spot in the lineup or compete with John Andreoli and Joey Rickard for a bench role.
The Orioles will check on Trumbo’s market over the winter, hoping that he returns from his knee injury to finish strong. He’ll have only one year remaining on his contract.
* Anthony Santander has stayed in the minors since shedding his Rule 5 status 44 days into the season. He batted .258/.293/.402 with nine doubles, three triples, five home runs and 22 RBIs in 54 games with Bowie before going on the disabled list and is playing for short-season Single-A Aberdeen on an injury rehab assignment.
We might not see Santander in September, though his placement on the 40-man roster makes for an easier transaction. The Orioles selected him from the Indians organization in the 2016 Rule 5 draft and he tried to make the jump from the Single-A Carolina League.
It’s easy forget about Santander because he never resurfaced in the majors, but he’s only 23, and the combination of injuries and being forced onto the Orioles roster conspired to slow his development. However, there’s no question that the 2018 season has been a disappointment.
* Steve Wilkerson started in left field Sunday with Bowie as the Orioles throw as many positions at him as he can handle. He played first base last night.
Wilkerson and Jace Peterson could engage in a spirited battle for the super-utility job next spring and there figure to be other candidates.
The Braves designated Ryan Flaherty for assignment yesterday. It’s unwise to immediatley dismiss the notion of a reunion, but the Flash ship might have sailed after the Orioles’ failed attempt to re-sign him late in spring training and their subsequent roster retooling.
Flaherty batted .300 in April, but was 2-for-20 in June, 1-for-11 in July and 0-for-9 this month.