The fall instructional camp allows the Orioles to give more work to prospects who also joined the alternate camp site in Bowie or were excluded. And it provides a way to become more familiar with some of the international signings.
If José Cosma doesn’t sound familiar to you, the Orioles announced his signing on Jan. 24. SN Nation’s tracker listed him as joining the organization in 2019.
Whatever. Cosma was in the wave of Dominican players that also included third baseman Albert Calderón, outfielder Ronnie Martínez and right-handers Yonatan Pineda, Christopher Ramírez, Rafael Ramírez and Luis Sánchez.
The total cost was a reported $850,000, including $235,000 for Martínez. Cosma, an 18-year old switch-hitting shortstop, received $170,000.
Koby Perez, the Orioles’ senior director of international scouting, has described Cosma as a good hitter and “stronger-bodied kid” with good hands and baseball instincts who could move from shortstop to third base.
Sánchez also is in the fall instructional camp, and Perez is receiving updates from director of pitching Chris Holt and maintaining his enthusiasm for the draft class.
“Holty told me Sánchez is touching mid-90s,” Perez said yesterday. “He’s 17 years old and he’s in the mid-90s and (Holt) thinks there’s going to be more in there because there’s a lot of mechanical work being done with him, so this is just like raw talent, him throwing that hard. We think he can get even better.
“You think about a guy with that type of velocity as a 17-year-old high school kid, he would probably be pretty interesting on people’s draft boards.”
The reports also have been solid on left-hander Luis Ortiz, ranked 29th among Orioles prospects by MLB Pipeline after he received a $400,000 bonus last summer.
“In talking to Holty, he’s pretty advanced for an 18-year-old and they like what they see there,” Perez said.
“Those two guys are really standing out on the pitching end.”
The list of international players working out in Sarasota also includes right-handers Randy Beriguete and Héctor López; catcher Ricardo Rivera; infielders Roberto Martínez, Erinson Placencia, James Rolle, Leonel Sánchez and Dax Stubbs; and outfielders Stiven Acevedo, Isaac Bellony and Luis González.
“Since these kids missed their whole year, as did everybody else, we decided to bring a pretty big group of international players to the instructional league, just because they’re 17 and 18 years old and we thought that those guys could really use an instructional league-type of environment just to start getting acclimated to professional baseball,” Perez said.
“Right now they’re 17 and 18, and there are 24-year-olds there, so they’re five, six years younger than the majority of camp. But we thought it would be a really good environment for them to learn how to be professionals.”
Acevedo signed in April 2019 for $275,000 and batted .250/.334/.302 with 10 doubles, a home run and 25 RBIs in 61 games in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League. Gonzalez signed for $475,000 in July 2019.
“The thing to like about Acevedo is his age,” Perez said. “He already played a year as a 16-year-old. He missed this year as a 17-year-old but he just turned 18 and he’s pretty advanced for that age. Had he been born 20 days later he would have been a 2019 player. So he’s definitely showing well as compared to the rest of the group.
“So is Gonzalez, who’s one of our biggest money signings of that year. He’s showing why he got paid. He’s got some physical ability and power and is showing well down there.
“All I hear is positive things overall about the instructional league. It’s a huge benefit to be able to get on the fields with these kids. I’m hearing rave reviews about some of the players we’ve acquired, both internationally and domestically. We’re definitely excited to be able to get our hands on those guys.”
Travel restrictions prevented the Orioles from bringing Venezuelan right-handers Moisés Chace and Raúl Rangel to the U.S. Chace received one of the largest bonuses last year at $225,000.
“They’re similar to Sánchez where they’re showing some velocity and they’re young and they’ve got some pitchability,” Perez said. “We think we’ve got a good group. Hopefully, we’re able to develop these guys.”
The pandemic pushed back the next signing period from July 2 to Jan. 15, 2021 and it will run through Dec. 15, 2021.
“I think it actually helped a little as far as the scouting end,” said Perez, who has returned to Baltimore after spending about three weeks in the Dominican. “We’re scouting these kids and they’re so young. The teams kind of put a little bit of pressure on all these young kids and they’re trying out every other day, so I think the pandemic slowed that up. We’re off the road, the whole industry, for about six months and I think it allowed those kids, the tryout kids, to get a little bit stronger, just work on whatever they’ve got to work on rather than trying out for teams every day.
“But as a whole, it’s been terrible for everybody else. Our player development, the players that we signed, they’ve kind of been limited to Zoom calls and stuff. Our player development staff and us, we can talk to the kids all we want, but on a Zoom call they’re telling you whatever you want to hear sometimes. But this signing period really isn’t impacting it much because it’s kind of like college recruiting. The kids that we were going to sign in July, now we’ll sign in January. We’ve already had those kids picked out, so we know who we’re getting.
“What we’ve been trying to do is stay in touch with them, making sure that they’re getting their work in and stuff. In the beginning of October when they opened up, letting us go work, we were able to go and see those kids and work them out and everything. In the short term it really hasn’t impacted our future signing class.”
A class that is primarily comprised of players from the Dominican and Venezuela.
“I was just talking to our group about the kids we’re going to sign and being that we jumped in the game late, we think that we got some pretty good players. Maybe two dozen guys,” Perez said.
“It will be a lot smaller than our 2019 class where we signed 40-plus, but we went a little higher end as far as signing bonuses just because in 2019 when we came in, we were only able to focus on late bloomers and anybody who got a little bit better. But here in 2020, it gave us enough time to be able to get a couple of those hopefully impact-type guys.”