For the first time in several years, the July 2 date coming up will be meaningful for Orioles fans. That is the start of a new signing period for international amateur players that can be signed when they turn 16.
After years of signing a few international players, the Orioles are now making a major commitment moving forward to tapping into talent in places like the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.
In an interview in May, executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said this July 2 would produce the largest international signing class the Orioles have ever had.
Back in January, Elias hired Koby Perez away from the Cleveland Indians as the Orioles senior director of international scouting. Perez spent the last three years as director of Latin American scouting for the Indians and also worked for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Phillies.
Perez was a guest on my “Extra Innings” radio show last night on 105.7 FM the Fan in Baltimore. He provided a few more specifics on what fans can expect July 2 and in the days and weeks following that.
“Right now we should be in line to sign over 30 players,” said Perez. “We have two teams in the Dominican Summer League, which gives us a better opportunity to develop more players.
“What we try to do (this signing period) is focus on some late bloomers. Some pitchers. We are trying to get kids so young, sometimes the pitchers come on a little bit later. We were able to look at pitchers to help us put together the best class. You’ll see a lot of pitchers being signed on July 2.”
With Elias not hired until November and then Perez in January, a lot of the biggest name international prospects had already agreed to sign with other teams before they got hired. The players can come to agreements with teams before July 2 but not officially sign until that date. Then the signing period runs through the middle of June the following year, in this case 2020.
“Scouting in international starts much earlier than the July 2 date. So a lot of teams have been working multiple years toward this coming date. We got a late jump getting in here in January. But we’ve done well with the timing that was given to us. We will spread the money around in July to try and put together the best group that we can,” Perez said.
Perez said the late start they got and not having a full field, so to speak, of players to try and sign, led him to come to agreements with more pitchers for this coming signing period.
“I think we were fortunate to find some talent that I think was passed over a bit at earlier ages. Pitching is where it happens a lot that kids start coming on later. Not every kid at 14 years old can throw 88, 89 mph. But, you know, when you wait a little longer, now they start coming on and I think that is what we needed to take advantage of this period.”
And yep, that is right, 14 years old. If you are going to sign international amateur players as young as age 16, you have to start scouting them and getting to know them for a couple of years before that.
“We try to start identifying players when they are 13, 14 years old,” he said. “We like to know who they are, meet their families and watch them as much as we can to try and make the best decisions possible. The sooner we know about the player, the more information we can get. If we’re signing them at 16, most of the time we are scouting them at 14 years old. It’s not easy to project even an 18-year-old. The most important thing in looking at these kids is are they getting better?”
So just how do they find these players?
“What we are trying to do here is hire good people (scouts) on the ground. Once you have the guy on the ground, he’ll get the information in his area. Area scouts are so important in the domestic draft and international. The area guys will get us in the house and the data we are looking for and the background information we are looking for to make the best decisions. That along with contacts in different countries and different parts of countries, you know people who give you the inside scoop so to say.”
So Perez is not starting completely from scratch here. But the O’s have to gain ground at a time when international talent makes up about 30 percent of the average MLB clubhouse. The O’s already have some international talent on the farm they like such as pitchers Alex Wells and Ofelky Peralta and infielder Jomar Reyes. But he is starting almost from square one. That makes it exciting for Perez to be with the Orioles to build up the international effort.
“It’s real exciting. It’s an exciting time having the backing of Mike, our general manager is amazing. He’s on board with us and giving us the opportunity to sign as much talent as we can. We can compete with other teams on a fair ground. We are going to do our best to get the best players we can. I’m confident that the Orioles will be in the front of the international players here in some years to come. It takes time. Down the line you’ll start seeing the difference,” he said.
The Orioles are expected to be in a group of teams with a pool amount of just over $6.4 million starting on July 2. Click here for more on that.
Elias recently tweeted this picture to express his excitement about the upcoming July 2 date.