On “special day,” Orioles add 27 international prospects

Calling Tuesday a “special day” for the Orioles, first-year senior director of international scouting Koby Perez was pretty thrilled with a class of 27 signings of young, amateur talent.

It was especially solid work when you consider that the top players already had agreements with other teams in place well before Perez was hired by executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias in January. Elias had been hired in November.

Perez and Elias are trying to give the Orioles’ international efforts a boost and did so in a big way adding 15 pitchers (10 right-handers, five left-handers), six shortstops, four outfielders and two catchers. They got 16 players from the Dominican Republic, eight from Venezuela, and one each from Aruba, the Bahamas and Colombia.

“A special day for the Orioles and everyone involved,” Perez said yesterday via phone from the Dominican Republic. “Adding this talent - close to 30 guys, and we’ll continue adding - gives a little boost to our farm system and hopefully starts a pipeline for future Oriole big leaguers.”

Per an industry source, the O’s largest bonus yesterday went to Dominican outfielder Luis González at $475,000. Getting bonuses of $400,000 were Dominican shortstop Leonel Sánchez and Dominican-born pitcher Luis Ortiz. Pitcher Moisés Chace out of Venezuela received a bonus of $225,000. The Orioles reportedly gave over 10 players at least $100,000.

The Orioles may add another four or more signings over the next week. They can add to this class at any point they like through next June 15.

“We are on the road, so if we see somebody, we may want to move quickly on them,” said Perez. “There are players we call follows that we will continue to evaluate, and if we feel it’s a good time to strike, we can do that. Again, it is always nice to have money later in the year when guys come on strong or appear later on the scene. For example, maybe some players from Cuba come on later.”

Elias-With-Media-Sidebar.jpgAdded Elias: “To bring this class together in such a short amount of time, such a quality class, is huge for the future of our organization. Going forward, the signing and development of international players is a critical foundation of our strategy and our future.

“We are going to, over the next few years, augment and improve our facilities, our technology, our development capabilities. Everything. And we’re going to excel in this space. We have a long way to go to get where we need to be, but we’re going to do it and today is the beginning. These players have a very special place in our history as our first large July 2 class.”

In the press release announcing Tuesday’s signings, the club singled out González, Sánchez and Ortiz for mention. Perez added to that list during yesterday’s interview.

“We are excited about Venezuelan pitcher Moisés Chace,” Perez said. “We feel good about his chances as a starting pitcher. Charbel Abboud is a 6-6 righty that has reached up to 94 mph. He is also from Venezuela. Erick Caines from the Dominican has a really nice lanky frame with a lot of room to fill out and has reached 93 (mph) already. He has a good feel for pitching. (Randy) Berigüete has velocity that will really come on here. It’s showing flashes of mid-90s already. He’s 6-4 and we’ve got to get him to harness his stuff, but the arm strength is really impressive. I could go on all day - we really like this class.”

The 27 players signed yesterday will not play officially in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League until next year. But they will play in games over the next few months.

“They won’t play in official games until next year,” Perez said. “But we do have instructional league and kind of like a junior varsity type league here that runs parallel to the Dominican Summer League (which would be the varsity in this comparison). So we’ll get these kids into our academy and they’ll play through mid-August. It gets them adapted to professional baseball.”

Elias, Perez and their staff did a real solid job here in a very short span of time. Perez said others around the industry took note of that.

“We got a lot of congratulatory texts from agents in Latin America about how we went about this and how we’ve been working hard to change the culture in Latin America as far as the Orioles are concerned,” he said.

And even more props for the Orioles: The Orioles got some major praise yesterday from outside the organization for their international efforts. Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com was a guest on “The Mid-Atlantic Sports Report” on MASN.

“I know Orioles fans are elated to see the club jumping back into the international market,” Sanchez said. “They jumped in with both feet. Got to give Mike Elias a lot of credit and also for hiring Koby Perez away from the Indians. Perez had a good run there with the Indians. You’ll see the Orioles farm system get replenished and stocked with international talent. Orioles fans have to feel good about how today went.

“Until the new GM and Koby came along - and I travel to Latin America all the time - I would rarely see Orioles’ scouts there. But in the last year, I go to events and there are a team of Orioles scouts, six or seven or more each time. That really caught my attention. All the sudden you see 10 orange shirts. Pretty striking.”

Click here to see the story first published here Tuesday on the 27 new players.

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