The Orioles are one of 10 major league organizations that fields two teams in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League. It is a short-season league that begins in June where some the youngest international players in pro ball get their feet wet, start their careers and begin to really learn the game.
Some young players may stay in this league for a couple of seasons as they learn about nutrition and learn to speak English in a club’s Dominican academy.
The Orioles’ two DSL teams have had solid 2019 seasons and club officials feel the talent level in their Dominican program is on the rise.
This all took a huge step forward on July 2 when the Orioles announced they opened the 2019-20 international signing period with 27 agreements. The club signed 16 players from the Dominican Republic, eight from Venezuela, and one each from Aruba, the Bahamas and Colombia.
Those players are not yet playing in official DSL games but play four games a week in something called the “Tricky League.” I know, strange name. But it’s where the new signees get on the field although we don’t see any box scores or stats. They’ll begin play in the DSL next summer.
Felipe Rojas Alou Jr. is the director of the O’s Dominican Academy. He’s in his 12th year with the organization. He is the son of Felipe Alou, a former major league player and manager.
The younger Alou manages the Orioles’ DSL-1 team, which has a record of 31-34. Elvis Morel manages the club’s DSL-2 team, which is 26-31.
Earlier this week, I spoke with Alou about the O’s two DSL teams and he provided some thoughts on some of the more promising players currently in the program.
Today, we’ll look at players from the DSL-1 team. Later, we’ll check in on the DSL-2 club.
Alou talked about outfielder Isaac Bellony, who was signed last Aug. 20 at 16 out of the Dominican Republic and was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He was signed to a $220,000 bonus.
In 56 games, he is batting .255/.351/.410 with 13 doubles, a triple, six homers, six steals, 36 runs and 43 RBIs.
“He’s a 17-year-old switch-hitting outfielder that can play all three positions,” Alou said. “Really goes and gets the ball out there and takes good jumps. Maybe a possible five-tool guy, but he’s just starting to develop. He has over 40 RBIs in about 200 at-bats and also has some pop. Pretty interesting season for a 17-year-old kid.”
Stiven Acevedo is a 17-year-old outfielder from Santo Domingo, D.R. He was signed by the new front office to a $275,000 bonus in April. He was rated by Baseball America in its mid-season ranking as the Orioles’ No. 30 prospect.
In 57 games, he’s batting .249/.328/.304 with 10 doubles, one homer, 33 runs and 25 RBIs.
“A kid that just turned 17. He’s a 6-foot-4 right-handed hitter. Probably going to be a corner guy later on,” Alou said. “He’s going to have more muscle. Plays center field now most of the time and handles himself pretty well in the outfield. Kid can hit. Makes adjustments at the plate and runs well down the line. The pop is going to come eventually. Real competitive bat right now hitting gap-to-gap.”
Out of Caracas, Venezuela, Elio Prado is an outfielder originally signed by Boston on July 2, 2018. On July 13, the Orioles acquired him from the Red Sox, along with infielder Noelberth Romero, for pitcher Andrew Cashner.
Prado has played in 25 games with the Orioles since the trade and is batting .289/.402/.367 with seven doubles, 13 runs and 12 RBIs.
“Another 17-year-old kid, right-handed hitter. Kind of a leadoff, second hitter type of guy,” Alou said. “Runs well, puts the ball in play, uses the gaps. Really mature. Very good defensive player in center and gets good jumps.”
Josue Cruz, out of Bani, D.R, was signed by the Orioles on Aug. 4, 2017. In 60 games, he’s batting .245/.360/.477 with 11 doubles, six triples, nine homers, a .837 OPS and 37 RBIs.
“We had him last year and he’s 18 now,” Alou said. “Having a real strong offensive season with nine homers (tied for fourth in the DSL). Makes adjustments and is real confident. He plays first and outfield, but has played more first base. He’s really showing progress and that’s what you want to see.”
Alou touched of some of the good young arms on the DSL-1 team as well.
From Cotui, D.R., right-hander Joel Benitez was signed by the Orioles in April. Over 13 DSL starts, he is 2-6 with a 4.44 ERA. In 48 2/3 innings, he has allowed 44 hits with 31 walks, 41 strikeouts and a .239 average against.
“He is 19 years old, first year. He’s the kid we gave the ball to for our first game. Very competitive with good stuff,” Alou said. “Velocity has gone up since the season started. He has touched 94 (mph). Fastball, slider, changeup guy. He’s finishing strong and healthy. Another one of our good, young arms.”
From Santo Domingo, R.R., lefty Jesus Chavez was signed by the Orioles in February 2019 by the new regime. In 13 starts, he is 2-4 with a 3.27 ERA. In 63 1/3 innings, he has allowed 60 hits, 20 walks, 53 strikeouts and a .250 average against.
“He’s a 17-year-old lefty. Been a starter all season. He’s a command-type of lefty and not afraid to throw in and attack with his fastball,” Alou said. “Got a good slider. Getting a feel for a changeup. Good presence out there, under control and fields his position well.”
A 17-year-old from Valencia, Venezuela, Angel Vargas was signed by the Orioles in April 2019. He pitched in his first game earlier this week and impressed Alou. Over two innings, Vargas allowed four hits and one earned run with no walks and five strikeouts.
“He pitched Thursday for the first time, a right-hander. It was fun to watch him attack the zone and throw 90 to 92 (mph) with some movement,” Alou said. “Good composure for his first ever pro outing. He challenged hitters and that was very encouraging.”
Joeli Martinez, from Nagua, D.R., signed with the Orioles on April 24. He won’t impress anyone on the stat sheet yet, but Alou clearly likes his potential. In 7 1/3 innings, he has allowed 11 earned runs with 15 walks to three strikeouts.
“A 19-year-old kid. Another interesting arm. We’ve been trying to stretch him out a bit,” Alou said. “He can throw low 90s with some good movement. Big kid at 6-foot-3.”
By the way, the O’s DSL program has an Instagram account: @Oriolesbeisbol. Stayed tuned for some info here on the DSL-2 team in a few days.