Another look at the Orioles’ improved Dominican program

The Orioles are one of 10 major league organizations that field two teams in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League. It is a league where some the youngest international players in pro ball get their feet wet and start to really learn the game.

The Orioles’ two DSL teams have had solid seasons, and club officials feel the talent level in their Dominican program is on the rise.

The O’s DSL-1 team has a record of 31-36 and the DSL-2 team is 26-32.

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 Sr., a former major league player and manager.

Earlier, as reported in this entry, I talked with Alou about some of the promising talent on the DSL-1 team. Today he provides some insight on several players on the DSL-2 squad. Alou manages the DSL-1 team and Elvis Morel the DSL-2 squad.

Kevin Infante is a 19-year-old outfielder from Cacocum, Cuba. The Orioles signed him last Oct. 25 to a $175,000 bonus. In 57 games, he’s batting .298/.365/.417 with 11 doubles, three triples, three homers, 22 RBIs, 26 runs and 11 stolen bases.

“He’s been playing center field most of the season,” Alou said. “Kid that can run and should have some extra-base pop. He is a former infielder and can steal some bases also. With that background he could also be someone that turns into a utility guy.”

Infante-and-Rolle-DSL2-Sidebar.jpgJames Rolle is a 6-foot-4, 240-pound first baseman from Nassau, Bahamas. He signed on April 24. In 31 games, he is batting .272/.330/.456 with four doubles, five home runs and 10 RBIs.

“He is a player we just added, 17-year-old kid, first baseman from the Bahamas. Interesting bat and has shown very good power and I think that will keep improving,” Alou said. “Knows the strike zone. Moves well and is a true first baseman. This kid has the potential to be a Gold Glover at some point.”

Catcher Julio Herrera is from Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. He signed on May 20. Over 36 games, he is batting .233/.295/.342 with seven doubles, two home runs, 13 runs and 14 RBIs.

“He’s another 17-year-old kid. Very interesting and athletic for a catcher,” Alou said. “He’s 6-2, 6-3. Still a work in progress behind the plate, but has shown some skill for pitch framing. Very athletic, a lefty hitter with some power from the left side.”

Infielder Noelberth Romero is one of the players the Orioles acquired from Boston in the Andrew Cashner deal. He’s 17 and from Caracas, Venezuela. He was originally signed July 2, 2018 by the Red Sox. In 26 games with the Orioles since the trade, he is batting .290/.349/.330. For the season, in 56 games between both clubs, he is batting .278/.343/.349 with seven doubles, one triple, two homers, 28 runs, four steals and 31 RBIs.

“I think he was signed as a shortstop.,” Alou said. “We’ve played him at third but he can also play at short. Pretty solid defensive player. Smart and a guy that plays under control. Right now a line-drive, gap-to-gap type of hitter with a good approach. He needs to add some weight and muscle, but I think he’ll get there.”

Right-hander Hector Lopez from Panama is in his first DSL season. He has been a starter for all 13 of his outings. He’s gone 2-2 with a 2.05 ERA. Over 52 2/3 innings, he has allowed 37 hits, including just one home run, with 23 walks, 51 strikeouts, a .195 average against and 1.14 WHIP.

“He is 17, from Panama, and has been throwing the ball really well all season,” Alou said. “Throws strikes and mixes pitches well and really knows what he is doing out there with a good plan. His fastball is in the high 80s right now.”

Right-hander Juan De Los Santos is from San Cristobal in the Dominican. He has made 11 appearances, with nine coming as a starter. He is 0-2 with a 3.63 ERA. In 44 2/3 innings, he has yielded 48 hits and no homers with 11 walks, 35 strikeouts, a .274 average against and 1.32 WHIP.

“He is also 17, good arm throwing in the low 90s,” Alou said. “Really competes, a big, strong kid, 6-foot-3 and over 200 pounds.”

Another right-hander on the mound for the DSL-2 team is 18-year-old Orlando Fulgencio from Hato Mayor del Rey, Dominican Republic. He was signed April 24, 2019. In 14 games (five starts), he is 1-2 with a 3.38 ERA. Over 48 innings, he has given up 37 hits with no homers, along with 27 walks, 42 strikeouts, a .214 average against and a 1.33 WHIP.

“He’s been a starter and reliever for us,” Alou said. “Good fastball in the low to mid 90s and also throws a slider and changeup. Good competitor.”

Jorge Morla is a 19-year-old righty from La Romana, Dominican Republic. He was signed on April 25. In nine games and two starts, he is 0-3 with a 4.82 ERA. Over 18 2/3 innings, he has given up 23 hits, including two homers, with nine walks, 24 strikeouts, a .311 average against and a 1.71 WHIP.

“He’s athletic with a good fastball that is low to mid 90s. He also features a good breaking ball and is developing a changeup,” Alou said.

The O’s Dominican program took a big step forward on July 2 when the Orioles announced they opened the 2019-20 international signing period with 27 agreements, their most ever. 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. Yes, interesting 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.

Alou said that among the early standouts in that league have been 16-year-old lefty pitcher Luis Ortiz, who was signed July 2 to a $400,000 bonus, and 16-year-old lefty hitting outfielder Luis González, who signed for $475,000.

He added that the excitement level around the O’s Dominican program got a big boost by how active the Orioles were this past July 2 and how active they plan to be in the future. The group signed in July is off and running at the O’s Dominican academy.

“A huge part of baseball now in the Dominican is to sign those players July 2 and get them ready and going. We had a real good group this year that we work with now on a daily basis,” said Alou. “The kids are learning and there is a lot of talent and tools with that group. We have English classes for them and help them set a good foundation for the future. They are now part of our family. Where our program here is at today is very encouraging. So really excited about what is coming.”

By the way, the O’s DSL program has an Instagram account: @Oriolesbeisbol.

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