The Orioles have now signed a total of 34 players in an international amateur signing class that is the biggest in team history and has a chance to grow even larger. The Orioles announced 27 signings on July 2 and on Jan. 24 they announced seven more 16-year-old players signed out of the Dominican Republic.
The totals now show 23 players from the Dominican Republic, eight from Venezuela and one each from Aruba, the Bahamas and Colombia. Of the 34, the Orioles have signed 19 pitchers (14 right-handers and five lefties), seven shortstops, five outfielders, two catchers and one third baseman.
The Orioles have spent just short of $5 million on this group out of an allotted pool amount of $6,481,200. They have signed more than 20 players to bonuses of at least six figures and they can still add players through June 15. That is the last day to sign international amateurs for the 2019-20 period. A new signing period begins July 2, 2020.
“So we still have time to sign more players. I don’t think we will be announcing many more, but there are still some that we are working on,” said Koby Perez, the team’s senior director of international scouting.
Perez took time during a recent interview to provide a few details on the seven most recent additions for the Orioles. They are all expected to play in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League, which starts in June. The Orioles will once again field two DSL clubs.
The O’s added third baseman Albert Calderon for a bonus of $75,000 according to a source. He was still 15 on July 2, so he could not be signed until he turned 16.
Perez on Calderon: “He is a third baseman and left-handed hitter that is very young for the class. He will play the majority of this season as a 16-year-old. He is a physically projectable guy. He’s a tall kid at 6-foot-3 and he shows some power potential.”
The club added shortstop Jose Cosma for a bonus of $180,000.
Perez on Cosma: “Good hitter. He’s a stronger-bodied kid and he’s playing shortstop for now, but he could end up moving to third base because he’s gotten so strong. He’s a switch-hitter with good hands and good baseball instincts.”
Also added was outfielder Ronnie Martinez for a bonus of $235,000.
Perez on Martinez: “A corner outfielder that has shown good game performances. Pretty toolsy outfielder that could also play some in center. Good performer in the DPL (Dominican Prospect League), which is one of the top leagues in the D.R. where we could see him a lot.”
The O’s came to terms with right-handed pitcher Yonatan Pineda for a bonus of $50,000.
Perez on Pineda: “Has a good arm. He has good poise on the mound with a low-90s fastball. He has solid command and has a chance to be a starter. He also has a good feel for his secondary pitches.”
The club added right-handed pitcher Christopher Ramirez for a bonus of $10,000.
Perez on Ramirez: “He’s a lower-dollar sign and is a little bit older. He’s a player we had to wait to sign until he was registered (with Major League Baseball). He’s got some nice arm strength and a good body with room to grow.”
The O’s added right-handed pitcher Rafael Ramirez at a bonus of $110,000.
Perez on Rafael Ramirez: “He is a conversion. He was presenting himself as an outfielder. We saw him throw one day and it was up to 95 (mph). We thought that the arm strength was something to work with. He’s a good project with a big body, he’s about 6-foot-5. Has been consistently throwing in the mid-90s. We’re trying harness his stuff right now.
“There wasn’t too much interest in him as an outfielder. But his trainer called us and said he had tried him on the mound and he was throwing 95. We looked at him and it was (95). He didn’t really know much about pitching, but we feel with our player development group, we will try to make the best out of his velocity and size.”
And the team added right-handed pitcher RHP Luis Sanchez for a bonus of $200,000.
Perez on Sanchez: “His metrics were really, really good - the Trackman (results) were good and his pitchability was good. We were very excited to get him as late as we did and we think the future is real bright for him. He’s probably one of our better projects coming into this year. We saw really good spin rates and his fastball was up to 93. His ball was really moving.”
Of the earlier signed group of 27, most if not all played some last summer in what is called the Tricky League. It is not an official league like the DSL, but provides players a chance to play some games and get better after they sign. Most of the group will make their DSL debuts in 2020.
One player that signed last July and did play some in the DSL in 2019 was shortstop Erinson Placencia. Signed by the Orioles at 17 out of the Dominican, he turned 18 on Dec. 31.
Last summer, over 26 games and 84 at-bats, he hit .345/.500/.405 with three doubles, a triple and 10 RBIs. Yes he had an OBP of .500 and had more walks than strikeouts, 25 to 19. We could see him in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in Sarasota, Fla., this summer.
While noting that the Orioles will again field two teams this year in the Dominican Summer League, Perez pointed out with these 34 signings, they have enough to fill one entire roster. There can be 35 players on a DSL roster. Plus, there are plenty of players that were already part of the O’s Dominican program. The Orioles anticipate about 20 players from the Dominican program taking part in extended spring training this year in Florida. Those players could later join a full-season team, like Single-A Delmarva for instance, or play for one of the short-season teams that start in June.
Click here to go back to last July and read about the 27 players the Orioles signed that day and some of the top signing bonuses. The story includes quotes from Perez and executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias.