With international signing period extended, can O’s take advantage?

We recently learned a couple of things that could have a long-range benefit for the Orioles. Major League Baseball has pushed back the end of the current international amateur signing period to Oct. 15, 2020 and the Orioles have nearly $1.6 million remaining from their original pool of $6.48 million to sign players.

This is not to be confused with the start of the next signing period. That has been pushed back from the usual July 2 to Jan. 15, 2021 and will run through Dec. 15, 2021. The period after that will run from Jan. 15, 2022 to Dec. 15, 2022.

And while the Orioles may make their biggest splash yet in the international market in that period that begins next January, the recent extension of the current period could allow the club to add further to a large class of signees that began on July 2, 2019. On that date, the Orioles announced 27 signings and seven more were announced in January. That group of 34 featured 23 from the Dominican Republic and eight from Venezuela. It included 19 pitchers and at least 20 players signed to bonuses of six figures, led by outfielder Luis Gonzalez, who signed for $475,000.

The Orioles have since added to that with seven more signings from February with three more pending. When completed, that would bring this group to a whopping 44 players.

Listed on the MLB transactions wire from February as O’s signings were right-handed pitchers Francis Martinez, Eris Rodriguez and Alexis Cruz. They also added catcher Brayan Hernandez and outfielder Carlos Vicioso. All five players are from the Dominican and all were signed for less than six figures.

And again, this class can grow even larger as the club has nearly $1.6 million left to spend. That is more money remaining than any team in MLB.

But there are a few issues here. The top players have long since signed, although some late bloomers could emerge. But the second issue is that international scouting is not allowed right now by MLB.

So will the O’s use the remaining dollars on more young international talent?

Perez-Koby-Plaid-sidebar.jpg“It’s tough to tell,” O’s senior director of international scouting Koby Perez said in an interview Monday. “We’ve been off the road. Sometimes you get late bloomers and things like that. Maybe with some pitchers, their velocity starts coming on. But it is tough to tell until we get back on the road.

“We’re not going to spend it just to give it to someone. It has to be a good prospect. There is a pool of players we already know and there could be some we look to sign. Right now, we are able to video scout, but there hasn’t been much speculation on dates (when MLB will allow international scouting).”

Currently, U.S.-based amateur scouts can attend certain events and showcases, with a limit of three per team. But international scouts don’t yet have similar allowances.

Would the O’s sign a player based on video?

“If I’d seen the guy before and he’s gotten better. And I’m looking at the video and his mechanics and maybe his velocity increases, yeah, I might. But just a guy out of nowhere that we haven’t seen before, probably not,” Perez said.

And while MLB has ruled that international signing bonus money cannot be traded starting with the period beginning Jan. 15, teams can still trade from their current pools. So while maybe the O’s don’t find a player to their liking later this summer, another club might and may be short on funds for the player. The O’s could trade bonus slots and get talent in return.

Perez cannot comment on any players the O’s may be pursuing but have not yet signed. But Baseball America recently reported on six players the club has agreements with that can be signed starting in January. They included two well-regarded prospects in Venezuelan shortstop Maikol Hernandez. The 16-year-old Hernandez is 6-foot-4 and 175 lbs. and has several impressive tools with a strong arm and power. He’s drawn some comparisons to bigger shortstops at young ages like Carlos Correa and Manny Machado. The O’s have an agreement, per Baseball America, with top catching prospect Samuel Basallo from the Dominican Republic. Basallo, who will not turn 16 until Aug. 13, has some left-handed raw power and an arm that gets some 60 grades from scouts. But he is a big catcher already at 6-foot-3 and 198 lbs. and could outgrow the catching position.

Per Baseball America, Basallo, once linked to the Yankees, could get a bonus of between $1 million and $1.5 million. There is a possibility that Hernandez commands a seven-figure bonus as well. It wasn’t long ago that the O’s were not very involved at all on the international amateur front and now they could be looking at two players signed for $1 million or more come January. That class also includes an outfielder in Wilmer Feliciano, who could get nearly $500,000, according to Baseball America.

An early guess is that the Orioles may sign around 25 players for the class that can be signed starting in January. The O’s progress on the international front seems to be humming along under executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias and Perez.

“It’s going about as expected. Maybe, you know, our 2020 class could end up being better than what I expected,” Perez said.

Perez said the Orioles’ academy in the Dominican is not open now as the club awaits approval on that from both MLB and the Dominican government. We could see the government sign off on that later this month.

Perez said the players in the club’s Dominican program, just like Orioles minor leaguers in the U.S., have been keeping in touch with coaches and instructors on Zoom videos. Instructional and education classes are ongoing.

The schedule is out! The schedule is out!: Yes it is, and the Orioles will open the shortened 60-game season on Friday, July 24 at 7:30 p.m. at Boston’s Fenway Park. Click here to read more on it.

A few schedule notes:

* It begins with five on the road at Boston and Miami and ends with six games at Boston and Toronto. The O’s also started and ended on the road last season.

* The O’s open at Boston for the first time since 1966. You know what happened that year.

* They’ll play all 60 games in the Eastern time zone and all 60 will be televised on MASN.

* From Sept. 1 through Sept. 13, the Orioles will play all New York teams. They host the Mets for two games and Yankees for three. After an off-day, they play two games at the Mets and four at Yankee Stadium.

* The Orioles usually play 47 percent of their games (76 of 162) against the American League East. This year that is 67 percent (40 of 60).

* The O’s will play National League teams in 13 of their first 23 games, but in just seven of their last 37.

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