If anyone still doubted that the Orioles were serious about their international amateur signings, those doubts surely vanished yesterday. From the first day he was on the job as executive vice president and general manager, Mike Elias made producing and developing a strong international program a priority.
Now Elias, along with senior director of international scouting Koby Perez and his staff have put together their second signing class, which was unveiled yesterday. And while there were years in the past when the Orioles may have spent not much more than $300,000 for an entire class, this time the O’s added two international players for $1 million or more each for the first time. Eight players in all signed for at least $300,000 each.
Elias called it a “landmark day” for the organization and Perez said it was a “special day.”
According to industry sources, the O’s top two signees got combined bonuses of $2.5 million and 13 players in all got bonuses of six figures or more yesterday. Those 13 agreed to bonuses totaling $5,545,000. The club has a total pool amount of $5,889,600. Some more of that went to four other players signed Friday - all of them agreeing to bonuses of under $100,000 each.
Elias made it clear how important this international class is to the Orioles.
“Now they (international players) comprise about a third of the overall talent in Major League Baseball, and it’s arguably more of the star talent,” Elias said. “So being really good in this market is essential to any team. We had and have some catch-up to do, but this class was a gigantic step. Koby started with us in January of 2019, and because of the way that this market works, that is a pretty late start on what was going to be a July 2, 2020 signing class and then got shifted due to coronavirus. To get two of the premier guys in the class starting that late is difficult, and Koby was opportunistic and we’re excited about this class.
“I do think we’ve got guys here that immediately enter the conversation for some of our top prospects. And I think it’s going to be exciting to see some of these guys play well and then rise up the ranks. So, big step for us.”
Here is what MLB sources tell us about the signing bonuses for the 13 six-figure signees:
$1.3 million - Catcher Samuel Basallo, L/R, 16, Dominican Republic
$1.2 million - Shortstop Maikol Hernández, R/R, 17, Venezuela
$400,000 - Outfielder Wilmer Feliciano, L/R, 16, Dominican Republic
$360,000 - Shortstop Victor Celedonio, S/R, 17, Dominican Republic
$350,000 - Outfielder Teudis Cortorreal, L/L, 17, Dominican Republic
$350,000 - Shortstop Eruviel Castillo, R/R, 17 Dominican Republic
$350,000 - Shortstop Anderson De Los Santos, R/R, 17, Dominican Republic
$300,000 - Catcher Yasmil Bucce, L/R, 16, Venezuela
$225,000 - Catcher Aneudis Mordán, R/R, 16, Dominican Republic
$200,000 - Shortstop Angel Tejada, R/R, 16, Dominican Republic
$180,000 - Center fielder Junior Lara, L/L, 16, Dominican Republic
$180,000 - Left-hander Deivy Cruz, L/L, 16, Dominican Republic
$150,000 - Center fielder Ángel Peña, L/R, 16, Dominican Republic
Here are the four players signing for under $100,000 each:
Outfielder Héctor Jiménez, R/R, 16, Dominican Republic
Left-hander Elvis Polanco, L/L, 17, Dominican Republic
Catcher Carlos Rodríguez, R/R, 17, Venezuela
Outfielder Grabiel Salazar, R/R, 19, Venezuela
Basallo is already 6-foot-3 and 198 pounds at age 16, with plus arm strength and nice raw power. The O’s press release stated “he stands out for his easy, above average raw power to all fields.”
Hernández is ranked No. 30 on the MLBPipeline.com listing of the top 30 international prospects. The O’s say he is “a tall, lanky shortstop who displays a good combination of speed and power. He flashes five-tool potential, with above average tools across the board. Hernández exhibits good hit ability and defensively plays a solid shortstop.”
Initially this class was to be announced on July 2, 2020, but the pandemic pushed signing day back to yesterday. Elias admitted that made for some anxious moments. The club had agreements with their top signees for months but could not make it all official until Friday.
“Yeah, there’s been anxiety about everything during this,” he said during a Zoom interview. “In this context it did create some anxiousness with us not being able to get these players into the organization as early as we would like. But we were able to maintain contact with them and their representatives and sort of keep our plans in place. And I think from the sounds of it, these guys have been able to get their work. We get consistent video from them and these guys can change and improve a lot in a six-month time period because they are so young. And it’s looking like they have. We like the way these guys are looking. They’re trending in the right direction and that is reassuring.”
In their first class signed by Elias and Perez the O’s added 44 players, getting 24 pitchers. This class so far has just two pitchers among the 17 signings.
But Elias said he is pleased by how far the club has come in a short time with its international program.
“I thought it was going to be, when we came here in the winter of 2018-2019, that it was going to be difficult to put together a class with real headliners in 2020,” he said. “And like I said, this is a tribute to the connections and experience that Koby has. He found ways to do that. Obviously, we like these players, with the bonuses we are giving them.
“But the industry and the publications - for what that’s worth - you know, recognize that these are top players in the class as well. That’s not easy to do. As we go forward in the next couple years, the lack of activity prior will haunt us less and less as we go forward with these classes.”