The Orioles today announced a signing class of 17 international amateurs, including the club’s first two players signed for seven figures. Per industry sources, the club has contract agreements with catcher Samuel Basallo from the Dominican Republic for $1.3 million and with Venezuelan shortstop Maikol Hernández for $1.2 million.
The Orioles announced that 11 more from this group are six-figure agreements. Of the 17 agreements, 13 are from the Dominican Republic and four are from Venezuela.
“Today is a landmark day for the Orioles organization and its international efforts,” said Mike Elias, Orioles executive vice president and general manager. “It marks the first time in club history that we have signed seven-figure prospects on J2. Thanks to the backing of the partnership group, and the excellent work Koby (Perez) and his team have done, we believe this historic signing class will substantially accelerate the construction of our strong pipeline in the international scene, which will benefit the organization for years to come.”
Perez, the club’s senior director of international scouting, added: “The excitement and strong showing of today’s signing news is a tribute to the hard work of our staff. Being in year two of retooling our international presence and having to deal with a pandemic is not an easy process, and I couldn’t be prouder of what we have been able to accomplish. We know Orioles fans are excited for what we are building, and today is a momentous step forward in making the Orioles a household name in the international market.”
The O’s can add to this class, as the signing period runs through Dec. 15, 2021. It is believed that these initial agreements have taken up a very large percentage of the club’s signing pool allotment of $5,889,600.
Catcher Samuel Basallo, L/R, 16, Dominican Republic
Basallo, once linked to the New York Yankees, got the largest signing bonus ever given to an international amateur by the Orioles. Basallo, who turned 16 on Aug. 13, has plus arm strength and some solid raw power. Some scouts have put a 60 grade on his arm. At 6-foot-3 and 198 lbs., it’s possible he could outgrow the catcher position.
Shortstop Maikol Hernández, R/R, 17, Venezuela
At 6-foot-4 and 175 lbs., Hernández 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. He was previously linked to St. Louis and Pittsburgh.
Six players, per industry sources, signed with the Orioles for bonuses between $300,000 and $400,000. Here is that group:
Outfielder Wilmer Feliciano, L/R, 16, Dominican Republic
He is a lefty batter with some solid raw power and it is believed got the third-highest bonus among this group.
Shortstop Victor Celedonio, S/R, 17, Dominican Republic
A switch-hitter, it is believed he got the fourth-highest signing bonus in this class.
Outfielder Teudis Cortorreal, L/L, 17, Dominican Republic
A lefty batter who is a center field prospect.
Shortstop Eruviel Castillo, R/R, 17 Dominican Republic
Shortstop Anderson De Los Santos, R/R, 17, Dominican Republic
Catcher Yasmil Bucce, L/R, 16, Venezuela
The following players signed six-figure bonuses, believed to range between $100,000 and $225,000.
Catcher Aneudis Mordán, R/R, 16, Dominican Republic
Shortstop Angel Tejada, R/R, 16, Dominican Republic
Center fielder Junior Lara, L/L, 16, Dominican Republic
Left-hander Deivy Cruz, L/L, 16, Dominican Republic
Center fielder Ángel Peña, L/R, 16, Dominican Republic
These four signings round out this class.
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
The first international class of 44 players signed by the club under Elias and Perez produced 24 pitchers. In this class of 17, there are two pitchers and 15 position players.
Update: Here are a few quotes from Elias and Perez on an O’s Zoom call with reporters this afternoon.
Elias on today and importance of international overall: “I want to praise the work that Koby and his staff did in putting this group together. And it is not just the scouts that put work into forming an international class. There is a lot of work by the player development department that we have in the Dominican Republic. The medical staff plays a big role in this. There is a lot of logistics in the front office. A lot goes into this behind the scenes and of course the support we’ve gotten from our partnership group and senior management. The emphasis on building a Latin American pipeline has been terrific.
“I think the importance of the Latin America/July 2 international scouting has been fueled by the changes we’ve seen in the game in the last 20 years. Younger players being able to come up and impact the game so immediately. Because of the quality of player development that has improved across the game.
“Now they comprise about a third of the overall talent in Major League Baseball and it’s arguably more of the star talent. 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 (originally) 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.”
Perez on this group added today: “We started working on these guys even before I started with the Orioles. These guys had been followed beforehand and we knew who they were. We did a really good job of recruiting them once we came in. As I’ve mentioned before, Elias made various trips down to the Dominican and really helped us out with promoting our organization. So these players that we got were very eager to sign with us.
“These guys are definitely ready to go. And our player development group has already basically spoken to these guys about a program in place and basically to get started on their professional careers. We’re handing them over to very good hands and we’re excited about that.”
Perez on the future of O’s international signings: “This year, we’ve kind of shown that we are ready to go all-in. Year by year, it’s going to be different. We just have to weigh the market, analyze what is best for the Orioles and make a decision. We’ve already put our feet in the fire down here and we’re seeing all the top guys. We’re in a good situation there.”