International Reviews: Baltimore Orioles

Top signing: LHP Cesar Angomas, Dominican Republic, $150,000. Total signings: 5. 
The Orioles’ farm system has ranked among the bottom five in baseball the last three years. One of the big factors for why their minor league system has struggled is that Orioles ownership and senior management have foolishly neglected the international market.

Most teams sign around 25-30 international players per year. In the entire 2016 calendar year, the Orioles signed just five players. They didn’t sign any notable prospects on July 2. And on those five players they did sign, the Orioles spent just $260,000 total.

The one six-figure bonus the Orioles gave last year went to 16-year-old lefthander Cesar Angomas, who got $150,000 in November. He’s 6-foot-3, 200 pounds with a fastball that’s reached the low-90s and feel to spin a curveball. He’s a good athlete who fields his position well and is a solid strike-thrower for his age. While that $260,000 total might have been an acceptable international spending budget in 1997, ownership’s antiquated approach toward Latin America prevents the Orioles’ international scouts from having the resources they need to do their jobs. Within their own division, the Rays—who have been under the penalty and unable to sign anyone for more than $300,000 the last two signing periods—spent $3 million and signed 36 players in the 2016 calendar year.

The Orioles’ shortsightedness toward Latin America has damaged the franchise. They did sign Jomar Reyes out of the Dominican Republic three years ago for $350,000, but the system is otherwise devoid of homegrown international talent. There are under-the-radar prospects to be found in Latin America for bargain prices, but it’s hard for any team’s international scouts to sign quality players when ownership gives them so little to spend. In the big picture, it takes relatively little investment to be competitive in Latin America and just spend what’s available in your international bonus pool. Instead, the Orioles have lost out on prospects and left themselves with a thin farm system.

Beyond frugality, punting on Latin American signings is just poor strategy at the top of the organization.

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