2019-20 MLB International Reviews: Baltimore Orioles
Orioles ownership has finally decided to take international signings seriously. Gone are the days of ownership needing to approve every $10,000 signing and underfunding its international scouting, a process that did damage to the organization that will continue to hurt them for years with a lack of Latin American prospects in their farm system.
This year, the Orioles went through the first July 2 under general manager Mike Elias and international scouting director Koby Perez. However, given the speed of the international market, with players committing to sign with teams sometimes a year or two in advance of July 2, the Orioles didn't have a full board available to them when Elias was hired in November 2018 and Perez joined in January 2019 after having been Cleveland's Latin American scouting director. Despite those limitations, the Orioles still came away with some intriguing players, particularly on the pitching side, as 16-year-old pitchers tend to develop later and go for lower prices in Latin America relative to position players.
One of the most promising signings from Baltimore's class is 17-year-old Luis Ortiz, who was one of the top 2019 lefties in the Dominican Republic. and signed for $400,000 At 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, Ortiz throws a fastball up to 93 mph, which is on the top end of lefthanders in his age group, and he misses a lot of bats with a curveball that shows signs of developing into a plus pitch with tight rotation and good shape. Ortiz is relatively advanced in terms of his pitchability and control for his age. Between his stuff and feel for pitching, he should be able to have success right away, something he's already done in a brief glimpse during Tricky League. Ortiz is expected to be in Florida for extended spring training, though he's likely going to make his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League. Ortiz trained with Nolan Pena.
The Orioles paid $475,000 to sign Luis Gonzalez, a lefthanded outfielder from the Dominican Republic. Gonzalez, 17, is lean, long-limbed (6-foot-4, 185 pounds) and shows flashes of average raw power right now, with the physical upside to grow into plus power. He can take the ball over the fence already and his swing is solid in BP, though in games he has been up-and-down, with long levers that he's still learning to coordinate and improve his timing against live pitching. Gonzalez might see time in center field, but he's a slightly below-average runner who projects as a corner outfielder. Gonzalez trained with Leo Figueroa.
Leonel Sanchez is a defensive-oriented shortstop the Orioles signed for $400,000. Sanchez, who turns 17 on Dec. 4, had some of the cleanest defensive actions in the class. At 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, Sanchez is quick and fluid at shortstop, where he's light on his feet with soft hands and an average arm. Unlike a lot of other gifted defensive shortstops his age, Sanchez doesn't make many careless mistakes, showing good game awareness with accurate throws. A slightly below-average runner, Sanchez isn't as advanced offensively, so he's going to need a lot of development at the plate, although the Orioles were encouraged with some of the progress he made at the plate during Tricky League. Sanchez trained with Miguel Tejada.
Moises Chace, who trained with Alvaro Diaz, is a 16-year-old Venezuelan righthander the Orioles signed out of Venezuela. He has a medium frame (6 feet, 170 pounds) with a good mix of stuff and pitchability to project as a starter. He has reached 93 mph and has enough physical projection left to eventually reach the mid-90s. Chace throws strikes at a high rate, attacking hitters aggressively with his fastball and pairing it with feel for tight spin on his curveball.
Another Venezuelan righthander the Orioles signed, Raul Rangel, has also been up to 93 mph, though his frame suggests he might have more physical upside. He's 6-foot-4, 155 pounds, a wiry body type that screams projection, with the potential to throw mid-to-upper 90s once he puts on another 50-plus pounds. He already misses a lot of bats, attacking hitters with his fastball and showing feel for both a curveball and a changeup, giving him a starter's profile with a chance for three average or better pitches. Rangel trained with Roberto Vahlis.
The Orioles went into the Bahamas to sign 16-year-old infielder Dax Stubbs for $225,000. Stubbs has a strong, compact frame (5-foot-10, 165 pounds) and stood out for his athleticism and an offensive game that was trending up over the course of the scouting process. Stubbs is an average runner, with the athleticism and stride that could allow him to get faster, with second base likely his best defensive fit. Stubbs has strong hands and makes a lot of hard contact when he connects with a line-drive approach, though coming from the Bahamas he hasn't seen many high velocity arms yet, so there may be an adjustment period for him getting used to seeing better pitching more consistently. He trained at the International Elite Sports Academy.
Dominican shortstop Roberto Martinez, 17, signed with the Orioles for $200,000 after training with Miguel Tejada. Martinez gives the Orioles another true shortstop who projects to stay at the position. An average runner, Martinez has an athletic frame (6 feet, 150 pounds) and good instincts at shortstop, where he has good hands and body control with an average arm. A switch-hitter, Martinez is a defense-first player whose bat will need to catch up.
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Moises Salas, a 17-year-old Venezuelan lefthander the Orioles signed on July 2, offers a lot of physical upside in a high-risk, high-reward profile. He's tall and extremely skinny at 6-foot-5, 160 pounds, but he has already reached 90 mph. Once Salas packs on more pounds, his velocity has a chance to take off, and he already delivers his fastball with good angle. Salas mostly stands out for his physical projection to throw hard from the left side, as like a lot of skinny pitchers his height, he's still learning to sync up his long limbs in his delivery to throw more strikes.
Dominican shortstop Cesar Aguasvivas, 17, signed with the Orioles for $170,000 after training with Christian Irizarri. Aguasvivas handles himself well in the field, with good hands and a quick transfer to a strong arm. He's added a lot of strength and good weight since signing to his 6-foot-1 frame, which has helped him drive the ball with more authority, though with the added size, he might end up sliding over to third base. He has shown solid hitting ability in games from the right side with gap power that should continue to tick up.
The Orioles also signed Luis de la Cruz, a 17-year-old Dominican corner outfielder who trained with Decarte Corporan, for $130,000. De la Cruz showed up-and-down hitting ability in games as an amateur, but after signing he performed well at Tricky League. At 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, de la Cruz impressed the Orioles with his hitting actions, lefty stroke, and offensive approach with a knack for being on time. He has strength to his thick frame, and while he's not a huge raw power guy in BP, he has shown the ability to go deep in games.
One smaller-dollar arm of interest to watch is Randy Beriguete, a Dominican righthander who got $50,000. He's a raw arm strength guy with a wide shoulders on a huge frame (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) and a power fastball that's already up to the mid-90s. Beriguete didn't throw many strikes as an amateur, which is why a lot of teams didn't bite on him, with a mentality of trying to light up the radar gun with every pitch. During Tricky League, however, the Orioles got him to dial back his approach a bit and the early returns were encouraging with more strikes than expected.
Prior to July 2 during end of the 2018-19 international signing period, one of the biggest signings for the new Orioles regime was Stiven Acevedo, a Dominican outfielder who got $275,000 in April. Acevedo's Dominican Summer League numbers don't jump out—he hit .250/.334/.302 in 61 games—but he just turned 17 on Aug. 2, meaning he played most of the year as a 16-year-old. If everything clicks, Acevedo has a chance to be a power/speed threat. He's an above-average runner underway, impressive for someone who's 6-foot-4, 185 pounds That gives him a chance to at least develop as a center fielder, though as he fills out he probably ends up in a corner with an average arm. He's growing into his power, which has a chance to develop into another above-average tool with his build and leverage in his swing.