2020-21 MLB International Reviews: Baltimore Orioles
Technically, the July 2, 2019 international signing class was Baltimore's first under general manager Mike Elias and international scouting director Koby Perez. Given how early players commit to teams before the official start date, though, there wasn't a ton that the Orioles could do to compete for the top players in the 2019 class.
While the Orioles were able to come away with some intriguing arms from that group, the 2020 class that started on Jan. 15, 2021 marked the first time the Orioles were able to land players considered among the best in the class. The speed of players committing to teams early still left the Orioles behind other clubs for this class, but between their scouting and opportunistic timing, they came away with their most exciting class in, well, maybe ever.
Top Of The Class
At various points in the process, Venezuelan shortstop Maikol Hernandez looked like he was headed to the Cardinals, then the Pirates, until later on the Orioles stepped in and ended up signing him. Hernandez has trended up over the scouting process while training with Jhoan Hidalgo, growing to 6-foot-4, 175 pounds with an exciting mix of power, speed and athleticism, especially for his size. He's a graceful, fluid athlete, generating over-the-fence power with relative ease that should grow into a plus tool as he fills out. He drives the ball well the opposite way and to the middle of the field during BP, and in games he does a good job not chasing too much. He's also a plus runner, though he figures to lose some of that as he puts on another 30-50 pounds. Depending on how big he gets, he could outgrow shortstop and move over to third base, but he has the athleticism, actions, solid-average arm strength and internal clock that give him a chance to stay there if he can maintain his range and agility.
The Orioles also signed Samuel Basallo, the top catcher in the Dominican Republic who at one point had been connected to the Yankees. Basallo is one of the youngest players in the class—he's still 16 until Aug. 13—but he has a huge build for a catcher at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, with a chance he's not done growing. For someone his size, Basallo has a fairly sound swing from the left side with above-average raw power already that could grow into a plus-plus tool. He's short and quick to the ball, staying through the middle of the field well with good timing in the box. Basallo has at least a plus arm with surprising agility and flexibility for his size, but given how big he is already and how much bigger he's likely to get, he might just end up outgrowing the position, with enough mobility where he could at least try a corner outfield spot. Basallo trained with Ivan Noboa.
Wilmer Feliciano, OF, Dominican Republic: Feliciano is a lefthanded-hitting corner outfielder with big raw power, though it's an uphill stroke that's going to come with strikeouts. He's in a similar mold as 2019 outfielder Luis Gonzalez, whom the Orioles signed, with the arm strength that could play in right field. He trained with Christian Irizarry.
Yasmil Bucce, C, Venezuela: Bucce has a lot of experience at catcher and it shows in his work behind the plate, where he looks comfortable and is a strong bet to stick behind the plate. He's a student of the game with good instincts and footwork, with an arm that's close to average. He has a chance to develop into a solid hitter for a catcher with a good sense of the strike zone. Bucce trained with Francisco Ortiz.
Victor Celedonio, SS, Dominican Republic: Celedonio is a true shortstop with quick hands, good actions and the arm strength to stay at the position. He's a defensive-oriented player, but he's a switch-hitter who has grown from a slap hitter early on to showing more over-the-fence pop as Jan. 15 got closer. Celedonio trained with Felito Cueto.
Eruviel Castillo, SS, Dominican Republic: Castillo is a bigger-bodied shortstop who has hit well in games and has the frame that suggests he could hit for power as well. He's good enough for now to start his career at shortstop, though his range probably suits him better to third base long term as he gets bigger. Castillo trained with Astin Jacobo.
Anderson de los Santos, SS, Dominican Republic: De los Santos is a similar player to Eruviel Castillo, with a thicker build and good game performance when the Orioles saw him and a chance for average power. He throws well but his defense will also probably lead him to a different position, possibly third base.
Aneudis Mordan, C, Dominican Republic: Mordan and Basallo grew up playing together in little leagues, and they developed into two of the best Dominican catchers in the 2020-21 class. Mordan is a baseball rat with a fringe-average arm that plays up in games, helping him control the running game. He has a strong build with some stiffness to his game, but he has a chance to have a solid power bat for a catcher. Mordan trained with Fifo.
Teudis Cortorreal, OF, Dominican Republic: A lefty who trained with Niche, Cortorreal had up-and-down performances at big events, but scouts highest on him liked his hitting ability and approach at the plate. He's a below-average runner who probably will head to a corner outfield spot.
Angel Peña, OF, Dominican Republic: Peña was an uneven defensive shortstop with good athleticism and slightly above-average speed who has moved to center field, where he fits better and is throwing better now with an average arm. Peña, who trained in the Otro Nivel program, had a light bat early on but impressed the Orioles with his offensive performances.
Angel Tejada, SS, Dominican Republic: Tejada is a fundamentally sound, instinctive player who's better in games than he is in a workout setting, lacking big tools but with a knack for being in the right place at the right time. He's a shortstop for now but could end up at second base. Tejada also trained with Teudis Cortorreal in Niche's program.
One of the smaller bonus players to watch from Baltimore's class is Carlos Rodriguez, a Venezuelan catcher who trained with Carlos Torres. He's extremely athletic for a catcher, with slightly above-average speed underway and a good arm from behind the plate. Rodriguez has also hit well against live pitching, showing the ability to drive the ball with impact, especially for a smaller signing.