Image credit: Leandro Arias
The international market moves quickly, so by the time general manager Mike Elias and international scouting director Koby Perez came in, most of the top talent in the 2019 class that opened on July 2, 2019 had already committed to other clubs.
That was also true for last year’s 2020-21 class that opened on Jan. 15, 2021, though the Orioles were able to be opportunistic to sign Venezuelan shortstop Maikol Hernandez and Dominican catcher Samuel Basallo.
The most recent signing class that opened on Jan. 15, 2022 was the first where the Orioles could truly go all-out after any player they wanted, with the Orioles coming away with a slew of promising players who project to play in the middle of the diamond.
Top Of The Class
The biggest bonus in Baltimore’s class went to Braylin Tavera, a Dominican outfielder who signed for $1.7 million. Tavera jumps out immediately for his lean, lively frame and athleticism. He’s a plus runner with an easy gait who projects to stick in center field with a fringe-average arm. Tavera has a chance to develop into an average hitter with average power. He’s not quite as polished offensively as some of the other top signings in his class, but he shows the ability to manage his at-bats well for his age with the physical upside remaining to grow into more strength and impact as he fills out.
The most advanced player the Orioles signed is Cesar Prieto, a 22-year-old Cuban second baseman who performed well at a young age for Cienfuegos in Cuba’s top league, Serie Nacional, and is beginning his career in High-A Aberdeen. While Prieto lacks big power or speed, his bat could be good enough to carry him to a big league role. He’s a smart, savvy player who has a mature approach and a good eye for the strike zone. Prieto didn’t strike out much in Cuba, and while he has yet to be tested much since then, the early returns have also shown little swing and miss to his game. He never showed much power in Cuba, but he added 15-20 pounds since leaving and has started to drive the ball with more impact, though it’s likely always going to be a hit-over-power profile. An average runner, Prieto is an offensive-minded infielder who projects best at second base.
Names To Know
Leandro Arias, SS, Dominican Republic: An athletic shortstop with plus speed, Arias has the attributes that give him a good chance to stick at the position, with a quick first step, easy actions and a solid-average arm. At the plate, Arias has a hit-over-power profile now with doubles power, but he has good leverage in his swing and the strength projection in his lean, lanky build to develop more power as he fills out.
Edwin Amparo, SS, Dominican Republic: A switch-hitting shortstop, Amparo is a plus runner with the tools that give him a chance to stick at shortstop, with more physical projection remaining and a hit-over-power profile.
Thomas Sosa, OF, Dominican Republic: Sosa is a long, lean lefthanded outfielder at 6-foot-4 with promising athleticism for his size and speed that has trended up to become a tick above-average runner. That gives him a chance to start in center field, though he probably ends up in a corner as he fills out, with a solid base of feel for hitting in games already with more power potential as he gets to physical maturity.
Jean Mata, OF, Venezuela: Mata is an instinctive center fielder with plus speed who projects to stick up the middle. He’s a high baseball IQ player whose speed and defense are his best attributes.
Edrei Campos, SS, Dominican Republic: Campos has an advanced lefthanded bat for his age, showing the swing, approach and feel for hitting that should translate to early success in pro ball. He’s an offensive-oriented player who could end up at second or third base.
One of the most tooled-up players in the class is Cristian Benavides, a shortstop from Venezuela. He’s athletic, has plus speed, a plus arm and shows big power for his age from the right side of the plate, driving the ball with impact from right-center field over to his pull side during batting practice. The results against live pitching as an amateur were another story, with a high swing-and-miss rate. The Orioles worked with him to implement a tap step into his hitting mechanics, which has helped Benavides improve his timing at the plate. He’s an exciting player if he can maintain more consistent timing and keep his strikeouts to a manageable rate.