Exciting trio highlights O's 24 int'l signings

January 15th, 2022

The Orioles on Saturday announced they signed 24 prospects to open the international signing period, a list that includes an intriguing Cuban player and two of the top prospects in this year’s class -- one of whom became the highest-paid international signee in club history.

Highlighting the list are 22-year-old Cuban infielder César Prieto, outfielder Braylin Tavera (No. 22 on MLB.com’s Top 50 International Prospects list) and shortstop Leandro Arias (No. 46).

The Orioles, who have a bonus pool of $6,262,600, did not disclose the terms of the deals, but industry sources told MLB.com that Prieto signed for $650,000, while Tavera signed for $1.7 million and Arias for $600,000. That mark for Tavera is the highest the club has given to an international signee, signaling the continued growth the organization has longed to see in Latin America. The club added that a total of 15 players received a bonus of at least six figures.

Baltimore also announced deals with shortstop Edwin Amparo and outfielder Thomas Sosa. Of the Orioles' 24 international signees, 12 hail from the Dominican Republic, 10 from Venezuela and one each from Cuba and Panama.

After signing 17 free agents at the outset of the last international signing period, the O’s upped that number to two dozen on Saturday, with senior director of international scouting Koby Perez saying the club used its full allotted signing pool, raising its spending by around $500,000 compared to 2021.

“We are happy that we're able to land this type of talent,” Perez said. “ … When we talk to these families and agents, they realize that we want the best for their players. And we're showing that, not only because of the academy that we're building, but our general manager [Mike Elias] makes a presence in the Dominican Republic. He’s a scout at heart. … 

“It's a huge recruiting tool when the top baseball ops shot-caller comes down personally and scouts these players. You look at it as college recruiting, it’s like if [Alabama head football coach Nick] Saban goes down and sees the kid personally and recruits them, there's a good chance that guy ends up at the college.”

Prieto was riding a record-setting 44-game hitting streak in Cuba’s Serie Nacional when he left the Cuban national team while playing in West Palm Beach, Fla., last May. He later settled in Tampa.

The athletic Prieto has shown good instincts, and the ability to play multiple infield positions. Think of him as a super-utility player. For now, it’s Prieto’s bat, not his glove, that provides him most value despite questions about his power. He’s considered an average defender at second base with room for improvement.

Prieto is easily the oldest player the Orioles courted this go-around by several years, meaning his professional career could start in the mid-level Minors, Perez said. He also offered Cubs second baseman Nick Madrigal as a player comparison.

As for Tavera, he is one of the most well-rounded players in this year’s class and has a chance to be a five-tool player with above-average grades in the future.

At the plate, the lean and athletic 16-year-old shows a good approach and sound fundamentals with improving pitch recognition. Like most prospects his age, Tavera’s swing is a work in progress, but he already has good bat-to-ball skills and emerging power that projects to be a plus tool. He can run now, and the run tool is also expected to be a plus tool if he continues to develop at a normal pace. He continues to improve as a defender.

“He does everything easily and effortlessly,” Perez said. “He is a player who was highly coveted by most of the teams in the league, and a lot of it had to do with us offering an opportunity. Us not having given out these types of bonuses in our history, it makes the player, you know, feel special to be the highest-paid international player. I think that really helped us land Braylin, because there was definitely a lot of competition for his services.”

Arias, a switch-hitting shortstop, has power potential from both sides of the plate. He has shown good bat-to-ball skills and has been praised for his overall hitting ability, including his advanced approach at the plate. His emerging run tool projects to be solid to average.

The 16-year-old is still fine-tuning his actions on defense, but is expected to have enough arm strength and the skills necessary to keep him at shortstop as he makes his way through the Minors.

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association finalized a deal in March 2020 that addressed the international signing period during the pandemic. The 2022 international signing period runs through Dec. 15, 2022, the second year in a row the period, which previously began July 2, started in January.

The current rules also state that teams are not allowed to trade any of their international pool money. Signing bonuses of $10,000 or less do not count toward a club's bonus pool -- Perez said the Orioles could sign a few more players under this allowance -- and foreign professional players who are at least 25 years of age and have played in a foreign league for at least six seasons are also exempt.

Here are the prospects who have agreed to deals with the Orioles in the 2022 international signing period:

Braylin Tavera, OF, Dominican Republic -- $1,700,000
Cesar Prieto, IF, Cuba -- $650,000
Edwin Amparo, IF, Dominican Republic -- $647,500
Leandro Arias, SS, Dominican Republic -- $600,000
Thomas Sosa, OF, Dominican Republic -- $400,000
Adriam Santos, IF, Dominican Republic -- $282,500
Jean Mata, OF, Venezuela -- $207,500
Raylin Ramos, OF, Dominican Republic -- $197,500
Yirber Ruiz, OF, Dominican Republic -- $197,500
Aron Estrada, IF, Venezuela -- $175,000
Henry Tejada, RHS, Dominican Republic -- $162,500
Edrei Campos, IF, Dominican Republic -- $147,500
Elis Cuevas, IF, Dominican Republic -- $147,500
Cristian Benavides, SS, Venezuela -- $137,500
Juan Martinez, OF, Dominican Republic -- $122,500
Andres Nolaya, C, Venezuela -- $97,500
Jesus Palacios, RHS, Venezuela -- $87,500
Juan Pena, RHS, Dominican Republic -- $72,500
Jose Noguera, C, Venezuela -- $47,500
Fernando Peguero, IF, Dominican Republic -- $47,500
Adrian Delgado, RHS, Venezuela -- $47,500
Miguel Mesa, RHS, Dominican Republic -- $32,500
Alfredo Velasquez, IF, Venezuela -- $27,500
Ezequiel Bonilla, RHS, Panama -- $27,500
Andres Parra, LHS, Venezuela -- $10,000
Elias Moscoso, RHS, Venezuela -- $10,000
Oscar Moreta, RHS, Dominican Republic -- $10,000
Ronal Herrera, RHS, Dominican Republic -- $10,000