Trade shows O's targeting international talent

July 16th, 2019

BALTIMORE -- By trading Andrew Cashner to the Red Sox on Saturday, the Orioles continued one of their new organizational initiatives -- namely, bolstering a farm system thin on international talent.

The acquisition of teen prospects Elio Prado and Noelberth Romero furthers that goal, even if both are largely unknown quantities to fans and the industry at large. Such is the nature of adding players so far down on the developmental scale. Like many international teen prospects, Romero and Prado are essentially lottery tickets. But for a rebuilding organization like the Orioles, they’re worth the gamble.

“Obviously, it’ll take several years to find out what we got with these guys, but I do feel like that age group and that pipeline is something that we wanted to bolster and give a jolt to,” Orioles general manager and executive vice president Mike Elias said. “This helps with that.”

So who are they? Both are 17-year-old natives of Venezuela who were performing well in their first professional seasons in the Dominican Summer League, and both are candidates to eventually contribute at the big league level or serve as a trade chips.

The Orioles spent this international signing period playing catch-up in the Caribbean, and they consider Prado and Romero valuable parts of a system thin on international talent due to years of sitting out the market. Here is the skinny on the two freshest faces on that front.

Prado, outfielder
The Orioles insisted that Boston include Prado in the Cashner deal, according to sources. He’s listed at 6 feet, 160 pounds, and is seen as an upside play who can play all three outfield positions thanks to a skill set that centers on speed and defense.

Dominican Summer League stats can be deceiving due to how far these players are from the big leagues, but one set of offensive numbers sticks out from Prado’s first taste of pro ball. He had nearly as many walks (20) as strikeouts (21) over his first 34 games in Boston’s system.

“There’s a lot of development ahead of him,” Elias said. “We’ve had eyes on him, and they like what they see. And we’ll see what we get.”

Romero, infielder
A shortstop listed at 6 feet and 145 pounds, Romero was signed by Boston for $275,000, which would’ve made him one of the largest investments in Baltimore’s most recent international class.

Sources said the Orioles like Romero’s hit tool, ability to make contact and defensive versatility. He’s expected to see time at second, short and third, with the hope that he can add strength and size while remaining in the middle of the field.

“We’ve made no secret of the fact that we are eyeing our broad long-term strategy, which his getting the best young talent that we can from every angle,” Elias said. “One of my concerns is that we haven’t been pulling from the international market steadily the past few years. We’ve started now.”

Beltway relationships
Connections abound in this year’s Battle of the Beltways, which kicked off Tuesday with old friends competing against each other. Both Orioles manager Brandon Hyde and Nats skipper Dave Martinez earned their current jobs after gigs as Joe Maddon’s bench coach with the Cubs.

Both, along with Nats bullpen coach Henry Blanco, were on Maddon’s staff when Chicago won the World Series in 2016. Martinez, Maddon’s bench coach at the time, left to become Washington’s manager the following season. Hyde succeeded him as bench coach, getting the Baltimore job less than two years later.

“Me and Dave are very close friends. I wish him all the success in the world,” Hyde said. “This will be a little bit different managing against Davey on the other side."

Said Martinez: “He’s awesome. I know him and his family really well, they’re almost like family to us.”

Hyde's connection with Nats assistant hitting coach Joe Dillon goes back even further. Both natives of Northern California, Hyde and Dillon went to rival high schools and were summer ball teammates as teenagers. They were then teammates at Santa Rosa Junior College for a year, before leaving for different four-year programs.

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Their paths crossed again when Hyde was in the early stages of his Minor League coaching career, in the early 2000s with the Marlins. He recommended that the organization sign Dillon to a Minor League deal; by '05, Dillon was in the Majors. Dillon ended up playing parts of four seasons with the Marlins, Brewers and Rays from '05-09. He was promoted to Washington's big league staff last season.

“I’ve stayed in touch with him through the years,” Hyde said. “So happy for him that he got this opportunity last year. Stayed very close friends.”

Heart & Hustle
is the Orioles' recipient of this year’s Heart & Hustle Award, given annually by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association to honor players who demonstrate “a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and traditions of the game.”

One player from each Major League team is chosen by a committee of former players, which then selects an overall winner after the conclusion of the World Series. This year’s final winner will be announced on Nov. 7.

Roster move
The Orioles released infielder Jace Peterson from his Minor League contract, according to the Virginian-Pilot. Peterson, 29, appeared in 93 games for the Orioles last season before playing exclusively in 2019 for Triple-A Norfolk. He had an opt-out clause in his contract that triggered Monday, according to the Pilot.

Peterson was hitting .309 with a .899 OPS in 86 games for the Tides this season. He is a career .228 hitter with a .648 OPS across parts of five big league seasons with the Orioles, Yankees, Braves and Padres.