Orioles land No. 20 overall int’l prospect

January 15th, 2023

The Orioles have signed one of the most recognized international prospects in the industry. And they paid a record amount of money to do so.

The club on Sunday announced it has agreed to a deal with shortstop Luis Almeyda, who is ranked as the No. 20 overall prospect on the Top 50 international list. According to industry sources, it is a $2.3 million deal, the most given to an international signee in franchise history.

The Orioles, who have a base signing pool of $5,825,500, announced the agreement along with 26 other international signings. The 27 deals are tied for the most by Baltimore during an international signing period (along with 2019-20). But the headliner was the deal given to the 16-year-old Almeyda.

“I think it’s super significant,” Orioles senior director of international scouting Koby Perez said. “Any time we give people significant money like this, we’ve got to check all the boxes and make sure that we’re doing it with the right kid and the right family, just to ensure that the kid can continue growing and progressing as a Major League baseball player, which is our goal and the family’s goal.”

The O’s are confident that’s the case with Almeyda, who was born in Paterson, N.J., before his family moved to the Dominican Republic when he was 15 to take care of his grandmother who has Alzheimer's disease.

When Almeyda was living in the U.S., he said he was drawing a lot of interest from college programs. His relocation presented a different type of path to professional baseball. And when the Orioles hosted Almeyda for multiple workouts, it made his signing decision an easy one.

“Off the bat, I knew the Orioles were the organization for me,” Almeyda said. “My decision is how I want to develop as a player, and I know the Baltimore Orioles have the best farm system. I know, me as a person, I would like to develop as a baseball player with this organization. I’m just very happy right now. I can’t wait for my journey to start.”

There’s a lot to like about Almeyda. He runs well for his size and has a chance to be a five-tool player if he continues to develop at a normal pace. As with many large middle infielders, there’s a chance Almeyda will outgrow shortstop and eventually move to third base, but the adjustment to a new position should not be a problem because of his athleticism and skill set.

Almeyda has the potential to be a force on offense.

He’s a smart hitter with a good approach at the plate and tons of at-bats under his belt thanks to his time in the United States. He plays solid defense, in large part because of his soft hands, good footwork and internal clock. He also projects to have a plus arm. Almeyda is one of the most experienced prospects and has been praised for his makeup and baseball IQ.

“We think that his ability speaks for itself,” Perez said. “But also, [not] growing up in the U.S. is a lot of the battles that our players internationally go through, and he’s already got that system ready to go, since he grew up in New Jersey most of his life.”

The plan is for Almeyda to spend some time in the U.S. in 2023, but Perez noted the Orioles want to “take it slow” in the development process. That’s fine with Almeyda, who is just eager to get his pro career started.

“All I know is I have to put my 100 percent on the field,” Almeyda said. “I have to do what I have to do. I just have to be focused on my own goal.”

Almeyda is represented by Cesar Suarez of the CJ Baseball Academy. Suarez is a member of MLB’s Trainer Partnership Program.

An international player is eligible to sign with a Major League team between Jan. 15 and Dec. 15. He must turn 16 before he signs and be 17 before Sept. 1 the following year -- in practical terms, that means players born between Sept. 1, 2005, and Aug. 31, 2006, will be eligible to sign in the upcoming signing period. Players have to be registered with Major League Baseball in advance in order to be eligible to sign.

Teams are allowed to trade international bonus pool money starting Jan. 15.