Here's where O's have seen tremendous growth

January 20th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Jake Rill’s Orioles Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The Orioles have improved in a lot of ways since Mike Elias took over as general manager in November 2018. One area that has seen monumental growth has been the club’s international scouting department.

In the years just before Elias’ arrival, Baltimore rarely made splashes in the international pool. Now, with senior director of international scouting Koby Perez leading a group of nearly a dozen scouts based throughout the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela, the O’s have become players in the Latin American and Caribbean markets.

That became evident again this past Sunday, the first day of the 2023 international signing period. The Orioles spent about $5.3 million of their $5,825,500 base signing pool on a group of 27 players. Most notably, Baltimore signed 16-year-old shortstop Luis Almeyda, MLB Pipeline’s No. 20 international prospect, who was born in Paterson, N.J., before relocating to the Dominican Republic.

It marked another impressive class for Perez and the O’s, whose 27 deals tied their most in an international signing period in franchise history (along with 2019-20). And Baltimore should continue to bring in plenty of highly touted international prospects in the future.

One reason for that? The Orioles Dominican Academy in Guerra, D.R., which will soon be the site of the club’s Dominican player development operations. The O’s broke ground on the 22.5-acre complex in October 2021, and it’s expected to open at some point this year, per Perez. But the team is already using the facilities as part of its pitch to international prospects.

“We have the whole video that we show the kids -- where they’ll be and the facilities that they’ll be able to have when coming home or when they’re playing in the [Dominican Summer] League,” Perez said. “They’ll have facilities that will be equal to what we have in Florida. So we feel that it’s definitely an advantage when we present that opportunity to these players.”

On Sunday, Perez, Elias and Orioles assistant general manager Eve Rosenbaum toured the construction site of the academy to get an update on its progress. It may not be much longer before the location is filled with impressive baseball talent.

Because international players are signed at such a young age, it will take a bit of time for any of them to go from the Orioles Dominican Academy to the Major Leagues. Even most of the prospects signed since Perez’s hiring in January 2019 are still in the lower levels of the Minors.

Perez used a great analogy while discussing the development of the international prospects in the O’s system.

“It’s like when you’re growing a plant. You plant the seed, you can’t see anything,” Perez said. “And then, once the flowers start blooming, they become real pretty and nice. That’s kind of where I feel that we’re at -- where the seed is starting to pop up and come up out of the ground. And hopefully, in the near future, it’ll be a nice big flower and we’ll feel really, really good about the work that’s been done.”

More seeds are being planted, too. Perez said the Orioles are already scouting players in the 2024 international signing class and have constructed an early target list. And for those who end up signing with the O’s, they should have brand-new facilities at their disposal.