Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Couple International Prospects the Orioles DID Manage To Sign

Baseball America highlights a couple of international players the Orioles did manage to sign this summer (subscription only) while also reiterating that Baltimore seems to be continuing their trend of low activity in Latin America:

...(the Orioles) did set a franchise record for a Dominican signing bonus when they gave third baseman Hector Veloz $300,000 in July. Prior to July 2, Veloz tested positive for the anabolic steroid Stanozolol when he took a drug test as part of Major League Baseball's registration program for 40 of the top players in the Dominican Republic...

A 6-foot-2, 195-pound righthanded hitter, Veloz is a power bat who has been inconsistent against live pitching when he becomes pull-conscious, but he's shown well in games at other times. He's a tick above-average runner with solid hands and a slightly above-average arm.

Lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez, 17, was dominant last year in the Dominican Summer League, where he showed the ability to throw strikes, miss bats and get ground balls. He finished with a 2.33 ERA and a 62-28 K-BB mark in 65 2/3 innings. Rodriguez was a slender 6-foot-2, 175 pounds when he signed for $175,000 out of Venezuela last January, but he's slowly begun to fill out and add velocity. He now sits at 88-90 mph with tail and some sink, showing good command for his age. He mixes in a fringy slider and a changeup that could be average or better, as well as an occasional slow curve. He'll likely make his U.S. debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League this year.

Some video of Hector Veloz:

And a quick word on the Orioles' international efforts...

I completely get why the Orioles would pull back a bit from Latin America, especially the Dominican Republic. It's a dirty business. Corruption among scouts and agents dealing for these 16-year old's really seamy and a difficult path to navigate.

And given uncertainty of player's ages and the fact that steroids among these kids appears to be fairly common, if not rampant, forking over multi-million dollar bonuses is very, very risky, perhaps even prohibitively so.

But you don't have to spend tons of cash in bonuses to have a presence in Latin America or to successfully develop international talent. The Rockies and the Phillies, for example, rarely get involved in bidding for the top talent but develop from a pool of less expensive players and are really good at it. There is more than one way to achieve your goal; dollar figures alone are not the only measure of a team's international efforts.

I though the Orioles were on that path. They had increased their crop of international talent enough to field two Dominican Summer League teams last year and it looked like the Orioles were going to try to ape the Phillies success by stocking cheaper talent and trying to develop it themselves. That hope is gone now as Baltimore has pulled back to just one DSL team this summer and they appear to be pulling back further than ever from Latin America.

Signing players out of the DR is a dirty and highly risky business. But there is a happy medium to be struck. Hopefully, the Orioles are able to find one. But right now, not so much.

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