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With Baltimore’s recent signings of Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz, the Orioles will be unable to take part in the 2014 first year player draft until the third round. Though the acquisitions have bettered the team significantly and demonstrate their “win now” mentality, the loss of early draft picks may interfere with the Orioles’ recent minor league revitalization. Not to say those costs outweigh the benefits, but it will prevent any additions of America’s top undrafted talent. What are some ways this situation might be offset? International scouting may play a role in continuing to add cheap talent to the Orioles’ minor league system.
In just the past few years, the Orioles have signed Tsuyoshi Wada (Japan), Wei-Yin Chen (Taiwan), Koji Uehara (Japan), Henry Urrutia (Cuba), Miguel Gonzalez (Mexican League), and others. Though Wada never worked out for the Orioles, the other four have made contributions to the Orioles at one point or another. Urrutia had limited time at the Major League level, and Chen and Gonzalez are important parts of the starting rotation. Though Uehara is gone, he is not forgotten. Now the closer for the Boston Red Sox, Uehara was an important part of the Oroles’ bullpen when he was in Baltimore and brought back Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter in a trade with the Texas Rangers in 2011.
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The previously listed players are just the tip of the iceberg for the Orioles when it comes to taking advantage of the international market. Among the Orioles’ list of top prospects are two more international signings of undrafted free agents. Eduardo Rodriguez (Venezuela) and Jonathan Schoop (Curacao) were added outside of the first year player draft and represent the importance of international scouting when building a farm system. What value they bring to the Major League level is yet to be determined, but they clearly have value (including trade value) that can be used to better the team one way or another.
In 2014, the Orioles’ will likely place a light emphasis on scouting players for the draft, considering the quality of players will fall off by the time the Orioles are on the board. With that said, it will be interesting to see how much emphasis they add to their international scouting. They won’t have to invest excessive finances into scouting American players or paying huge signing bonuses to the players they sign. This money won’t be pocketed, rest assured, but more likely redirected into international scouting.
It will be very interesting to see what the Orioles do in their continued effort to build their minor league system through the international market. Orioles General Manager Dan Duquette has continued the emphasis on international scouting set by his predecessor, Andy McPhail, and has so far worked out well for Baltimore. International scouting may offer a cheaper and better means of adding talent to the Orioles, and it appears that it will be even more important in 2014.