This week on Meet the Baby Birds we travel to Maryland's Eastern Shore and visit the Delmarva Shorebirds. The Baltimore Orioles Low-A affiliate is the current home for the teams #8 prospect, Samuel Basallo. At just 18 years of age, Basallo is already in his third professional season and was recently named the #100 overall prospect according to MLB.com.
Meet the baby birds: Samuel Basallo
Basallo hails from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, which has produced many major league players, including Orioles all-star closer Felix Bautista. The Orioles signed Basallo in 2021 when he was just 16 years old. They were so confident in his talent that they gave Basallo a $1.3 million contract, which was the largest contract the team had ever given (at that time) to an international prospect. So far Samuel has rewarded to O's decision.
Basallo's joined the Dominican Orioles in the Dominican Summer League in 2021 where he was one of the few bright spots on the team. Even though he was the youngest player on the team, the left handed hitting Basallo led the team in games played (41), home runs (5), RBI's (19) and doubles (8). Basallo spent most of his time at his primary position of catcher, but the Orioles also gave him plenty of games at first base.
The Birds decided to bring Basallo state side for the 2022 season and they assigned him to rookie ball in the Florida Coast League. Samuel was up to the challenge and again led his team in games played (43), home runs (6) and RBI's (32), as well as hits (44). Basallo slashed .279/.350/.424 and had a .774 OPS, which were all significant improvements from his 2021 season. He again split his time between catcher and first base and showed improvement at both positions. Basallo raised his fielding percentage at first base from .978 to .986 and raised the percentage of base stealers he caught from 26% to 31%.
In 2023 Basallo was assigned to the Delmarva Shorebirds where he has had a breakout season. Through 69 games this season Basallo is slashing .298/.375/.494 with a .896 OPS. He currently ranks among the top five in virtually every major offensive category in the Carolina League. Basallo is fourth in runs (47), first in hits (79), fifth in doubles (15), fourth in home runs (11), second in RBI's (56) and his .298 batting average is third in the league. He has even added a speed element to his game with six steals on the season. He also currently has a career best .990 fielding percentage at catcher and has tied his career best of 31% of base stealers caught.
The only thing holding Basallo back from being elevated to the high-A Aberdeen IronBirds is the season Creed Willems is having. Willems' production has fallen off a bit since being promoted so Basallo could challenge for the starting catcher's position very soon. Even though Basallo has made great stride at catcher, another avenue to playing time for Basallo could be first base. He is listed as being 6'3 and 180 lbs, but at only 18 years old he's still growing. Recent reports have Basallo at 6'4 and 220 lbs. The speed that Basallo has added to his game and his power surge this season suggest that he's added mostly muscle, but he may literally be growing out of the catcher position. His size profiles more as a first baseman, which may benefit him in the future as there appears to be more of a path to first base then catcher with the Orioles.
The Orioles have had three catchers on their roster on multiple occasions this season and have even played Terrin Vavra at catcher in Norfolk to have more catching options. With superstar Adley Rutschman getting reps at DH to keep his bat in the lineup when he gets a rest from being behind the plate, it's helpful to have an extra catcher on the roster that can step in without losing the DH. Basallo's left handed power bat would fit nicely into Oriole Park at Camden Yards and I'm sure Manager Brandon Hyde can find a place for him in about two years.