Starting this past Monday, Major League teams were allowed to begin signing international free agents. The Orioles have been increasingly active in the international talent in recent years, and who can blame them? Six of the O’s top 30 prospects per MLB Pipeline are international signings, headlined by Samuel Basallo who is ranked as the team's fifth best prospect.
This year has been no different for the Birds as they signed 19 international free agents on Monday, including two of the top 30 international prospects. The Orioles are one of six teams with approximately $7.1 million to spend on international free agents, the highest amount in baseball.
Orioles begin international free agency period with lots of signings
The top player signed was outfielder Stiven Martinez, who is ranked as the 28th best prospect and signed for a $950,000 bonus. Martinez is listed at 6’3 and 175 pounds, but he’s only 16 years old and still has some physical maturing ahead of him. His power is his best tool and if he continues to build strength as he grows, he could turn into a feared power hitter. Martinez has good speed and better arm strength and could potentially end up anywhere in the outfield.
The prospect with the biggest payday was shortstop Emilio Sanchez, who received a $1.3 million bonus. Sanchez is the Orioles prototypical prospect. He’s a 6’1 middle infielder who bats left-handed and has good command of the strike zone.
The 30th ranked prospect in the international pool, Sanchez has shown to be a good hitter with plus power potential and to be every bit as good in the field as he is at the plate. He’s athletic enough to play anywhere but his strong arm may keep him on the left side of the infield.
The two other top players the Orioles signed are Elvin Garcia and Jemone Nuel. Both are shortstops that are standouts offensively and each signed a $500,000 bonus. Overall the Orioles signed 19 players, 2 catchers, 5 shortstops, 2 third basemen, 6 outfielders and 4 pitchers (three right-handed, one left-handed).
Anyone concerned about the influx of shortstops on a team exploding with young talent at that position (Gunnar Henderson, Jackson Holliday, Jordan Westburg, Joey Ortiz) should be reminded that the best athletes usually end up at shortstop at lower levels. Ryan Mountcastle was drafted as a shortstop back in 2015 and changed positions several times before settling in at first base and being nominated for a gold glove at that position.
Even after adding all those players, MASN’s Steve Melewski reported that the O’s still have over $2 million in bonus pool money remaining, so more activity can be expected. That activity will only be aided by the new Orioles facility that opened Tuesday in the Dominican Republic. So far, former Orioles Melvin Mora and Ubaldo Jimenez have made appearances at the complex. Orioles fans should sit back and trust that the best executive team in baseball will do what’s best.