Dan Duquette's willingness to scour the reaches of the planet for people who could potentially play baseball has been on display from time to time in his Orioles tenure. On Monday, he dipped into the Asian pool of talent one more time, signing a 19-year old infielder out of China named Gui Yuan "Itchy" Xu. Yes, that's really the nickname they put in the release, and no, I don't know why it's his nickname.
Xu, which is pronounced "Shoo", becomes the first player from the MLB Development Center in Wuxi, China to sign with a major league team since it opened on September 23, 2009. According to the Orioles release, he's 6'0" and 188 lbs., and he has been at that center since 2010. He bats and throws left-handed.
China is not a bad place to look for talent if only because, out of about 1.4 billion people total, it's a good bet some of them could play baseball if you gave them the right chance. The Orioles in Duquette's tenure have signed players from Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea, although thus far only the Taiwanese Wei-Yin Chen has really worked out. There was also that little incident where the Orioles scouts got banned from South Korean baseball games for a while. Oops.
Helpfully, the Orioles provided a picture of Xu signing his 2016 minor league contract on their Twitter account.
The Orioles have signed free agent INF Gui Yuan "Itchy" Xu to a 2016 minor league deal. pic.twitter.com/FpyUdzeJis— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) July 20, 2015
Never one to pass up a chance to offer some platitudes about a player, Duquette said of the signing, "Xu has been working hard at the MLB Development Center and we hope he'll be the first of many future Major League players from China. He has excellent balance at the plate and very good left-handed power which we think will play well at Oriole Park at Camden Yards."
You probably didn't realize it before right now, but the Orioles desperately need a player nicknamed Itchy on the team. That would be one of the greatest things to ever happen to the franchise.
Curious about the MLB Development Center program? The O's provided a little information about it in the release:
MLB International (MLBI) formally opened a baseball development center in Wuxi, China on September 23, 2009. It was the first MLB training facility in China, providing baseball training for middle school and high school-aged students within an academic school environment. The center has an international team of baseball instructors, and, in addition to receiving an excellent academic education, the students receive baseball training and lessons in English to prepare them for global opportunities. Additional MLB Development Centers have been opened in Changzhou and Nanjing.
It probably doesn't mean a whole lot that it's the Orioles who were the first ones to sign one of these players, but it's still kind of cool that they did. Can't hurt to be seen as the first ones to take a chance. Best of luck to Xu when he begins his journey in the Orioles system next season.