Another international amateur signing period has opened for MLB teams. The Orioles are now several years into a new routine of being full participants in this process. They opened up their 2024 signing class with a group of players topped by the $1.3 million bonus given to Dominican shortstop Emilio Sánchez.
This marks the fourth straight signing period where the Orioles have handed out a bonus of at least seven figures. The 2024 class does bring an end to the streak of the Orioles setting a new record bonus each year. Last year’s top signing was shortstop Luis Almeyda at $2.3 million.
Players who are signing with teams today are amateurs outside of the US and Canada who are at least 16 years old. These are deals that have been agreed to in advance, with top players in a signing class sometimes reaching agreements two years ahead of time. That’s how teams are able to announce everything all at once.
Each team has a total bonus allotment available that it can choose to spread around as it wishes. The Orioles, at around $7.1 million, are one of six teams with the highest bonus pool. Teams that received a Competitive Balance Round B pick in last year’s amateur draft are in the top group for bonus pool this year.
Before Mike Elias took over, the Orioles did not do much in this market and largely missed out on the opportunity to sign a group of players that generally makes up about a third of the top 100 prospects at any given time. Once Elias and his staff on the ground had the opportunity to build up relationships, they’ve been able to make some quality and quantity signings each year.
A handful of teams are committing the majority of their pool to a single player. Three different prospects getting bonuses in excess of $4 million. That’s not a path that the Orioles have gone down yet. A year ago, Venezuelan catcher Ethan Salas received a colossal bonus of $5.6 million from the Padres. He’s already a top five prospect in MLB.
Not every big bonus guy becomes a star, but that’s sure a good start for the Padres. The Orioles are not doing too bad with $1.3 million catcher Samuel Basallo, signed two years ago today. The hope for everyone signed here is that they can break out in that way. These guys don’t have to turn into stars to be successful signings, though. Even a future useful roleplayer is one fewer guy the O’s have to find from elsewhere.
It’s difficult to say whether Sanchez will be a better hitter or defender at this point, but the tools stand out on both ends and scouts love his potential. As a defender, Sanchez displays a strong and accurate arm. ... At the plate, Sanchez has already shown signs of power, especially to the pull side. As he continues to grow and mature, there is reason to believe that more raw power is on the way.
Always worth noting that Pipeline, as an MLB-affiliated outlet, is generally the most optimistic about a given prospect. FG’s Longenhagen writes that scouts are not universally convinced about Sánchez’s ability to develop power, which would limit his upside as a prospect if that power never arrives. Signing 16-year-olds is an inherently risky enterprise and teams just have to do the best they can in hopes of getting something out of these investments.
Another highlight for the Orioles signing class is Dominican outfielder Stiven Martínez, who checks in with a bonus just shy of seven figures at $950,000. Pipeline’s ranking actually has Martínez slightly above Sánchez at #28. He’s #41 on Longenhagen’s list, with the FanGraphs evaluator writing:
There are scouts who think Martinez, who is a broad-shouldered 6-foot-4, will develop plus-plus raw power at maturity. He also has a huge outfield arm.
There are worse prospect building blocks out there than having a big arm and potential plus-plus raw power. Pipeline adds that Martínez “has an aggressive approach at the plate, and it will be interesting to see whether his hit tool and overall bat-to-ball skills will match his strength.” Similar things were written about Orioles prospect Coby Mayo once. He’s developed nicely. It’ll be up to the O’s coaching staff to try to turn Martínez into the potential middle-of-the-order bat that Pipeline envisions.
The Orioles press release announcing the signings included more details. International director Koby Perez told reporters that the team has over $2 million still to use in its pool. Excerpts from the release are quoted below, with highlights of five more players. The Twitter account dedicated to player development provided a short video with each of these players introducing himself along with some shots in action.
Emilio Sánchez— Orioles Player Development (@OsPlayerDev) January 15, 2024
Chance to be a solid everyday player, capable of plus offense.
Large frame, athletic build with lots of room to fill out.
Loose swing with good extension and bat speed. pic.twitter.com/HZ2jwXubRK
Stiven Martínez— Orioles Player Development (@OsPlayerDev) January 15, 2024
Athletic right fielder with the chance to be a 5-tool player.
Cannon arm with proper mechanics and online carry.
One of the youngest players in the class. pic.twitter.com/2QwZ9ANXc0
Elvin García, 16, a native of Mao, Dominican Republic, has the chance to be an everyday shortstop. He has a large frame with a lot of space to fill out, making for excellent body projection. Offensively, he has a short swing with bat speed and carries a good approach at the plate. He is a line-drive type of hitter with the ability to hit the ball to the opposite field. On the dirt, he has a chance to stay at shortstop due to his good hands and feet. He maintains fluid and effortless actions with plenty of body control. He is a smart player who understands his role well.
Elvin García— Orioles Player Development (@OsPlayerDev) January 15, 2024
Chance to be an everyday SS.
Good approach at the plate with solid bat-to-ball skill.
Fluid and effortless in action. pic.twitter.com/I1DW8sjouQ
García was listed among the potential breakout prospects for this signing class by Baseball America.
Jemone Nuel, 16, is a shortstop out of the Dominican Republic, with Jamaican descent, who profiles best as an everyday player. He is a solid hitter who possesses great bat-to-ball skills, shows good feel for the barrel, and sees spin well. He is an advanced hitter for his age and has line-drive power that will help him hit a lot of extra-base hits. On defense, he projects as someone who will remain in the middle of the infield. He is a plus runner who is aggressive on the bases. Nuel will be fun to watch as someone who plays the game with good energy.
Jemone Nuel— Orioles Player Development (@OsPlayerDev) January 15, 2024
Showed good feel for barrel and can see spin. Swing goes direct to the ball.
Fun to watch, plays the game with good energy.
Plus runner, aggressive on the bases. Will steal some bags. pic.twitter.com/xNaSGrLVsk
According to MASN’s Steve Melewski, each of García and Nuel have received bonuses of $500,000 from the Orioles.
Yaki Mondesir, a 17-year-old right-hander from San Pedro De Macorís, Dominican Republic, is someone who can throw the ball very hard. He throws a four-seam fastball that can currently touch 94 mph. He has a powerful curveball that he can spin very well, inducing plenty of swings and misses. He also throws a changeup that can improve to be average in the future. He has the chance to be a great arm coming out of the bullpen with a strong fastball and curveball combination.
Yaki Mondesir— Orioles Player Development (@OsPlayerDev) January 15, 2024
RHP can throw hard, projected to be a flame thrower.
Fastball touches 94 mph.
Chance to the a great arm in the bullpen with a strong fastball/curveball combo. pic.twitter.com/iBcGfTbQYd
Ángel García, 17, is an outfielder out of Venezuela with the potential to be an everyday player in the big leagues. He is a power-first bat with the strength and focused approach for 14 to 20 homers if things break right. Harnessing plenty of raw power for someone his age, García is able to drive the ball out to the bigger part of the field. He is currently an above-average runner who posted 70 run times. He projects to be better suited for a corner outfield spot as he fills out.
Ángel García— Orioles Player Development (@OsPlayerDev) January 15, 2024
Potential everyday player in the big leagues.
Whips bat through the zone and generates plenty of raw power.
Strong ability to drive the ball out to the big part of the field. pic.twitter.com/gdvfmvsgGG
Esteban Mejía, 16, is a right-handed pitcher from the Dominican Republic who projects as a middle-of-the-rotation starter. He currently sits in the mid-to-upper 90’s and features a three-pitch mix. He will have plenty of power and pitch ability in the future, with the ability to clock 100 mph with solid pitches. Mejía throws plenty of strikes and competes with great mound presence. He has a lot of potential to be a plus player.
Esteban Mejía— Orioles Player Development (@OsPlayerDev) January 15, 2024
Will have power and pitch ability.
Throws strikes and competes, great mound presence.
Will clock 100 mph with solid average pitches. pic.twitter.com/Cls2Jun412
The full list of 19 signings announced by the team, listed in alphabetical order by last name:
- Christian Astudillo - C - Venezuela
- Anthwan Brea - OF - Venezuela
- Héctor Campusano - SS - Dominican Republic
- Frainner Chirinos - 3B - Venezuela
- Enmanuel Corniel - OF - Dominican Republic
- Luis Espinoza - RHP - Venezuela
- Ángel García - OF - Venezuela
- Elvin García - SS - Dominican Republic
- Juan Adames García - C - Venezuela
- Saúl Gómez - 3B - Dominican Republic
- Stiven Martínez - OF - Dominican Republic
- Esteban Mejía - RHP - Dominican Republic
- Yaki Mondesir - RHP - Dominican Republic
- Jemone Nuel - SS - Dominican Republic
- Alexander Rincón - OF - Dominican Republic
- Emilio Sánchez - SS - Dominican Republic
- Víctor Santos - LHP - Dominican Republic
- Argenis Valdez - OF - Dominican Republic
- Cleudi Valenzuela - SS - Dominican Republic
Best of luck to all of today’s signings as they begin their professional journeys in the Orioles organization.