In­ter­na­tional scout­ing is on right track

In his first year as di­rec­tor, Perez has seen depart­ment grow from a ‘clean slate’

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - BASEBALL - By Jon Me­oli

Koby Perez was hardly the only per­son hired by the Ori­oles un­der ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent/gen­eral man­ager Mike Elias who had a tall task ahead of him. As the se­nior di­rec­tor of in­ter­na­tional scout­ing, Perez was charged with tak­ing a facet of the or­ga­ni­za­tion that was largely nonex­is­tent and build­ing it into a func­tional arm of the team’s de­sired player de­vel­op­ment ma­chine.

Since his hire was an­nounced a year ago last week, Perez and the Ori­oles are well un­der­way do­ing just that. The 2019 am­a­teur sign­ing class was the largest in fran­chise his­tory and is still grow­ing, with more sign­ings still to be an­nounced. They’re build­ing a large class for 2020, as well, and ex­pect to be able to sign at the top of the mar­ket by 2021.

Given the way in­ter­na­tional am­a­teur play­ers can agree with teams years be­fore they’re el­i­gi­ble to sign, it’s a growth line that puts them on the fastest sched­ule pos­si­ble to sign­ing. And it came from a cor­ner of the or­ga­ni­za­tion that was barely uti­lized be­fore.

“It was pretty much a clean slate,” Perez said.

That clean slate was some­what in­ten­tional, as the Ori­oles sat out the in­ter­na­tional am­a­teur mar­ket be­cause of own­er­ship’s ret­i­cence to­ward the mar­ket for the bet­ter part of this decade. While re­cent changes to the sign­ing struc­ture for in­ter­na­tional am­a­teurs have kept prices down, teams are al­lot­ted a cer­tain amount of sign­ing bonus pool money that al­lows them to spend up to a cer­tain point in that mar­ket with­out penalty.

Un­der for­mer ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent Dan Du­quette, the Ori­oles be­gan to use their sub­stan­tial allotment of in­ter­na­tional bonus pool money late in 2018 af­ter the team ini­ti­ated the tear­down and re­build that would con­tinue un­der Elias. Roughly $1 mil­lion was spent un­der that regime, mostly un­der the lead­er­ship of as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of mi­nor league and in­ter­na­tional op­er­a­tions Cale Cox.

Perez and his staff added an­other $1 mil­lion in late-bloomer sign­ings be­fore the 2019 sign­ing pe­riod be­gan, and an­nounced a 27-player class July 2. The top bonuses of that pe­riod, ac­cord­ing to Base­ball Amer­ica, were out­fielder Luis Gonzalez ($475,000), left-han­der Luis Or­tiz ($400,000), and short­stop Leonel Sanchez ($400,000).

Be­tween the re­main­der of the 2018 bonus pool money and what the Ori­oles had for 2019, with the top signees for 2019 al­ready com­mit­ted to sign else­where, Perez said the strat­egy was a vol­ume-based one.

“We de­cided to go with a sec­ond team to best al­lo­cate our re­sources in our bud­get,” he said. “Our pool was pretty hefty, and most of the play­ers in the class were gone. So the best way we thought we could al­lo­cate and do the best we can with what was avail­able was try­ing to sign ba­si­cally a whole sec­ond team, which is what we did. We feel good about some of the play­ers we added. Some of them will be in Sara­sota this year in the Gulf Coast League, and we’re hop­ing to score some prospects from that class.”

As they made those sign­ings, there was plenty of in­fra­struc­ture and staffing work be­ing done as well. Perez said there wasn’t a cen­tral­ized re­port­ing sys­tem or in­for­ma­tion cen­ter for their in­ter­na­tional scout­ing re­ports, and that was rec­ti­fied “quickly.”

He also added staff in the form of Michael Cruz (scout­ing as­sis­tant), Ger­aldo Cabrera (Do­mini­can scout­ing su­per­vi­sor), Fran­cisco Rosario and Rafael Be­len (Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic area scouts), and Adel Granadillo (Venezue­lan area scout), with Luis Noel re­main­ing an area scout in the

Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic.

There are more hires to come, Perez said, though he buys into Elias’ idea that mak­ing the right hire is more im­por­tant than mak­ing a quick one.

Still, he feels “re­ally, re­ally good” about the way the Ori­oles have built their front of­fice and lead­er­ship team in the last year. Like Elias, di­rec­tor of base­ball de­vel­op­ment Eve Rosen­baum has in­ter­na­tional scout­ing ex­pe­ri­ence from her time with the Hous­ton Astros as well. Her role as a syn­ergy-cre­ator be­tween de­part­ments will fur­ther in­te­grate the growth in an­a­lyt­ics and player de­vel­op­ment over the last year to the Latin Amer­i­can op­er­a­tion.

“We’re get­ting a lot of per­spec­tives,” Perez said. “We’re get­ting a lot of ideas with what we’ve seen work, and what we’ve seen not work helps us avoid some of those pit­falls.”

Com­bine the team’s di­rec­tion with the re­la­tion­ships that he and Elias have in Latin Amer­ica, plus the fact that the Ori­oles have plenty of money avail­able and not com­mit­ted years down the road the way other teams do, and the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s rep­u­ta­tion is chang­ing quickly.

“The re­la­tion­ships that Mike Elias and my­self have is that our word is bond,” Perez said. “We’ve done busi­ness well in the past with our pre­vi­ous teams, so ba­si­cally, we’re able to be first in line with cer­tain play­ers just based on the sit­u­a­tion.”

“With 2019 and 2020, we’re prob­a­bly the or­ga­ni­za­tion that [play­ers] mostly call now, be­cause they know that we have the money, we’re able to spend it, be­cause a lot of the other clubs that are big-play­ers in Latin Amer­ica [com­mit­ted theirs].”

Perez equated the sit­u­a­tion to col­lege re­cruit­ing, where prospec­tive play­ers know when a school is out of schol­ar­ships and turn to schools that have op­por­tu­ni­ties for them to play.

“We are for­tu­nately in a good sit­u­a­tion for the play­ers avail­able, that they know that we have schol­ar­ships avail­able,” Perez said. “They know we’re an up-and-com­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion that’s plan­ning well for the fu­ture. Mon­e­tary-wise, it’s a good sit­u­a­tion, and also, it’s an or­ga­ni­za­tion that def­i­nitely wants to sign the best play­ers we can, so they can some day be up here in Bal­ti­more. They know that we’re able to do that.”

Perez an­tic­i­pates that will con­tinue with a spread-it-out ap­proach for the 2020 pe­riod, but could put the Ori­oles in a po­si­tion to sign at the top of the mar­ket for the 2021 sign­ing pe­riod.

“We should be sign­ing some of those top guys in 2021,” Perez said. “We have a lot of work done with some 2021 play­ers that we feel that we are the front-run­ners to sign.”

“With 2019 and 2020, we’re prob­a­bly the or­ga­ni­za­tion that [play­ers] mostly call now, be­cause they know that we have the money, we’re able to spend it, be­cause a lot of the other clubs that are big-play­ers in Latin Amer­ica [com­mit­ted theirs].”

— Koby Perez, Ori­oles in­ter­na­tional scout­ing di­rec­tor

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