January 15 came and went with the Baltimore Orioles setting another franchise signing bonus record, as the club inked shortstop Luis Almeyda out of the Dominican Republic for $2.3 million. The signing of Almeyda adds another athletic shortstop to the farm system and marks the latest stride the club has made in Latin America.

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Almeyda has a unique background, as he was born in Paterson, NJ and lived in the United States until he was 15, when he and his family moved to the Dominican Republic to care for his grandmother who has Alzheimer’s disease. While living in New Jersey, he was seen as a rising prospect in the 2025 draft class, but the move to the Dominican Republic made him eligible to sign with a team this year.

Ranked the 20th best international prospect by MLB Pipeline, Almeyeda is listed at 6’2” 180 lbs and receives praise for his advance plate approach and bat speed. As with most young hitters his size, Almeyda offers the potential to hit for more power as he fills out. Although it is possible that he will eventually outgrow shortstop, reports suggest that he should have the arm strength and athleticism to make the move over to third base. (MLB Pipeline grades his arm as a 55 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and notes that he “projects to have a plus arm.”)

On both the international and domestic scouting sides, the Orioles have made shortstop a priority, leaving them with a deep depth chart in the minor leagues. While not all of those players figure to stick at shortstop, most offer the athleticism to move over to another position as they grow. Gunnar Henderson’s relatively smooth handling of third base is evidence of this—although the notion of him playing shortstop in the future should not be ruled out—and Almeyda could fit that mold down the line.

In the immediate future, Almeyda presents an interesting case in terms of his development timeline. Typically, an international signee his age would be expected to spend his first season in the Dominican Summer League, before advancing to the Florida Complex League the following year and then reaching Low-A as early as the start of the next season. However, because Almeyda spent so much time in the United States before his move to the Dominican Republic, he could be a viable candidate to bypass the DSL and proceed to the FCL this summer.

Almeyda’s exact assignment remains to be seen, but it is clear that the Orioles have landed a high-upside player who represents their continuing efforts to build a strong presence in Latin America.

Under executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias and senior director of international scouting Koby Perez, the Orioles have taken a Latin American scouting program that was arguably the weakest in Major League Baseball and turned it into a stronger force. This marks the third straight year in which the Orioles set a new club record for the largest signing bonus given to a Latin American amateur player, as they paid $1.7 million to outfielder Braylin Tavera last year and $1.3 million to catcher Samuel Basallo in 2021.

It takes years for players who are signed out of Latin America to develop, so it is still too soon to give a full evaluation of the Orioles’ track record under Elias and Perez. While shortstop Maikol Hernandez—who signed for $1.2 million in 2021—has struggled over his first two seasons, he is still just 19 and has time to develop as a hitter. Basallo should be behind the plate at Delmarva this season and Tavera was among a group of young hitters that stood out in the DSL last year. Perhaps the biggest success story under Elias and Perez thus far is infielder Frederick Bencosme, a 20-year-old who signed for $10,000 back in 2020 and is slated to open the 2023 season at High-A Aberdeen after a breakout run at Delmarva in 2022.

With their signing of Almeyda, the Orioles are taking another chance that a major investment in an international free agent will pay off. Almeyda is years away from fully realizing his potential, but it’s clear that he enters the organization with a skillset that leaves plenty of room for upside.

Other January 15 Signings to Note

  • The Orioles have touted four other middle-infield prospects from their January signing class, including shortstops Joshua Liranzo, Felix Amparo, and Luis Guevara, as well as second baseman Jose Mejía. Signed out of Venezuela, Guevara is a switch-hitter with a potential lead-off hitting profile, while Amparo and Liranzo have been noted for their hit tools. Mejía, meanwhile, has been singled out by the team for his offensive abilities and power projection.
  • Right-hander Keeler Morfe throws a fastball that reportedly touches 95 mph with sinking action, to go with a slider and a changeup. At just 16, Morfe flashes a nice, easy delivery that should help him in his development.
  • Left-hander Francisco Morao is a pitcher that the club believes could develop as a starter. The 17-year-old flashes a fastball that touches 92 mph, to go with a changeup and 12-to-6 curveball.
  • Catcher Luis Vicioso is the younger brother of Orioles shortstop Jorge Mateo. Vicioso, who was signed out of the Dominican Republic, is listed at 5’10” 180 lbs. and will turn 20 in May.
  • Overall, the Orioles have roughly $500,000 left in their bonus pool of $5.8 million for this signing period. After Almeyda’s $2.3 million, the second-highest bonus reported thus far is $500,000 for Liranzo. In all likelihood, these players will spend the 2023 season in the DSL though, as noted earlier, it is possible that Almeyda makes his FCL debut this summer. A full list of signings from January 15 can be found here.
Zach Spedden
Zach Spedden

Orioles Analyst

A graduate of the University of Massachusetts, and Loyola University; Spedden has previously spent time in the Washington Nationals organization as a videographer for the Hagerstown Suns. As a blogger, Spedden is an Editor / Writer for the Suns fan club. Additionally, he contributes to The Nats Blog as a prospect writer, and Ballpark Digest. For BSL, Spedden covers the Orioles Minor Leagues. Co-Host of The Verge: https://anchor.fm/the-verge