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Orioles continue to stock international pipeline, adding teenage pitcher from Astros to complete Velázquez deal

The Orioles' large collection of players to be named later acquired through trades from the 2020 season has now been fully identified.

The club announced Monday that it received 18-year-old right-hander Miguel Padilla from the Houston Astros to complete the July trade for right-hander Hector Velázquez. Of the six players to be named the Orioles garnered through trading five pitchers this summer, four turned out to be Latin teenagers, part of a continued effort by the front office to add to an international pipeline that wasn’t a focus of the previous regime.

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Padilla, a native of Venezuela, struck out 26 over 26 innings with a 2.08 ERA in 19 appearances for the Astros' Dominican Summer League affiliate in 2019. He signed with Houston in the 2018 international signing period, meaning it was possible Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias had at least some involvement in Padilla’s scouting while serving as the Astros' assistant general manager.

The Orioles claimed Velázquez on waivers from the Boston Red Sox about a week before the coronavirus pandemic prompted the cancellation of spring training in March, then traded him to Houston a few days into the regular season. Velázquez did not make an appearance for the Astros in 2020.

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Padilla becomes the ninth prospect the Orioles have added via trade since the start of the 2020 season, with all but three initially being players to be named. Because of the season’s structure under the pandemic, teams were able to trade only the players who were in their 60-man player pools, leading to several trades throughout the league involving players to be named.

The Orioles opened spots in their pool for three unnamed players during the season. In return for left-hander Richard Bleier, they received infielder Isaac DeLeon, who turned 19 earlier this month, from the Miami Marlins. Along with 23-year-old infielders Tyler Nevin and Terrin Vavra, the Colorado Rockies traded 18-year-old outfielder Mishael Deson to the Orioles for right-hander Mychal Givens. For sending right-hander Miguel Castro to the New York Mets, the Orioles received left-handed pitching prospect Kevin Smith and, eventually, 18-year-old infielder Victor Gonzalez.

Earlier this month, the Orioles completed their trade of left-hander Tommy Milone to the Atlanta Braves for two players to be named by receiving middle infielders AJ Graffanino and Greg Cullen. The duo, both members of Atlanta’s 2018 draft class, turned out to be the only two of the Orioles' six players to be named with experience playing for stateside affiliates.

The moves follow a trend that Elias has executed throughout his time leading Baltimore’s baseball operations department: adding to the lower rungs of the Orioles' farm system. Including Monday’s completed deal, more than half of Baltimore’s 11 player-for-player trades under Elias have resulted in a return featuring at least one Dominican Summer League prospect or a player selected in one of the two most recent drafts.

Under Elias and senior director of international scouting Koby Perez, the Orioles' efforts in international scouting have taken leaps forward, with trades such as this year’s and the 2019 deal that sent Andrew Cashner to the Boston Red Sox for teenagers Elio Prado and Noelberth Romero helping funnel talent to that area.

This year’s moves haven’t strictly benefited the Orioles' international efforts, though. Nevin, Vavra, Smith and Graffanino have all received consideration in being among Baltimore’s top 30 prospects. Nevin, in particular, is close to the majors, as he is already on the Orioles' 40-man roster and Elias said at the time of the trade that he will likely be their starting first baseman in Triple-A in 2021, assuming a return to a regular minor league format.

With the book finally closed on the Orioles' in-season trades, it’s apparent that the focus remains on adding talent to areas of the organization that had been lacking, particularly in the international realm and the middle infield. It’s likely those efforts will continue in whatever potential moves present themselves to Elias and the Orioles this offseason.

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