Braves introduce new arrival Salcedo
Young shortstop impresses in first meeting with media
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As Edward Salcedo stood in front of a group of reporters at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex on Saturday morning, he immediately made it known that he does not plan to wait long before having the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of two of his childhood idols, Andruw Jones and Chipper Jones.
"I'm going to demonstrate to everybody here that I'm going to do everything I need to do to work to get to Major Leagues as soon as possible," Salcedo said through the interpretation provided by Braves director of international scouting Johnny Almaraz.
Once Salecedo reaches the Major Leagues, the Braves believe he will prove to be an elite player. But for now, they are simply excited about the opportunity to oversee the development of this 18-year-old Dominican shortstop, whom they signed for $1.6 million a few weeks ago.
"In the past five years, just looking at the international market, he's No. 1 for me," Almaraz said. "He's a position player and middle infielder that can play the game. He has power and defensive skills. He is somebody who has a chance to be a very special player."
The Braves will likely allow Salcedo to get adjusted to his new lifestyle while spending the early portion of this season with the other players who participate in extended Spring Training, but he should spend a majority of this season with the Class A Rome club.
With all of his physical evaluations and immigration procedures complete, Salcedo arrived in Braves camp on Friday night and was formally introduced during a press conference that preceded Saturday afternoon's game against the Blue Jays.
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With his 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame, Salcedo displayed the physical attributes that have helped him to develop into a highly regarded shortstop prospect. But the teenager also made a good first impression with the confidence he displayed while talking to a group of unfamiliar faces in a country that he had been introduced to just 24 hours earlier.
"You can see it in his eyes and his face," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "He gets it. Socially, I think he can handle a lot more than a lot of other 18-year-old Dominican kids."
Salcedo, who has been compared to Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez, drew widespread attention in 2007, when the United States government raised suspicions about his claim that he had been born in 1989. Because it was determined that he hadn't yet celebrated his 16th birthday, the $2.3 million agreement he had agreed to with the Indians was voided.
During the years that have followed, Salcedo said that he remained focused on his dream to play in the Majors and lived by the motto of a friend who told him, "The only thing that makes a man is hard work."
With Salcedo continuing to hone his skills while playing three or four times a week in the Dominican, Almaraz and his scouts began courting Salcedo again last summer. The Braves' interest in this talented shortstop intensified this winter, when they signed Type A free agent Billy Wagner and consequently forfeited a first-round selection in this summer's First-Year Player Draft.
"Johnny has been talking about Edward since last summer and telling us that if we have a chance to sign him, we're doing better than a No. 1 pick in his mind," Wren said. "We are really excited. It's huge for us. It give us a premium young middle infielder that has a chance to be a real good player."
While other Major League clubs showed more reluctance in their pursuit of Salcedo, the Braves paid Major League Baseball to investigate and verify his birth date. The determination that he was born in 1991 backed up earlier suspicions regarding his age.
"We saw a special player, and we wanted to have a chance to sign him," Almaraz said. "It's not very often that you see a player of this kind of ability. We wanted to make sure that we did all of our homework to get him here with the Braves. I just think we outworked everybody else."
Salcedo said that the Braves were the only organization that showed significant interest in him over the past two years.
"I've always been interested in signing with the Braves, because I've always been inspired by their personnel and their sincerity," Salcedo said. "On and off the field, they are very good people."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.