Luis Aparicio. Dave Concepcion. Manny Trillo. Ozzie Guillen. Magglio Ordonez. Bobby Abreu. Omar Vizquel. Carlos Zambrano. Miguel Cabrera. Ramon Hernandez. Johan Santana. Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez. Victor Martinez. Melvin Mora. Felix Hernandez. Jose Lopez.
Just a few of the many past and present MLB stars from Venezuela.
On Opening Day 2007, there were 51 players from Venezuela on MLB 25-man rosters, with many more Venezuelans playing in the minor leagues.
Since 1999, the number of Venezuelans playing in MLB has doubled.
Last July, the Cubs gave 16-year old Venezuelan RHP Larry Suarez (currently at EXST at Fitch Park) a reported $850K signing bonus (an amount equivalent to "2nd round money").
Venezuelan players currently playing in the Cubs organization:
Henry Blanco, C
Angel Guzman, RHP
Cesar Izturis, SS
Carlos Zambrano, RHP
Ronny Cedeno, SS
Carlos Rojas, INF
Robinson Chirinos, INF
Robert Hernandez, RHP
Marwin Gonzalez, 3B-1B
Carlos Perez, C
Jesus Reyes, 1B-OF
Larry Suarez, RHP
The Cubs are also fielding a team (well, a co-op team with the Twins) in the Venezuelan Summer League (VSL), the first time the Cubs have had a connection with the VSL since 2002.
players on the VSL Cubs/Twins co-op club:
Jose Avila, IF-OF
Eduardo Figueroa, P
Jose Guevara, C
Edilmar Infante, RHP
George Matheus, SS
Reinaldo Navarro, P
Gregorio Rodriguez, RHP
Carlos Rojas, P
Carlos Romero, 1B
Kevin Soto, OF
So clearly, Venezuela is a growing and important source of talent for MLB clubs (including the Cubs) hoping to upgrade their player development and farm systems.
It's never been better.
Well, then again, maybe not...
Along with the growth in the number of Venezuelan players in MLB and the minor leagues, there is also a growing concern about the future of MLB's Venezuelan talent pipeline
There have been rumors that the Venezuelan government (as happened in Cuba) might try to nationalize the country's baseball industry and/or attempt to restrict and control Venezuelan players hoping to sign with MLB clubs, perhaps holding young players hostage while demanding a cut of their bonuses.
And will Venezuelan players who venture back to their homeland suddenly find themselves having to pay a hefty ransom to get a visa back to the U. S., or (even worse) maybe get thrown into jail on trumped-up criminal charges so the government can confiscate their land and other personal property? (Ugueth Urbina probably thinks that might be a possibility).
I don't know, but if I'm Carlos Zambrano, I might think twice about going home next winter!