Your 2014 VSL Cubs!
The VSL Cubs begin their 68-game 2014 season tomorrow morning with a game against the VSL Phillies.
The Venezuelan Summer League (known as the "VSL") was established as an MLB affiliated "Foreign Rookie League" in 1997, and was designed for players from countries in South and Central America like Venezuela, Panama, Nicaragua, Colombia, Brazil, and Curacao. Players from the Dominican Republic can play in the VSL, although most Dominican players who haven't yet graduated to North American minor leagues play in the Dominican Summer League (DSL). Also, U. S. and Canadian players cannot play in a "Foreign Rookie League" (the VSL and DSL), and no more than two Puerto Rican players can be on a VSL team's roster.
The VSL started with just six teams, but by 2001 the league had doubled in size to twelve teams. However, the league struggled to survive the first decade of the 21st century, and after the Pirates and Reds transferred their VSL affiliates to the Dominican Summer League after the 2011 season (creating DSL Pirates #2 and a second DSL Reds team known as "DSL Rojos"), there were only four VSL teams left (VSL Rays, VSL Phillies, VSL Tigers, and VSL Mariners).
The Cubs established their first "Foreigh Rookie League" team (DSL Cubs) in the Dominican Summer League (DSL) in 1997 (they had been providing players to various DSL co-op teams 1991-96), but the Cubs did not participate in the VSL until 2007, when a Cubs/Twins co-op team existed for just one season, The Cubs then established a second DSL team (DSL Cubs #2) in 2008 as the VSL Cubs/Twins co-op team folded. The Cubs operated two DSL teams (DSL Cubs #1 and DSL Cubs #2) for five sesaons (2008-12), and Venezuelan players deemed not yet ready for the AZL Cubs (Arizona Rookie League) were assigned to one of the two DSL affiliates. But then (somewhat surprisingly) the Cubs decided to transfer their second DSL team (DSL Cubs #2) to the VSL (locating the team in Los Guayos), creating a "VSL Cubs" team in 2013 that added a 5th team to the VSL (bucking the recent trend of MLB clubs either folding their VSL team or transferring their VSL team to the DSL).
The 2014 Venezuelan Summer League (VSL) regular season runs from May 12th through August 4th, followed by a post-season championship playoff between the 1st and 2nd place teams (since it's only a five-team league, there are no "divisions"). Because the VSL season begins and ends about three weeks prior to the beginning and end of the DSL season (the 2014 DSL season does not open until May 31st, but it runs until the last week of August), last year the Cubs transferred two of their better VSL players (VSL batting champion Roney Alcala and INF Bryant Flete) from the VSL Cubs to the DSL Cubs after the VSL playoffs concluded, and Flete and Alcala remained with the DSL Cubs through the conclusion of the DSL playoffs.
Because there are currently only five teams in the VSL, the regular season schedule follows a very specific pattern that is peculiar to the VSL. Each VSL team plays four games in a row against the four other VSL teams in exactly the same order and then the team has a day off (a bye). For example, the VSL Cubs play the VSL Phillies-VSL Rays-VSL Mariners-VSL Tigers (always in that sequence) and then have a day off. This sequence repeats throughout the VSL regular season.
Eleven members of the 2013 VSL Cubs (RHPs Adbert Alzolay, Francisco Carrillo, Jesus Castillo, Greyfer Eregua, and Victor Salazar, LHP Alberto Diaz, catcher Eufran Vargas, 1B-3B Roney Alcala, 2B-SS Bryant Flete, and outfielders Arnaldo Calero and Ricardo Marcano) plus 17-year old Venezuelan SS Gleyber Torres and 17-year old Colombian RHP Erling Moreno (who are making their pro debut in 2014) are presently at Extended Spring Training in Mesa, and because most (if not all) of them will likely be remaining in the U. S. this summer, the 2014 VSL Cubs will feature a number of newly-signed players.
Only 17 of the 33 players presently assigned to the VSL Cubs Active List were on the squad last season. One player (18-year old LHP Carlos Rodriguez) spent the 2013 season with the AZL Cubs, and there are 15 players on the roster who are new to the Cubs organization, including 13 professional "rookies" and two others (RHPs Jesus Arias and Julio Sanchez) who were signed after being released by other MLB organizations. Infielder Humberto Garcia is presently on the VSL Cubs roster, but he may end up with the DSL Cubs since he is Dominican. (Garcia was signed by the Cubs last May after being released by the White Sox, and was assigned to the VSL Cubs last season only because the newly-formed VSL Cubs were short of infielders, but that should not be a problem this season).
One of the more interesting names on the VSL Cubs 2014 roster is Danny Gutierrez, supposedly a 17-year old hot-shot shortstop prospect signed by the Cubs to a substantial bonus in 2012 (reported to be $185K at the time) but who did not make his pro debut (as had been expected) in 2013. Now it turns out that Gutierrez is (apparently) actually 23 years old (at least according to information provided by the Cubs).
So here is the 2014 VSL Cubs Active Roster. Both the VSL Cubs Reserve List and Active List roster limit is 35. 30 players can be designated "active" for any one game (at least 10 of the 30 must be pitchers), The players listed as "INACTIVE" on the roster have either been released or will start the season on the 7-day or 60-day DL.
2014 VSL CUBS (33 ACTIVE + 7 INACTIVE)
* bats or throws left
# bats both
VSL Cubs players making pro debut are in italics
Enrique de los Rio
* Manuel Fuentes (INACTIVE)
* Victor Garcia (INACTIVE)
* Yapson Gomez
* Angel Mejias
* Eugenio Palma
* Chris Pieters (INACTIVE)
Brohiglyn Rivero (INACTIVE)
* Carlos Rodriguez
Cesar Romero (INACTIVE)
* Delbis Arcila (INACTIVE)
# Andrews Monasterio
# Martin Hodwalker (INACTIVE)
Franklin Blanco (Hitting Coach)
Angel Guzman (Pitching Coach)
Old news, sorry if it's 3/44-
Phil, your knowledge of the Cubs Minor League system is unbelievable.
This kid would be a key piece in a trade for a pitcher, imo.
LHSP Jose Paulino has electric stuff (91-94 MPH fastball with sinking action and a mid-80's slider), but he also has trouble commanding it.
RHP Jose Albertos (2015 IFA - Mexico - $1.5M bonus) just turned 17 in November, and his fastball already sits at 95-96. He also throws a curve and a change-up, and is fairly advanced for a kid his age.
I think I can probably tell you which pitchers and players at EXST are in contention for roster slots at Eugene and which are in contention for slots with the AZL Cubs - AS THINGS STAND RIGHT NOW - (listed alphabetically):
* bats or throws left
# bats both
Paniagua displayed plus-HR power in Cactus League Minor League Spring Training games in March, and that got him a slot on the South Bend Opening Day roster. But he was sent to EXST after only six MWL games.
More on the Cub Way.
Send Soler down!
Awesome thanks AZ
Great report, Phil! This organization has so many hitters to be excited about.
Ben Zobrist is very enjoyable to watch!!!!!!
given that he seems to only be throwing low 90s these days rather than the 93-96mph he used to throw, along with his wildness issues this year, he may end up passing through.
i dunno if something is wrong with him physically or his past shoulder issues has rendered him what he currently is, but he's been throwing a lot of sliders he can't control well and his fastball isn't as sharp. even when his slider wasn't working in a game he was still throwing a lot of them.