Hope my insistence on directing the A’s attention to the Venezuelan baseball scene is not just irritating. This time, I refer to the news article at <http://news.yahoo.com/baseball-talent-flows-oil-venezuela-171538168--mlb.html> ("Baseball talent flows like oil in Venezuela") to illustrate what is happening out there. The article mentions the existence of local baseball academies – for example, the one that developed Miguel Cabrera. And kids there play baseball instead of soccer – contrary to what most of the world is doing!
The Liga de Beisbol Dominicano is better covered by news sources and scouts – in part, because it is ‘safer" (Venezuela is currently ridden with drugs and social unrest). However, that is exactly the best reason for looking for prospects in Venezuela – competition is easier. MLB teams that have concentrated on Venezuela are reaping benefits, as the above article mentions. The ChiSocks and the Yankees have had a history of dredging Venezuela for prospects; however, I was surprised to see our neighbors, the relatively parsimonious Giants, using a bunch of players from that country, too. That goes in addition to the Tigers and LADodgers.
So why not the A’s? Our management is well aware of baseball in Venezuela – the A’s have had a few of their players, like Tony Armas, Manny Trillo, Marco Scutaro, Vic Davalillo, and others that I remember over the years. Currently we have a promising 3B prospect "in the works" in Renato Nunez – but why not middle infielders? These represent the greatest tradition in Venezuela, starting way back in 1949 with Alejandro Carrasquel, and holding up in the great Omar Vizquel and the current spat of middle infielders in the Majors. These prospects are slightly harder to discover than just going to neighboring Dominican Republic – everybody goes to the Dominican, making for rough competition for talent in the island! Meanwhile, the A’s are starved for a good SS, a depth at C, a nimble, high-AVG 2B – and are patiently waiting for the only candidate, a 3B, to develop by 2016!
Caribbean baseball reflects the virtues of a good racial mix. That is why Venezuela excels in growing world beauty queens and baseball players – a mix of intelligence, power, persistence, and craftiness. For whatever reason, Santo Domingo, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Panama, and Mexico have baseball players, but not the mass of beauty queens – maybe their mix is not as well-rounded as that in Venezuela? Maybe that is an added reason to look closer at baseball prospects in Venezuela?
It is no secret – Billy Beane has been a great GM and a great talent trader, though up to now he has not shown a knack for developing field players. But, he is developing/growing himself. Maybe it is time for him, and his scouting organization, to get into an adventurous mode, become frequent tourists, and start dredging for IF pay dirt in Venezuela?