As Josh mentioned on Tuesday morning, the Venezuela Cubs (V-Cubs ?) lost their first game in the league by a 22-11 score. That the club lost by 11 runs obviously isn't a good thing, but having a team in Venezuela is. When perusing the VSL roster, I only recognized three of the names. Why is a roster of players even a borderline-obsessive doesn't recognize symbolize something good?
The Venezuelan League has been losing teams to the Dominican League recently. The reasons for the exodus seem to be political, but hopefully the topic can be read and not turned into a civics discussion. The Cubs are one of only five teams in the league this season. While it seems odd at first blush to send prospects away from the new, state-of-the-art facility in the Dominican, on further examination, it is very sound.
Major league baseball is heading toward a worldwide drafting setup. I don't like it, but that's how it appears it's going to be. Ownership and the Commissioner's Office want to keep spending down. Many teams don't appear to want to compete for the best global talent in a market as open as it is now. Soon, the best pitchers and hitters across the globe will be being selected like pitchers and hitters from U.S. colleges and high schools. It sounds like a draft will parcel out the 120-or so best international players per year. Having scouts to account for the 120-300 segment of prospects will become very important, as will be having roster spots for the upcoming prospects to play.
The two DSL teams the Cubs have had will now be but one. Instead of splitting the team up to different facilities, the men you practice with will be the players you play with. Reminiscent of the 2012 Boise squad, which brought just 10 hitters with only one catcher north for last season's Northwest League season, the V-Cubs have the same number: 10 hitters. The 35-man roster has 11 open spots, as of this morning. I'm confident a few more will be added, along with some pitchers, but opportunity will abound for the players on the team. Whether the team is successful in the win column is rather insignificant. What is important is having exposure in Venezuela, and opportunities for the players on the squad.
July 2nd will mark the beginning of the new international spending period begins. The preliminary spending numbers from a few weeks ago seem to be official now, and the Cubs seem to be favorites to heavy favorites for two of the top prospects. Eloy Jimenez (Dominican Republic) has a very nice looking swing for a 16-year-old outfielder, and Gleyber Torres (Venezuela) looks to be a quality middle infield prospect. Many signings in July will be of players who are just 16 years old; those young men won't do any playing until November in Arizona. I'm not sure if using the Dominican facilities will be permitted before then. Either way, it will be a while before many soon-to-be signings play anywhere in a game with a proper box score.
Finally, in the new world of baseball, knowledge of international prospects will be very important. So will training, both in baseball and non-baseball aspects of life. With teams leaving Venezuela over political uncertainty, getting a foothold in the country should help, not only in Venezuela, but elsewhere. Having a team there will provide options for youngsters the team signs. Be they from Venezuela, Brazil, or any other locale, the players the Cubs sign from overseas need places to play. Being in the VSL provides visibilty, at bats for hitters, and innings for pitchers.
I will pay way too much attention to these squads. Feel free to heed or ignore. Perhaps, one might get mentioned below. Now, on to Three Up/ Three Down.
The weather in Florida
Over the weekend, the Daytona Cubs went three days without playing a game. Two were due to weather. Sunday was a league-wide day off due to Mother's Day. Over the next two days, the D-Cubs scored two runs in two games.
Jeimer Candelario (Low-A Kane County), 3B
Despite hitting his first homer recently, and drawing as many walks as he has had strikeouts over the period, Jeimer Candelario is slumping. Since May 4, he's hitting .194.
Frandy de la Rosa (Mesa extended spring training)
In an intrasquad game, the 2012 international signing failed to run out an infield popup. His punishment? The game was delayed while de la Rosa ran three laps around the bases. Note to everyone: Run out everything.
(A Few More Than) Three Up
The Ryan Dempster trade
With the potential Dempster-to-Atlanta trade blown up, reportedly by an ill-timed nap, Theo Epstein went into executive overdrive, bringing in Kyle Hendricks and Christian Villanueva (pictured above) from Texas for Dempster. Both are in Double-A Tennessee now. Hendricks has a sub-3 ERA, and has gone at least five innings in six of his seven starts. Villanueva is on a six-game hitting streak, and is pounding it with 9-for-17 since May 10. Both drew rave reviews from the Jackson announcer this week. As did...
Matt Szczur (Double-A Tennessee), OF
Szczur has a six-game hitting streak. He has multiple hits in each game. He's driven in six. In two of the last three, he has three hits. He's stolen four bases without being caught. He's drawn two walks, as well. The announcer dreads Szczur coming up, as he is 8-for-15 in the first three games. Szczur merited this article on MiLB.com.
The Tony Campana trade
When the designated-for-assignment Tony Campana was traded to Arizona, the two young pitchers that came back were Erick Leal and Jesus Castillo. Leal is back from an ankle injury, and will be in either Mesa with the AZL Cubs or in short season ball with the Boise Hawks in about a month. I'm happy to hear his golf cart ride was nothig serious. Castillo, on the other hand, is with the aforementioned V-Cubs. He hasn't pitched yet, but when you only have 24 guys on a rookie league team, all of them are important.
Jorge Soler (High-A Daytona Cubs), OF
While Soler's damage was mostly last week, he was named the Florida State League Player Of The Week. That's always a good thing.
Dillon Maples (Low-A Kane County), RHP
Though some of us had begun to doubt Maples existed, he started a game last week for the Cougars. He lasted five innings, and was in line for a win. I think Maples will be discussed in any major trade offer this off-season. I hope to see him start soon, so I can have an idea as to how little I want him dealt.