World Baseball Classic
Slideshow: International stars to watch
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
1. Cleveland: The organization that was the first to sign the likes of Cubans Luis Tiant and Minnie Minoso and Dominicans Alfredo Griffin and Pedro Guerrero hasn’t looked back, although now its goal is keeping its top international homegrown talent, as evidence by the success shown by Dominicans Bartolo Colon, Manny Ramirez, Jhonny Peralta and Fausto Carmona, and Venezuelan Victor Martinez.
Among some top up-and-coming prospects in the Tribe system are Dominican southpaw Kelvin de la Cruz and a pair of Venezuelans, pitcher Hector Rondon and shortstop Carlos Rivero. Canadian outfielder Nick Weglarz is yet another prospect. The Indians also signed Taiwanese pitcher Seung-Wei Tseng in 2006 and Japanese veteran Masahide Kobayashi last season and this year inked a Czech Republic catcher, Martin Cervenka.
2. Minnesota: Few organizations have been more successful in the international market than the Twins, from Latin America with the likes of Cuban Tony Oliva and Panamanian Rod Carew, to Canadians Corey Koskie, Jesse Crain and Justin Morneau, and Australians Grant Balfour and Peter Moylan.
Its Venezuelan Academy proudly once displayed homegrown talent that included the likes of Juan Rincon. The Twins continue to scour the earth for talent like Aussie Luke Hughes, plus signing two players from Russia, one from France and another from South Africa. Among the top prospects in the Twins system are a pair of Venezuelans, catcher Wilson Ramos and left-hander Jose Mijares, plus Puerto Rican outfielder Angel Morales.
3. Chicago: The White Sox have yet to find the next Luis Aparicio, Venezuela’s first Hall-of-Famer, but their international scouting prowess is notable when you consider names like Jorge Orta (Mexico); Carlos Lee and Olmedo Saenz (Panama); Damaso Marte (Dominican); and Magglio Ordonez (Venezuela) were original Sox signs. The Sox were also the first to draft Eric Gagne (Canada). And after Japan’s Shingo Takatsu was a bust, the Sox tried again in Asia, signing Tadahito Iguchi, who helped them win the 2005 World Series.
These days the Sox remain focused on Latin America, where they’ve recently scooped up two Cuban defectors in Alexei Ramirez and Dayán Viciedo. The club is also high on Venezuelan shortstop Eduardo Escobar.
4. Detroit: The Tigers have signed some great players on the international market in recent years only to trade them to other teams like Curacao’s Jair Jurrjens and Venezuelans Gorkys Hernandez and Guillermo Moscoso. The Dominican Fernando Rodney is Motown’s most notable homegrown international sign on its MLB roster, with former Dominican signs like Francisco Cordero, Jose Lima, Danny Bautista and Juan Encarnacion in the history books. Among two top international prospects the Tigers have held onto are Canada’s Cale Iorg and Dominican outfielder Wilkin Ramirez, who played in the 2008 MLB All-Star Futures Game.
5. Kansas City: You can’t fault the Royals for trying. After all, this is an organization that has had everyone from an American Samoan (Tony Solaita) to a South African Minor League All-Star (Barry Armitage) in its system. It has seen mixed results for its most recent efforts, with Puerto Rican Carlos Beltran a success among larger disappointments like Dominicans Angel Berroa, Runelvys Hernandez and Ambiorix Burgos. Dominican pitcher Carlos Rosa, Venezuelan catcher Salvador Perez and fellow Venezuelan infielder Mario Lisson are among the Royals' top international prospects, and Dylan Lindsay is KC’s latest sign out of South Africa.
Posnanski: Albert Pujols' at-bats used to be buzzworthy, must-watch events. Now, they're not. Here's the result of his struggles the past few years.
Taking a look at some of the greatest catchers off all time.