World Baseball Classic
Slideshow: International stars to watch
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
1. Texas: The Rangers still haven’t won a playoff series, but all the years of futility may be coming to an end in the near future, thanks to their international scouting efforts. The organization that first signed Dominicans Sammy Sosa, Carlos Pena, Joaquin Benoit and Edinson Volquez; Puerto Ricans Juan Gonzalez and Ivan Rodriguez; and Canadian Ryan Dempster, has a loaded crop of current Latin talent. It starts with Dominican pitcher Neftali Perez and other notables include Venezuelans Max Ramirez, Martin Perez and Wilfredo Boscan, and Dominicans Kennil Gomez, Jose Vallejo and Joaquin Arias.
2. Seattle: After the Dodgers, perhaps no organization has been more progressive and successful across continents on the international scouting market than the Mariners, yet a World Series appearance have been elusive.
Before there was Japan’s Ichiro, there was Kazahiro Sasaki. Before there were Venezuelans Felix Hernandez and Jose Lopez and Cuban Yuniesky Betancourt, there were Puerto Rican Edgar Martinez, Venezuelan Omar Vizquel and Dominican David Ortiz. The Mariners also have signed talent out of South Korea (Shin-Soo Choo and Cha-Seung Baek); China (Wang Wei and first baseman Yu Bing Jia); Australia (Travis Blackley and Ryan Rowland-Smith); the Netherlands (Wladimir Balentien and Greg Halman); Canada (Mike Saunders and Phillipe Aumont); Italy (Alex Liddi); South Africa (Anthony Phillips) and Taiwan (Yung-Chi Chen).
Some of their top Latin American prospects are a pair of Nicaraguan pitchers, Juan Ramirez and Francisco Valdivia. Other top Latin talent are two shortstops, the DR’s Carlos Triunfel and Venezuela’s Luis Valbuena.
3. Anaheim: The Angels won their first World Series in 2002 with big help from original signs, Venezuelan Francisco Rodriguez and Puerto Rican Benjie Molina. And even with K-Rod and Molina long gone, homegrown international signs like Dominicans Ervin Santana, Jose Arredondo and Erick Aybar, and Cuban Kendry Morales could be keys to winning a second title.
For sure, the Angels have improved from the days when the likes of Sid Monge (Mexico) and Roberto Hernandez (Puerto Rico) passed for international scouting success. These days among two homegrown international prospects are Venezuelan pitcher Anthony Ortega and Dominican catcher Anel de los Santos. The Angels aren’t just tapping into Latin America, having signed South Korean pitcher Pil Joon Jang last season, perhaps there first notable Asian sign since Japan’s Shigetoshi Hasegawa
4. Oakland: The Athletics have been international scouting giants for years, especially in Latin American, going way to back when they inked Bert Campaneris (Cuba) and continuing with the signings of Dominicans Miguel Tejada and Tony Batista, Venezuelan Ramon Hernandez and Canadian Rich Harden.
And while the Athletics are still trying to find a new suitable option for a new ballpark, it hasn’t stopped them from spending and reenergizing their international scouting efforts. Oakland spent a record $4.25 million for an amateur free agent bonus on Dominican pitcher Michael Inoa. The Athletics are also high on Henry Rodriguez, who pitched in the 2008 MLB All-Star Futures Game, as well as Venezuelan outfielder Javier Herrera.
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