The day the Orioles hired Fred Ferreira as their executive director of international recruiting, Ferreira told me he plans to add international scouts and also that he would look into the possibility of the Orioles adding an academy in Venezuela.
The Orioles have never produced a major league player from Venezuela, although the club has some promising young talent from there in the lower minors now, with players like catcher Gabriel Lino and pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez.
Ben Badler, who covers international scouting and signings for Baseball America, feels it would be big for the Orioles to increase their presence in Venezuela.
"I think if they are willing to do it, it would be a great step for the organization. The trend in baseball is probably the opposite where we see teams pulling resources and kind of leaving. The Pirates just shut down their academy in Venezuela. Teams are wary because of political reasons and some of them have safely concerns as well. I know some people think those are overblown but some teams have been leaving Venezuela," Badler said.
"There are fewer teams there with academies now then there were in recent years. Venezuela is a huge country compared to the Dominican so, if you have an academy there and a strong scouting presence there, you can have an advantage on the competition if you execute it well."
Just six organizations fielded teams in the Venezuelan summer league last year and they were teams representing the Mariners, Phillies, Pirates, Rays, Reds and Tigers.
"The Mariners have had success there and the Tigers are probably almost as active as any team in Venezuela. You don't have to have an academy to sign Venezuelan players but having one is helpful for an organization," Badler added.
"Most teams set up their Latin American base in the Dominican Republic. There used to be more teams in Venezuela. Some of it is safety concerns and teams definitely have their academies concentrated more in the Dominican."
The Orioles have an academy in Boca Chica in the Dominican.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette also addressed the chance the Orioles could add a Venezuelan academy.
"Well, we are expanding our international operations," Duquette said. "Whether that includes academy expansion in the Dominican, in Venezuela or league expansion or team expansion in Venezuela or the Dominican or other markets, that really depends upon where we sign the players and the quality of players if we sign enough of them.
"I think in time that Fred's hope is that he's going to sign some good players in Venezuela and enough of them that we can staff a team there," he said.
Ferreira believes in scouting the Dominican and Venezuela equally and Badler concurs that is a solid strategy.
"I think you have to go where the talent is. There is talent in the Dominican and Venezuela. There is definitely a lot in both countries. Some teams put more resources in the Dominican and some in Venezuela. Sometimes it just depends on the year and where and how the talent is in a given year," Badler said.
"The Venezuelan amateur baseball system is probably more organized and a lot of scouts say you can see some Venezuelan players that are more advanced at a younger age, but that also depends a lot on the individual. There are differences between the two countries in the way you have to scout them. Some scouts feel there is more polish with the players signed out of Venezuela."