Yet the seven-figure signings of a pair of 16-year-olds, third baseman Roberto De La Cruz last year and the aborted deal with outfielder Wagner Mateo this July, have opened more and more eyes to the Cardinals' growing efforts in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.
With approximately 70 players under contract, full summer league seasons and two levels of play in the winter, these leagues can no longer be ignored.
In this two-part report, I had sat down at the end of the regular season for an in-depth discussion with the Cardinals executive responsible for the organization's non-US efforts, Director of International Operations Moises Rodriguez.
The focus of this first installment is the 2009 Venezuelan Summer League campaign, with the time spent more on the prospects than the team itself.
Among pitchers covered are the "big four" starters of Carlos Oraa, Javier Avendano, Sergio Nieves and Deimer Bier along with co-closers Francisco Guzman, an ex-catcher, and Hector Corpas. Avendano was promoted to the Gulf Coast League after the VSL season ended.
We also discussed the Cardinals facility plans, why non-Venezuelans are assigned there, plans for winter ball with the Liga Paralela and much more.
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