For the first time since 2007, the Chicago Cubs are playing ball in the Venezuelan Summer League (VSL).
The Cubs made their return debut May 13 falling to the Rays 22-11. Through May 25, the Cubs are 5-5 and find themselves two games behind the Mariners (7-3). They started 0-4, allowing 60 runs, but have won five of six as the pitching and defense have started to perform.
With a 35-man roster limit, the Cubs currently have 27 players, 23 from Venezuela, two from Colombia, one from Dominican, and one from Curacao.
One of the top Venezuelan players is Bryant Flete, who participated in extended spring training in Mesa before being assigned to the VSL. The 20-year-old is playing SS and hitting .308/.426/.462 in the first ten games with two tripes and six walks. Flete hit .296 in 60 games last summer in the DSL.
Outfielder Arnaldo Calero has been the Cubs best hitter .371/.415/.590 and the 19-year-old has two stolen bases. Third baseman Ronny Alcala, 19, .325/.413/.425 and Eufran Vargas, an 18-year-old catcher, .353/.455/.353 are also off to a hot start. Delbris Arcila, 20, leads the team in HR (4) and RBI (12). The youngest player on the squad is 17-year-old catcher Jhonny Pereda (.310/.313/.345).
One name Cubs fans may be familiar with is right-hander Jesus Castillo, the 18-year-old acquired from Arizona for outfielder Tony Campana. In two games, Castillo (0-2 10.57 ERA) has allowed 14 hits and two walks in 7.2 innings.
Another prospect on the pitching staff is 18-year-old Ramon Valera, who the Cubs signed in December for $170,000. The 6-foot-2, right-hander has appeared in three VSL games allowing four hits, two walks, and two hit batters in 2.2 innings. His ERA is 16.87.
23-year-old Francisco Carrillo (1-0 1.74) leads the team in innings pitched (10.1) and strikeouts (11) but at his age can't really be considered a player of the future. RHP Greyfer Eregua, a 19-year-old, has tossed seven scoreless innings in two games allowing three hits with six punchouts. Signed in December of 2012, RHP Adbert Alzolay, 18, has allowed one earned run in 10 innings.
The Cubs play four days in a row and then get a day off in the five-team VSL. The season runs until Aug. 5. Other MLB teams in the VSL are Mariners, Rays, Tigers and Phillies. Back in 2007, the Cubs shared a VSL team with Minnesota.
Here's a list of Cubs players from Venezuela currently playing in the organization: Chicago—Dioner Navarro and Luis Valbuena; Iowa—J.C. Boscan; Tennessee—Yeiper Castillo, Johermyn Chavez, Jonathan Mota, Ronald Torreyes; Daytona—Eduardo Figueroa; Kane County—Gioskar Amaya, Wilson Contreras