Last week, we discovered that the Chicago Cubs have pulled out of the Venezuelan Summer League (VSL), leading to the closure of the league all together. With the implicit danger in the country, the Cubs, along with all but three Major League organizations, have done the same, abandoning most of their interests in Venezuela.
Despite exiting from the VSL, though, the Cubs will still have a presence in Venezuela. For example, they intend on continuing operations with their baseball academy, for scouting purposes, as well as a home for their interests in the short, fall-season Parallel League (Cubs.com). That is, of course, good news for the Cubs, who look to keep a competitive advantage, but it is even better news for the many talented young players in the area.
Having read many articles on the issues facing Venezuela – as they relate to baseball – the only one certainty I can come to is how hugely important the game is to many young athletes. Hopefully, MLB can continue operating there and reestablish their presence in the long run.
If you recall, arguably the Cubs’ top two prospects – in either order – are from Venezuela. Both Gleyber Torres and Willson Contreras have come in for a lot of love this offseason, and figure to have big seasons ahead of them. Contreras, who was just ranked as the best catching prospect in baseball, should start out at AAA Iowa, with a chance to make the Cubs this season. And Gleyber Torres is one of the most anticipated young shortstops in all of baseball. At just 19 years old, he reached High-A Myrtle Beach at the end of 2015, and figures to start there next season.
Hopefully, this story will begin to brighten up sooner rather than later. By most accounts, a safer overall Venezuela with tons of MLB presence is the best outcome for all interested parties. For now, though, MLB, the Cubs and the Venezuelan baseball players will have to work around it.