In recent memory, the San Diego Padres have had difficulties developing and drafting Latin players. Not since the days of Roberto Alomar, Sandy Alomar Jr. and Carlos Baerga in the late 80’s have the Padres had such an influx of young Latin players developing.
In the international market this season, the Padres absolutely went off by adding dozens of teenage players. Not all will make it all the way to the major leagues, but the Padres were not shy in spending a record $65-70 million since July 2 on new talent.
Adrian Morejon, Luis Almanzar, Jorge Ona, Gabriel Arias, Jeisson Rosario, Ronald Bolanos and Tirso Ornelas are the cream of the international talent pool for the Padres. We should start to see some of them trickle into the major leagues in the next few seasons. Truly an exciting time to be a Padres fan as this franchise is doing things they have never done before. A solid farm system is the nucleus of a successful franchise and the Padres have the early makings of one of the best in the league.
Presently the Padres have five position players and one pitcher who are Venezuelan born. In fact, the five players were all in the lineup on Monday as the Padres beat the Giants 4-0 in the first game of their series. Catcher Hector Sanchez was vital to the win as his two-run home run into the right field stands broke the game open. That marked the first time in MLB history that a starting lineup consisted of five players from Venezuela. A proud moment for the five players and a great moment for the country of Venezuela. They truly have become a baseball giant in the world. Yangervis Solarte, Oswaldo Arcia, Luis Sardinas, Alexi Amarista and Sanchez made up five-ninths of the Padres lineup and it was really a shame that manager Andy Green was not able to get Leonel Campos into the game. He too is from Venezuela and that would have made this story even more special.
The Padres team at the beginning of the year consisted of Yangervis Solarte and Alexi Amarista, but a series of moves has resulted in the Venezulan takeover in the Padres clubhouse. Arcia and Sanchez were claimed off waivers after each were released by their previous teams. In fact, Sanchez had to pass through waivers as the Padres DFA’d him after claiming him from the White Sox early in the year. Not one team put a claim in on him and the Padres were able to keep the switch-hitting backstop.
Arcia played for four teams in a series of weeks as he was released by the Twins (who drafted him), claimed and released by the Rays then claimed and released by the Marlins. The Padres jumped on the potential of the 25-year-old left-handed hitter and he is presently on the Padres 25-man roster. Arcia’s future with the team is cloudy though as the Padres are stacked in the outfield and Arcia is essentially Alex Dickerson. They are the same type of hitter. A trade could be coming as the Padres clearly have too many outfielders.
The most exciting Venezuelan addition in recent weeks is the acquisition of Luis Sardinas from the Seattle Mariners. The switch hitting shortstop has plus defensive skills and has shown a decent bat early on in his Padres tenure. He is young and under team control for a while. He looks to be the shortstop of the Padres present and near future. If he blossoms like some think he can, he could be the team’s shortstop for a long time. He has that kind of ability and frankly the Padres got very lucky to acquire him at a reasonable price.
Both the Brewers and Mariners (his two previous franchises) dealt him only because each team has a stud prospect at the position. Orlando Arcia is the younger brother of Oswaldo Arcia and is a highly regarded shortstop prospect for the Brewers. Sardinas had no future with the Brew Crew so he was dealt to the Pacific Northwest. Not the best landing spot for a shortstop, as the Mariners have Ketel Marte who made his major league debut this season. He is clearly viewed as the team’s future at the position so Sardinas was once again out of luck. With his confidence down due to lack of potential playing time, he was traded to the Padres for cash considerations. With no pressure and a job sitting there waiting for him, the young infielder has taken off. Expect more as this young man gets more and more comfortable.
Jose Rondon and Carlos Asuaje are both down in Triple-A and each are also of Venezuelan decent. The Padres team is truly a multi-cultural team now. Something that had definitely lacked in the past. The Padres will provide dozens of legit major league Latin players in the next decade and that is purely a product of this modern ownership and their ability to adapt. For years the Padres had neglected the international market and for years the minor league team suffered as the front office continued to burn high draft picks on low ceiling players that never amounted to squat. The team finally figured out it is far wiser to allocate those funds to multiple players that are younger and teach them the game the way you want it played. From there you will be able to weed out those that are not a fit and the major league team will be rewarded with waves of talent.
Yangervis Solarte presently is the Venezuelan Godfather to all these young players. He is really an underrated player and slowly but surely his abilities are starting to be recognized throughout major league baseball. The Yankees traded Solarte to the Padres for Chase Headley in a July 31 deadline trade in which the Padres clearly got the better part of the deal. Solarte must be overjoyed with this opportunity to play with all his countrymen. These ball players are all blossoming and with the exception of maybe Amarista (who is a utility man), each could be a starter in the league for a long time. One thing is for sure these man are truly enjoying their time together playing for the Padres. The country of Venezuela is now a country of Padres fans as the franchise branches out to expand their fan base. Viva Venezuela! Viva Los Padres!