With the World Baseball Classic fast approaching (and star players dropping out even faster) we here at Umpbump decided it was time to look at the best all-time teams from several countries. Next up in our series: Venezuela.
There’s only one Venezuelan Hall of Famer, Luis Aparicio, and amazingly he didn’t make the cut. How come? Because he was going up against future Hall of Famer Omar Vizquel, that’s why. But you know what? I can’t keep Aparicio on the bench. He’s clearly one of the best Venezuelan ballplayers of all time. So let’s move him to second base even though that wasn’t his natural position (sorry Melvin Mora) and our new roster looks like this:
Aparicio and Vizquel combine to form a lights out up-the-middle defensive duo. Other players of note are Andres Galarraga, who had such a casual swing they called him “Big Cat,” and Bobby Abreu and Magglio Ordonez, who will both get a few HOF votes when their times come. Then there are young players like Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera who have been nothing short of brilliant in their brief careers. The only real weak spot in this lineup is center field, where Richard Hidalgo gets the nod over the defensively adept but light hitting Endy Chavez. I didn’t do fantasy baseball when Hidalgo was in his prime, and thank goodness. He would have driven me nuts. His OPS+ from 2000-2003: 147, 102, 87, 143.
That leaves Carlos Guillen, Chavez, Edgardo Alfonzo, Melvin Mora and Tony Armas on the bench.
The pitching staff looks like this:
It’s a young staff. Johan Santana is an almost certain future Hall of Famer, but beyond him there’s a lot of uncertainty. Felix Hernandez could certainly join the ranks of elite pitchers any season now, but he’s yet to do so. Freddy Garcia had a few good seasons before an injury sapped him of his velocity. Kelvim Escobar won 18 games in 2008 and Zambrano, well, he’d be worth having in the lineup if only for his bat.
The bullpen is kind of a punch line, with the declining but still effective K-Rod followed by the murderous Ugueth Urbina and the gluttonous Richard Garces.
The Final Verdict: The Venezuelan team is good, but it is young and it will be a few years before we know if some of the kids really belong. Will King Felix blossom into an ace? Will Miguel Cabrera continue his hot hitting? Will Victor Martinez rebound from surgery and remain effective behind the plate? Stay tuned.