* This article was written during Spring Training 2012 and will be updated again right before Spring Training 2013
Some 43 countries are represented across MLB organizations. Here are some of the key "Foreign Investments"
for each team.
The best baseball players not just in the U.S., but
in the world, flock to Arizona and Florida every spring. With the third World Baseball Classic just a year away, 2012 Spring
Training is a great time to check out some of MLB’s top foreign investments that were born outside the U.S.
During the first few weeks of Spring Training, not only are the big leaguers getting ready for the season but so
too are the top prospects on the 40-man roster from each MLB club, plus in minor league spring training. So here’s a
look at some of the top players born outside the U.S. to watch this spring, team-by-team, from the Cactus League to the Grapefruit
circuit. This unique group of global not only demonstrates just how valuable foreign-born players are to their individual
teams, but it’s also a reminder of how hard these players have worked to come from their homeland to compete on the
CACTUS LEAGUE TEAMS:
Angels: With all eyes on Dominican Sir Albert Pujols, what becomes of Cuban Kendrys Morales and
Venezuelan Bobby Abreu? Stay tuned. Lefty Hisanori Takahashi (Japan) will try to break camp with the Halos and the stand bearers
are back, including Venezuelan infielders Maicer Izturis and Alberto Callaspo, and Dominican Erick Aybar. Ditto for Dominican
hurler Ervin Santana. The Angels future will be on display early in camp with Venezuelan Alexi Jose Amarista and Dominicans
Luis Jimenez, Jean Segura Ariel Pena, Fabio Mesa and Ysmael Carmona.
Athletics: You don’t have to tell their already frustrated fan base, but the A’s are
paper thin in the foreign relations department on the 40-man roster, offering only Dominicans Manny Ramirez, Fautino De Los
Santos, Bartolo Colon, Jordan Noberto and Pedro Figueroa and Australian Grant Balfour. Cuban Yoenis “La Potencia (The
Power)” Cespedes will be the one to watch in A’s camp.
Brewers: The left side of the Crew’s revamped infield has a decidedly Latin feel to it in
2012 with Aramis Ramirez (Dominican Republic) and Alex Gonzalez (Venezuela), yet one of the biggest players could be outfielder
and fellow newcomer Norichika Aoki (Japan). Other potential key contributors if the Crew is to defend their National League
Central crown: Canadians George Kottaras and Taylor Green; Dominicans Carlos Gomez and Jose Veras; Venezuelans Francisco Rodriguez
and Cesar Izturis; and Mexicans Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada.
Cubs: 104 years later, still without a World Series, possibly outgoing by the All-Star break, Dominicans
Carlos Marmol, Alfonso Soriano and Marcos Mateo while incoming, potentially for the long-term, Dominicans Lendy Castillo and
Rafael Dolis. Geovany Soto (Puerto Rico), Ryan Dempster (Canada) and Dominicans Starlin Castro and Wellington Castillo may
survive a potential fire sale. Newly-signed Cuban prospects Jorge Soler and Gerardo Concepcion will be in minor league camp.
Diamondbacks: Ageless Japanese wonder
Takashi Saito is in General Manager Kevin Towers’ camp, who knows the Land of the Rising Sun well having dealt acquired
the late Hideki Irabu as well as Akinori Otsuka, the latter of whom bred two solid seasons with the Padres. Speaking of old
school, Dominican Yonata Ortega is the 2012 version of “El Gaupo,” former Red Sox reliever Rich Garces. Venezuelan
Miguel Montero, Henry Blanco and Gerardo Parra are back to defend the Snakes 2011 National League West crown. Jonathan Albaladejo
(Puerto Rico) could be a key contributor out of the D-Backs bullpen.
Dodgers: Multiple vital components of a Los Angeles post-season run lie in the bullpen in the form
of Dominicans Ramon Troncoso and Rubby De La Rosa as well as Kenley Jensen (Curacao) and Ronald Belisario (Venezuela). Key
potential parts around the diamond include Juan Uribe (Dominican Republic), Juan Rivera (Venezuela), Ivan De Jesus (Puerto
Rico) and Trent Oeltjen (Australia).
Unless the Yankees and Giants meet in the 2012 World Series, there will be no chance for Bronx Bombers radio play-by-play
man John Sterling to bust out with “The Melky Way!” now that Dominican Melky Cabrera has said adios to the American
League for San Francisco. Former New York Met, Angel Pagan (Puerto Rico), joins Cabrera by the bay. Back for another title
surge are Puerto Rican Javier Lopez, Dominican Santiago Casillo and Guillermo Mota and Venezuelan Pablo Sandoval.
Indians: With the Artist Formerly Known as Fausto Carmona
still in Boss Hogg’s penalty box on the Island of Hispaniola, Dominican skipper Manny Acta shall rely on the likes of
his fellow countryman, Ubaldo Jimenez, Rafael Perez, Kelvin De La Cruz and Danny Salazar to not mess with Roscoe P. Coltrane.
The Tribe’s international core returns in Venezuelan Asdrubal Cabrera, Dominican Carlos Santana and Korean Shin-Soo
Choo. Venezuelan young hurlers Jeanmar Gomez and Carlos Carrasco may try to surprise and join fellow countryman and outfielder
Ezequiel Carrera on the roster, too.
No organization arguably spans the globe more than Seattle, which was the first to break ground in Asia among position players
with the signing of Ichiro Suzuki. Countryman Hisashi Iwakuma joins Ichiro in 2012, as does Venezuelan Jesus Montero who
was acquired from the Yankees. Third baseman Alex Liddi (Italy) got a cup of coffee in the bigs a year ago and could do more
in 2012 and Michael Sanders (Canada) is expected to contribute. And Venezuelan King Felix Hernandez is back along with countrymen
Franklin Gutierrez and Cesar Jimenez. Miguel Olivo (Dominican Republic) also returns to the Emerald City and welcomes countryman
Hector Noesi to the pitching rotation in 2012 as well as Hong-Chih Kuo (Taiwan). Other foreign imports than could be make
a contribution: Oliver Perez (Mexico), Chih-Hsien Chiang (Taiwan), Carlos Triunfel (Dominican Republic) and Venezuelans Yoervis
Medina, Francisco Martinez, Johermyn Chavez and Mauricio Robles. Finally, the Mariners also boast the only Chinese-born player
currently signed to any MLB organization in catcher Wang Wei who will compete in minor league camp.
Padres: If San Diego is going to have any chance of competing
in the National League West, its decidedly international flair needs to take over, starting with a pair of newcomers, Cuban
first baseman Yonder Alonso and Dominican hurler Edinson Volquez. And then the holdovers, Colombian Ernesto Frieri and Aussie
Josh Spence need to secure the bullpen for San Diego to stand a chance of relevance come the dog days. Venezuelan Jesus Guzman
and Nicaraguan Everth Cabrera also need to come up big. The future looks bright in San Diego with Cuban catcher Yasmani Grandal
and future stars Juan Pablo Oramas (Mexico) and Jose De Paula (Dominican Republic).
Rangers: Yu Darvish isn’t the only Japanese import in Texas’ camp with Yoshinori Tateyama
and Koji Uehara joining him in a highly-international bullpen that also includes Dominican flamethrower Alexi Ogando. The
Rangers veteran Latin contingent returns in Venezuelans Elvis Andrus and Yorvit Torrealba and Dominicans Nelson Cruz, Adrian
Beltre and Neftali Feliz. If Texas needs further bullpen depth, Dominican Miguel De Los Santos and Roman Mendez, and Venezuelan
Martin Perez may contribute.
Fans in Cincinnati know Canadian Joey Votto, Dominican Johnny Cueto and Cuban southpaw flamethrower Aroldis Chapman all too
well, but may not be so familiar with Jose Arrendondo (Dominican Republic), Didi Gregorius (Netherlands) and Neftali Soto
(Puerto Rico). Dominican Juan Francisco and Venezuelan Miguel Cairo will provide the Reds with infield depth and Jeff Francis
(Canada) may also in the rotation.
Dominican Juan Nicasio is back after getting hit by a line-drive to the head and will compete for a starting rotation
spot that includes Mexican Jorge De La Rosa and Venezuelans Guillermo Moscoso and Jhoulys Chacin. Joining Human Rain Delay
Rafael Betancourt of Venezuela in the bullpen, Colombian Edgmer Escalona and Dominican Esmil Rogers as well as potentially
Edwar Cabrera. Newcomers to the defense include veteran Venezuelans, catcher Ramon Hernandez and infielder Marco Scutaro.
Dominican Willin Rosario will support Hernandez behind the plate while Venezuelans Carlos Gonzalez and Jonathan Herrera are
back for another year of prime duty.
Is 2012 the coming out party for Venezuelan Alcides Escobar? If Kansas City is to make the playoffs for the time since winning
the World Series in 1985, it’ll need a big year from Escobar and newcomer Jonathan Sanchez (Puerto Rico) and closer
Joakim Soria (Mexico). Panamanian Bruce Chen is back and the Cuban duo of Yuniesky Betancourt and Brayan Pena could grow by
one more in the future if Noel Arguelles continues his development down on the farm. Pena will compete with Venezuelans, Manny
Pina and Salvador Perez for the starting catching job. Venezuelan lefty Jose Mijares figures to be an integral component in
the Royals bullpen while Mexican Luis Mendoza, and Dominicans Felipe Paulino and Kelvin Herrera, may also contribute.
White Sox: Can Cuban Dayan Viciedo stick on the South Side
like his fellow countryman, Alexei Ramirez? One of the many questions facing the Sox as the Robin Ventura era has begun. For
certain, a lot of future White Sox will be on display early in camp, including Venezuelans Eduardo Escobar, Gregory Infante,
Nestor Molina and Pedro Hernandez, as well as Dominicans Simon Castro, Jhan Marinez and Alejandro de Aza. Other youngsters
include Colombian pitcher Jose Quintana and Puerto Rican infielder Osvaldo Martinez. About the only veteran besides Ramirez
is Canadian bullpen stalwart Jesse Crain and Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome.
Astros: It figures to be another
long year for Houston as it marks its 50th and last year in the National League. They lost 94 games in 1962 and 106 in 2011.
Here’s hoping it’s not more than that. Say a likely final adios to Carlos Pena (Panama) and Wandy Rodriguez (Venezuela)
who each figure to be trade bait come July. So get out your lineup card and introduce yourself to Dominicans Jimmy Parades,
Fernando Martinez, Henry Sosa, Anerry Rodriguez, Jorge De Leon, Rhiner Cruz, Juan Abreu and Enerio Del Rosario. More introductions
(or re-introductions): Venezuelans Jose Altuve, Marwin Gonzalez, Humberto Quintero, Arcenio Leon and Sergio Escalona, and
Nicaraguan Wilton Lopez. Even ageless wonder Livan Hernandez (Cuba) may make the ‘Stros.
Blue Jays: Canadian Brett Lawrie hopes a healthier 2012 does the body good in the Great White North.
Venezuelan ageless wonder Omar Vizquel will also try to crack the infield to compliment Edwin Encarnacion (Dominican Republic)
and Yunel Escobar (Cuba). Jose Bautista (Dominican Republic) is back and his fellow countrymen, Francisco Cordero, Carlos
Villanueva and Luis Perez man the bullpen with Joel Carreno also trying to claim a spot. Venezuelans Henderson Alvarez and
Luis Valbuena; Cuban Adeiny Hechavarria; and Dominican Moises Sierra are the Jays future.
Braves: Jair Jurrjens (Curacao) and Martin Prado (Venezuela) need to remain healthy for the Braves
to stay in the hunt with the Phillies, Marlins and possibly Nationals. Atlanta has depth in its pitching ranks with Dominicans
Arodys Vizcaino and Cristhian Martinez, Panamanian Randall Delgado, Colombian Julio Teheran and Venezuelan Luis Avilan.
Cardinals: A trio of veteran Puerto Ricans could contribute
to the Redbirds off their World Series title of a year ago in outfielder Carlos Beltran, infielder Alex Cora and pitcher JC
Romero. Back in the fold are Dominican Rafael Furcal, Puerto Rican Yadier Molina and Mexicans Jaime Garcia and Fernando Salas.
Maikel Cleto (Dominican Republic) and Eduardo Sanchez (Venezuela) could contribute to the Cardinals bullpen.
Marlins: If owner Jeffrey Loria wanted an exciting team to
open his new ballpark that reflected his communities’ large Latino community, he’s succeeded. Venezuelan Ozzie
Guillen skippers a Marlins infield that’s 100 percent Latin, with Dominicans Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez on the left
side and Venezuelan Omar Infante and Miami-born Gabby Sanchez on the right side. Dominican Emilio Bonifacio will patrol the
Marlins Ballpark outfield and the pitching staff is rich in Latin talent with Venezuelans Anibel Sanchez, Edward Mujica and
newcomer Carlos Zambrano, and Dominicans Jose Ceda and Juan Oviedo, assuming the latter Artist-Formerly-Known-as-Leo Nunez
ever gets a visa.
going to be potentially a very hideous 2012 for the Mets where a healthy Johan Santana (Venezuela) and Jason Bay (Canada)
could also be wearing different uniforms come August. But the future is here too in the likes of Panamanian Ruben Tejada and
Puerto Rican Andrea Torres. Venezuelan Wilmer Flores, Panamanian Manny Acosta and Dominicans, Jeurys Familia, Ramon Ramirez,
Frank Francisco and Pedro Beato highlight the pitching. Venezuelan Ronny Cedeno shores up the infield.
Nationals: It was quite an off-season for Venezuelan catcher
Wilson Ramos who was kidnapped in November only to be rescued days later. His fellow countryman, Jesus Flores, had a calmer
off-season and will back up Ramos. The Nationals hope pitcher Chien-Ming Wang (Taiwan) continues his rebound and outfielder
Roger Bernardina (Curacao), Henry Rodriguez (Venezuela) and Yunesky Maya (Cuba) maximize their potential.
Orioles: New General Manager Dan Duquette has gone global
in his first year in Baltimore, inking a pair of Asian southpaws, Wei-Yin Chen from Taiwan and Tsuyoshi Wada from Japan. The
O’s pitching staff will also include Rick VandenHurk from the Netherlands, Luis Ayala from Mexico and Pedro Strop and
Alfredo Simon from the Dominican Republic. Venezuelan Armando Galarraga is also trying to crack the squad. Dominican Wilson
Betemit and Venezuelan Endy Chavez provide bench depth for the Orioles.
Phillies: Ageless wonders Placido Polanco (Dominican Republic), Jose Contreras (Cuba) and Carlos
Ruiz (Panama) are back while newcomers Antonio Bastardo (Dominican Republic), J.C. Ramirez (Nicaragua) and Phillippe Aumont
(Canada) may contribute at some point in 2012 as well.
Venezuela Jose Tabata will begin his first full season in right field and he’ll need a big campaign for the Bucs to
break 20 years of pathetic franchise futility. Other key contributors could very well be 6-foot-6 Canadian pitcher Chris Leroux
and his fellow countryman, Erik Bedard. Shairon Martis of Curacao will be trying to crack the Pirates pitching staff as will
Juan Cruz from the Dominican Republic. The future looks bright in Dominicans Pedro Alvarez, Yamaico Navarro, Gustavo Nunez
and Starling Marte, and Venezuelan Gorkys Hernandez.
The Rays have a trio of young Venezuelan pitchers to watch in camp, Wilking Rodriguez, Albert Suarez and Alexander
Torres, as well as Dominican Alexander Colome. Dominican newcomers Fernando Rodney and Carlos Pena will try to see if there’s
anything left in their respective tanks while Venezuelan catcher Jose Lobaton welcomes Puerto Rican Jose Molina behind the
backstop. Venezuelan Robinson Chirinos will likely serve as the Rays third catcher on the depth chart. Dominican Joel Peralta
is back to serve as an anchor in the Rays bullpen.
Sox: Big Papi, David Ortiz (Dominican Republic) returns, which wasn’t a certainty a year ago, but unless pitcher
Stolmy Pimentel and infielder Oscar Tejada somehow make the team, he’ll be the only one from the DR. Venezuelan southpaws
Felix Doubrant and Franklin Morales could battle for a lefty-specialist position in the bullpen. Alfredo Aceves (Mexico),
however, likely has a spot in the bullpen. Daisuke Matsuzaka (Japan) won’t be ready to pitch until late in the 2012
season at the earliest but his fellow countryman Junichi Tazawa is throwing. Cuban infielder Jose Iglesias and Taiwanese outfielder
Che-Hsuan Lin may not make the club either, but they’ll be in big league briefly.
Tigers: Detroit’s strong Latin contingent is back in Dominicans Jhonny Peralta, Ramon Santiago,
Al Alburquerque, Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde, and Venezuela slugger Miguel Cabrera. New to the Tigers in 2012 is Dominican
Octavio Dotel who helped the Cardinals to the 2011 title. Given the Tigers pitching depth, it’s unlikely Dominican Luis
Marte or Venezuelans Jose Ortega and Brayan Villarreal will make the pitching staff.
Twins: Minnesota needs successful revitalization projects from Justin Morneau (Canada), Tsuyoshi
Nishioka (Japan) and Francisco Liriano (Dominican Republic) in 2012 to stand even a chance of competing in the American League
Central. Dominican Alexi Casilla returns and young Canadian Rene Tosoni may also contribute. Venezuelan Lester Oliveros figures
to be a key figure in the bullpen and Liam Hendricks (Australia), Deolis Guerra (Venezuela) and Esmerling Vasquez (Dominican
Republic) may also compete for pitching spots at some point.
Yankees: Hideki Irabu, Hideki Matsui, Kei Igawa and now pitcher Hiroki Kuroda becomes yet another
Japanese pitcher to become a part of Yankees history. Kuroda joins an international rotation that also includes Venezuelan
Freddy Garcia and Dominicans Ivan Nova and newcomer Michael Pineda. Dominican Rafael Soriano and Panamanian Mariano Rivera
will anchor the Yankees bullpen while Dominican lefty Cesar Cabral will try to make the team as a lefty specialist. Besides
starter Robinson Cano (Dominican Republic), Yankees reserves include Venezuelan catcher Francisco Cervelli; infielders Ramiro
Pena (Mexico) and Eduardo Nunez (Dominican Republic); and outfielder Andruw Jones (Curacao). Young Dominican outfielders Melky
Mesa and Zoilo Almonte likely won’t make the team but likely will in the future.