MIAMI -- Angel Vazquez, named the Florida Marlins' director of Latin American scouting Thursday, says that Cuba could soon produce more major-league players than the talent-rich Dominican Republic.
"I don't just think so," said Vazquez, 65. "I would be willing to bet any amount of money on it."
Scouts don't usually dabble in politics, but you can bet they are keeping a close watch on Cuba's political climate these days. Like the rest of baseball, Vazquez is anticipating the fall of Cuban President Fidel Castro, which is when teams could begin signing players there.
The commissioner's office is quietly taking precautions to ensure that teams aren't preparing to raid Cuba with contract-carrying scouts once that day comes. Jim Small, spokesman for the commissioner, says teams have already been informed there will be a "fair and orderly process" of distributing players.
"I think that means they will have a draft," said California Angels assistant general manager Preston Gomez. "That's because they know that the day Cuba opens up, there won't be enough planes to carry all the scouts who want to go over there."
The Marlins obviously have ideas about what Cuban prospects they like, but they aren't about to reveal secrets. Marlins assistant general manager Frank Wren and Vazquez, both considered authorities on Cuban players, are tight-lipped with their knowledge.
Except for special tournaments, American scouts are not permitted to scout or sign players in Cuba, which limits their knowledge of prospects. The Cuban national team and other traveling teams are scouted when they play elsewhere. But it isn't like the Dominican Republic, where scouts can see talent in the 15-year-old playing in a parking lot.
"Cuba produces extraordinary players," Vazquez said. "If Cubans are allowed to enter pro baseball, you will have 50 to 100 players in the major leagues in a very short time."
Vazquez comes to the Marlins from Montreal, where he was general manager Dave Dombrowski's consultant for the past two years. He worked for Havana's famous Sugar Kings in the 1950s, doing promotional and organizational work. He also owned the Mexico City Reds and still has a permanent home there.