One of the examples I often use to illustrate the Orioles’ awful international scouting record in the recent past is this one: The organization has never in its history signed, developed and then promoted a native Venezuelan to the big leagues.
It’s a pretty astounding fact considering how many big leaguers have come from Venezuela. Heck, the Orioles have employed some pretty solid Venezuelan players over the past few years: Melvin Mora, Ramon Hernandez, Cesar Izturis and Jorge Julio, for instance.
But none was brought to this country by the Orioles.
It looked like that run of futility might change with Gabriel Lino, a young catcher from Venezuela that was discovered by Orioles scout and former pitcher Calvin Maduro. Lino, 19, impressed scouts with his baseball acumen and receiving ability.
So much that Lino was one of two minor leaguers (along with Kyle Simon) sent to the Philadelphia Phillies in June as part of the Jim Thome trade.
But that doesn’t mean that the club’s chances of finally mining a major leaguer from Venezuela are over.
When Baseball America came out with its 2013 Top 10 Prospects for the Orioles organization recently, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez was ranked No. 5. The lanky 19-year-old, also signed by Maduro, was listed by the magazine as the organization’s 30th best prospect before the 2012 season.
That’s quite a jump in one year. But Rodriguez, who is 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, has overhauled his delivery and added some velocity to his fastball, which now sits in the low-90s. He was 5-7 with a 3.70 ERA in 22 starts at Low-A Delmarva despite being in his first full pro season. He struck out 73 batters and walked 30 in 107 innings pitched and limited hitters to a .251 batting average.
Although he is still raw, the organization now believes he can be a big league starter based on his potential and his willingness to work and learn.
And if Rodriguez does end up in Baltimore, he’ll make some franchise history.