MLB Cancels Venezuelan National Showcase

After a planned protest from Dominican players and their trainers against an international draft prompted Major League Baseball to cancel its annual Dominican national showcase last week, MLB informed teams on Friday that it has also cancelled its Venezuelan national showcase, which was scheduled for Nov. 16-17 in Panama.

The showcase typically features many of the top 15-year-old and 16-year-old Venezuelan prospects who are eligible to sign beginning on July 2 the following year. In notifying teams, MLB cited “lack of cooperation from the independent trainers” as the reason for the cancellation.

Before MLB cancelled the showcase, a group known as the Association of Venezuelan Baseball Agents met last week and informed MLB that their players would not go to the showcase. However, some Venezuelan player representatives were still considering sending their players. Among the trainers and agents who represent Venezuelan amateur players, there is widespread opposition to an international draft, though there are disagreements about how they want to approach both their opposition to the draft and whether they would attend the MLB showcase.

In a statement from the Venezuelan association before the cancellation, however, they explained that while they are against an international draft, their rationale for not going to the showcase was because MLB moved the showcase outside of Venezuela. The statement opened by acknowledging the “complex challenges” in Venezuela, but emphasized their desire for MLB to hold its Venezuelan national showcase in the country. The rest of the statement is as follows, lightly edited for clarity, with the group’s permission.

“Venezuela as a country needs more than ever to protect, promote and develop the game in our country, and participating in this showcase abroad could only send the wrong message of Venezuela being an off limits place for scouts, which is not true.

“We would like to clarify that this action has nothing to do with a boycott or retaliation for the recent news about a possible international draft. We do not believe in boycotts or rebellions. On the contrary, we look forward to work hand in hand with MLB as an ally on the future growth and development of the game in our country, as long as we keep our sports identity in the industry of baseball.

“We are strong supporters in Latin America of the correct actions that preserve this identity of the different countries. However, we believe in mediation and becoming part of the solution to the different inconveniences, not only for the agents but for MLB in the region. We look forward to sit and cooperate by giving our honest input to reach happy terms.”

In September, MLB informed teams that it was moving the showcase to Panama. Due to growing safety concerns for scouts traveling to Venezuela, MLB isn’t the only one moving showcases for Venezuelan players out of Venezuela. Some Venezuelan trainers have joined forces with trainers in the Dominican Republic to bring their Venezuelan players over there for greater exposure. There’s also a big Nov. 12-13 showcase organized by Venezuelan player representatives that will be in Aruba. The International Prospect League recently cancelled a Nov. 9-11 showcase in Venezuela, citing conditions in the country not suitable for their international visitors.

While most of the players who were on the MLB Dominican national showcase roster are with prominent trainers and don’t lack opportunities for exposure to scouts, it’s become more difficult for players in Venezuela to get in front of high-ranking club personnel, which is why some were still undecided about whether to send their players to Panama. American scouts have reduced their trips to Venezuela and some no longer travel there at all. Many of those who do go take extra precautions, not leaving their hotel other than to go to the fields, traveling only before dark and doing so with armed guards. So when MLB moved the showcase to Panama, many scouts said that was fine with them.

Several top Venezuelan players have attended MLB’s Venezuelan national showcase in recent years, including Braves shortstop Kevin Maitan, Padres righthander Anderson Espinoza and Mets shortstop Andres Gimenez.

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