After years of Detroit leading the Majors in Venezuelan players, it seems the Phillies have taken their place this year–with surprising results.
Many pundits foresaw the Mets-Nationals duel for supremacy in the NL East. But not many would have had the Phillies breathing down their necks in third for much of the first half. And they’ve done it with a VZ-laden lineup.
On many nights four slots in the batting order for Philadelphia are criollos: Odubel Herrera of Zulia leading off, Cesar Hernandez hitting and playing second; Andres Eloy Blanco, named for the national poet, hitting third. Punto Fijo’s own Freddy Galvis has taken the reigns at short, wearing David Concepcion’s lucky #13, a tradition passed down through Ozzie Guillen, Omar Vizquel, and Asdrubal Cabrera, among others.
Hey, Freddy’s won a Gold Glove in the Venezuelan league, so he’s got some cred in my book (he also tested positive for PEDs a few years back, unfortunately). But don’t take my work for it; take YouTube’s. Watch Freddy go:
These guys are exciting: Andres Blanco stole home once this season, and Odubel Herrera has turned from a free-swinging frequent strikeout victim to a disciplined hitter with more walks than he had all of last season. At 24, he’s relatively new to centerfield, but improving there too. Odubel’s been around, already: the Dominican Summer League, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, the Hickory Crawdads, and of course from Caracas’ twin port city, the Tiburones of La Guira. Don’t tell me playing winter ball doesn’t help a young player–or having your dad shame you for striking out too much.
Thanks to Danny Knobler, who wrote a nice piece on Odubel for the Bleacher Report:
And then there’s righty reliever Jeanmar Gomez, proud caraqueño. After a so-so career as a spot starter with Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia, the 28-year-old has now saved 17 of the Phillies 26 wins, leading MLB in that category. And lefty Elvis Araujo hasn’t left the building; indeed, he’s become something of a situational specialist in the City of Brotherly Love. The massive Maracucho (6’7″ and 275) has 12 Ks in 12 innings-another guy who’s sharpened his game at Luis Aparicio Stadium in the winter months for Las Aguilas.
So you can’t afford that flight to Caracas? Look no further than Citizen’s Bank Park this summer. And don’t call it a comeback, or a “rebuilding year.” Los Filis de Fildadelfia are for real .