Steve Melewski's recent focus on international scouting efforts has once again sparked discussion on the importance of exploiting the international talent pool and the sufficiency of the Orioles efforts on that front. One area in which the Orioles seem to have devoted resources to reasonable effect of late is Curacao and other islands in the Netherlands Antilles.
Curacao is a Caribbean island just off the coast of Venezuela with a population just under 150,000. Its best known baseball exports until recently were Andruw Jones and Randall "the Sausage Assassin" Simon, as well as notable busts like Wladimir Balentien and Hensley "Bam Bam" Meulens. A new generation of players from Curacao has begun to proliferate major league farm systems. Willemstad, Curacao has sent teams to the Little League World Series in each of the last seven years, winning in 2004 and losing in the finals in 2005. Among this new generation, Kenley Jansen has been turning heads from the Dodgers bullpen and Jurickson Profar is lighting up the Sally League as an 18 year old shortstop and was rated on many pre-season prospect lists. Although a bit older than the aforementioned, Jair Jurrjens is another Curacao native making a name for himself in the majors.
The Orioles own shortstop from Willemstad, Jonathan Schoop, was performing as well offensively as Profar in the Sally League. Profar currently has an .890 OPS and Schoop was also at .890 when he was promoted to Frederick. Schoop is 19, Profar is 18 and Schoop is also a couple of inches bigger and maybe a candidate for a shift to 3B (he is presently playing 3B at Frederick). Schoop was a member of the 2004 Little League World Champion team from Willemstad along with Profar. Schoop has not taken on the Carolina League as he did the Sally League, but he has walked 7 times in 7 games since playing in the Futures Game. His older brother Sharlon plays in the Giants (correction: initially listed Sharlon Schoop as a Braves farmhand) system.
Roderick Bernadina is another Willemstad native earning his wings in the Orioles system. The 18 year old outfielder is the younger brother of Nats outfielder Roger Bernadina. In his pro debut with th DSL O's, Bernadina showed he was not afraid to take a walk (30 BB/70 games) and flashed a little power (17 XBH). Thus far in the GCL, Bernadina has walked more than he struck out (13/11) and has 13 XBH in 25 games for a .477 SLG. At 6'1" , 162 pounds, his power should continue to develop.
Also of note:
-While also a Willemstad native, Rojean Cleofa has not enjoyed the success of Schoop and Bernadina and is still looking for a breakout in his second season with the Gulf Coast League O's.
-The O's recently cut ties with Dashenko Ricardo, a former catcher that the Giants are attempting to convert into a pitcher.
-Dudley Leonora is an infielder/outfielder from Saint Maarten. He was hitting .286 at Aberdeen this season before moving up to Delmarva where he now owns a .359 OPS.
Have the Orioles tapped into something in Curacao or is the success of Schoop and maybe Bernadina just dumb luck? Maybe there's a natural affinity amongst the locals: the Oriole is the national bird of Curacao, it's black and orange coat fitting nicely with the nation's Dutch heritage.