Baltimore and the Venezuelan Connection: From Carrasquel to Santander

The World Baseball Classic has had the entire baseball world buzzing for the last couple of weeks. Orioles’ players performed admirably in the tournament, with Dean Kremer starting the only game that Team Israel won and Cedric Mullins driving in a couple of runs for the runner-up United States. Despite these solid performances, it was Anthony Santander who stole the spotlight. Santander went 6-17 with 2 home runs and a whopping 1.332 OPS in five games for Team Venezuela.

Santander is far from the first, or the best, Venezuelan-born ballplayer to spend time with the Orioles. Nine Venezuelan players have played for the Orioles in multiple seasons and also put up positive bWAR. Those nine include:



Years Played in Baltimore

bWAR with Orioles

Melvin Mora

3B, OF, SS



Luis Aparicio




Ramón Hernández




Anthony Santander

Right Field



Renato Núñez

DH, 1B, 3B



César Izturis

2B, SS, 3B



Jorge Julio




Óscar Salazar

1B, LF



Robert Machado




The Orioles history of Venezuelan ballplayers is even broader than these nine players though. Forty-one Venezuelan-born players have been a part of the Orioles major league roster at some point since the move to Baltimore in 1954.

The Early Legends (1959-1967)

The first Venezuelan to make the major leagues was also the first to play for the Orioles—Chico Carrasquel. Carrasquel, hailing from Caracas, immediately made a splash in the major leagues when he debuted with the Chicago White Sox in 1950. He posted a .282/.368/.365/.733 slash line, coming in third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting behind Walt Dropo of the Red Sox (who drove in 144 runs with a .961 OPS), and Whitey Ford, as well as coming in 12th in AL MVP voting. Carrasquel, never an elite bat, put up solid numbers in six seasons with the White Sox. He made 4 all-star games and posted a career year in 1954 with a .716 OPS and accumulating 5.5 bWAR. He was traded to Cleveland following the 1955 season and spent the next 2 ½ years in Cleveland before making his way to the Kansas City Athletics and eventually the Orioles following the 1958 season.

Orioles’ manager Paul Richards hoped that Carrasquel could return to his White Sox form of a couple seasons past, but the 1959 season would prove disappointing for the 33-year-old Carrasquel. Carrasquel entered Spring Training in a three-way shortstop battle with established Orioles’ shortstop Willy Miranda and young up-and-comer Ron Hansen. Carrasquel won the starting job out of spring training, but the season would not go the way either he or the Orioles hoped. He slashed .223/.292/.295/.587 in 391 plate appearances and lost the starting job in mid-July to Miranda. Hansen would replace both Miranda and Carrasquel as the Orioles’ starting shortstop in 1960, proceeding to win AL Rookie of the Year.

The 1959 season proved disastrous for Carrasquel and ultimately ended his career in the major leagues. On September 17th, it was revealed that Carrasquel had partially lost vision in his left eye due to a throw from Red Sox’s Catcher Sammy White which had hit Carrasquel in his brow during a game on May 10th (Lou Hatter, The Baltimore Sun, September 17,1959). Carrasquel was released that offseason and he never played in the majors again, although he played, and eventually managed, for years back in Venezuela.

It was a couple years before another Venezuelan would play for the Orioles, and in 1963 another White Sox Venezuelan was traded to Baltimore—future Hall-of-Famer Luis Aparicio. Aparicio was already an established big leaguer when he was traded to Baltimore. He won Rookie of the Year at 22 years old back in 1956, and proceeded to appear in 5 straight all-star games and win five gold gloves from 1958-1962.

Aparicio was traded to Baltimore in January 1963 along with teammate Al Smith in exchange for Ron Hansen, two young players in Pete Ward and Dave Nicholson, and an aging future Hall-of-Fame catcher Hoyt Wilhelm. This trade proved very beneficial for both the White Sox and Orioles, but was considered "a coup" for the Orioles and helped propel the team into competition for the American League pennant (The Baltimore Sun, January 20, 1963). Aparicio would continue his great play in Baltimore, winning two more gold gloves, attending two more all-star games, and getting MVP votes in three separate seasons between 1963 and 1967. The Orioles posted a winning record in four of Aparicio’s five seasons in Baltimore, and even won the World Series in 1966.

The 1967 season would be a disappointing one for the Orioles though. The club finished 76-85 and GM Harry Dalton chose to trade Aparicio back to the White Sox at the end of the season. The trade opened the door for Mark Belanger to become the starting shortstop beginning in 1968. Belanger would remain the Orioles’ starting shortstop for the next fourteen years, winning eight gold gloves and posting 41.3 bWAR in that stretch. Aparicio would play in the majors for six more seasons—three with the White Sox and three with the Red Sox—before being elected into the Hall of Fame in 1984. It would be another fifteen years following Aparicio’s trade before another Venezuelan would appear in an Orioles’ game.

The Golden Years (2000-2011)

Only three Venezuelans appeared in an Orioles’ game between 1967 and 1999. Third Baseman Leo Hernández played in Baltimore in 1982,1983, and 1985 and hit for an unremarkable .226/.264/.341/.604 in 239 plate appearances. Oswaldo Peraza pitched for the Orioles in 1988, pitching to a 5.55 ERA in 86 innings for a 107-loss team. Peraza missed the 1989 season due to a rotator cuff injury and spent 1990 and 1991 bouncing between AA Hagerstown and AAA Rochester. He would never pitch in the major leagues again. The final Venezuelan to play for the Orioles in the Twentieth Century was 34-year-old Ozzie Guillén who signed with the Orioles in January 1998 after 13 seasons with the White Sox. He would only appear in 12 games and hit for an .063 batting average before being released on May 1st. Despite the dearth of Venezuelan talent in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, the 2000s would see a large number of talented Venezuelan ballplayers make their way up to Camden Yards.

2000 was a year of change for the Orioles. The team had not had a winning record since 1997 and the season did not start any better, with the Orioles sitting at 33-44 by the start of July. GM Syd Thrift decided it was time for some changes and traded off aging stars BJ Surhoff, Mike Bordick, Harold Baines, Mike Timlin, and Will Clark for a glut of minor leaguers and young MLB players. Journalist John Eisenberg wrote, following this mass trade-off, that "the Orioles were going nowhere for the third straight season, stuck in a losing, expensive cycle. Now they have more money to spend on Mike Mussina and other free-agent pitchers over the winter, and they have so many new, young pitchers that it’s hard to keep track. It’s about time" (John Eisenberg, The Baltimore Sun, July 30, 2000). Sound familiar? Though most of the minor league talent from these trades never made it to Baltimore, there was one who did. That one player was Melvin Mora.

Born in the northwest of Venezuela in 1972, Mora signed as an international free agent with the Houston Astros in 1991. He made his major league debut with the Mets in 1999 and struggled. He played well to start the 2000 season in New York, hitting .260/.317/.423/.740 through 79 games before being traded to Baltimore. Mora would spend the next nine years in Baltimore as a utility player and eventually settling into the Third Base position starting in 2004. The Orioles never had a winning record in any of Mora’s seasons with the club, but he flourished at third base, posting his best season in 2004. He hit .340/.419/.562/.981 and posted 3.5 bWAR that year despite the club only winning 78 games.

A number of other Venezuelan players played for the Orioles for multiple seasons during Mora’s tenure in Baltimore. Jorge Julio, Robert Machado, Ramón Hernández, Óscar Salazar, and César Izturis all played alongside Mora. Hernández is the most notable of this group. He signed as one of the Orioles’ bigger free agents in the 2005-2006 offseason in the midst of intense trade drama around Miguel Tejada. Despite this, Hernández immediately had a career year in 2006. He hit 23 home runs and put up an .822 OPS. Although he would never produce at this level again, Hernández’s three-year tenure in Baltimore was a positive one. He was traded following the 2008 season—with the club failing to win more than 70 games for the third straight season—for a young prospect named Justin Turner. Mora became a free agent a year later and finished his career journeying around the NL West.

The Lean Years (2011-2016)

A number of Venezuelans played in Baltimore following the departures of Mora, Hernández, and Izturis, although none of them for very long. Six players played for the Orioles in this stretch. None stayed for more than a year. The most notable names are Freddy García, Francisco Rodríguez, and Gerardo Parra. All three have career bWARs over 10, but none of them were exceptional in their brief stints in Baltimore. The other three players include: Endy Chávez, Miguel Socolovich, and Jorge Rondon.

Ironically, the Orioles had one of their most successful stretches in this period from 2012 to 2016. It largely occurred without significant help from any Venezuelan players, or much in the way of foreign talent at all. A few exceptions would be: Wei-Yin Chen, Ubaldo Jiménez, Miguel González, and Jonathan Schoop.

The end of this winning stretch would see the arrival of the most important Venezuelan on the current Orioles’ roster—Anthony Santander.

The Venezuelan Renaissance (2017-Present)

It may seem odd to call this period a renaissance, but there are two major factors going into this belief. First, is the ascension of Anthony Santander over the last couple of seasons. Second, is the investment of Mike Elias’s front office in international signing and development.

Santander is the first Venezuelan player to play multiple years for the Orioles since the departure of Izturis in 2011. Though he struggled early on, Santander has improved dramatically since the 2020 season. 2022 was his best season to date, hitting 33 home runs and posting a .773 OPS. Elias has also voiced his own confidence in Santander despite the large crop of outfield prospects, like Colton Cowser and Kyle Stowers, who are pushing for major league playing time in the upcoming seasons.

A number of other Venezuelans have played for the Orioles since 2017. Renato Núñez is the only other one to spent more than a season in Baltimore. He played the best seasons of his career in Baltimore and has played in Japan and Mexico since leaving the major leagues after the 2021 season. Other Venezuelans to appear since 2017 include: Luis Sardiñas, Engelb Vielma, José Rondón, Jesús Sucre, Freddy Galvis, Robinson Chirinos, Rougned Odor, Jesús Aguilar, and Breyvic Valera.

Just as important as these players is the large investment in international player development. None of the 9 players who played multiple productive years in Baltimore came from the Orioles’ farm system, and most of the 41 Venezuelans who have appeared on the major league roster were signed and developed by other teams before playing in Baltimore. Elias’s investment in international development is part of a larger trend in MLB roster construction and marks a departure from the previous Duquette regime, which largely ignored international signings at a time when other organizations, like the Astros, were beginning to build strong major league teams through international player development. Elias has signed 33 Venezuelan prospects since taking over in 2019. Some, like Jean Pinto, Maikol Hernández, and Elio Prado, have established themselves as interesting prospects to watch in the Orioles’ farm system.


The Orioles may not have the most storied history when it comes to Venezuelan baseball players, but it is hard to deny the importance of players like Luis Aparicio, Melvin Mora, and Anthony Santander to the Orioles, as well as the importance of players like Chico Carrasquel, Ozzie Guillén, and others to the history of MLB as a whole.

It is worth looking back at this history though, especially as the game and MLB become more international every year. Only time will tell if Santander will become the next great Venezuelan Oriole, or if the young prospects will ever make the show. For now, as we bask in the joy that was the WBC and wait for the start of the regular season, we can celebrate and remember the lives and careers of those Venezuelans that have made their way to Baltimore in the past and present.

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