HOUSTON -- The Astros were one of the pioneers of scouting in Venezuela when they became the first team to open a baseball academy there in 1989 before closing it after five years for several reasons, including an unstable political climate.
The team was also dealing with an expiring lease on the grounds at Venoco Oil Company, had the desire to have a bigger presence with a new academy in the Dominican Republic and they were getting younger in the Minor Leagues and were bringing players to the U.S. sooner (Jose Altuve, for example).
The Astros, who wound up signing future stars Johan Santana, Bobby Abreu and Freddy Garcia out of Venezuela, are considering a renewed presence to the South American country by establishing a team there in the fall as a precursor to perhaps becoming more involved in player development.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said director of international scouting Oz Ocampo has been investigating having a partial or full Astros team in the Parallel League, which is basically the Minor Leagues of Venezuela.
"It's a very competitive league," Luhnow said. "It's probably similar to low A or maybe high A. It's just a good opportunity to continue to develop Venezuelan players, Colombian players, etc. They play something like 60-odd games in the months of October, November and December."
Any players the Astros sign out of Venezuela will play in the winter league season, but the Astros' coaches aren't involved, so the team loses some control. That's why some teams like to have their own parallel league teams.
"We're looking at the options," Luhnow said. "We really want to see what happens with the political environment down there, security environment, before we commit any resources."