Francys Romero

Francys Romero

Jose Fernandez Photo: MLB.com

He’s not coming back

The only time I spoke with José Fernández I told him I wanted to write a long work for when he finished his career; something that would show all the moments of his life. He told me there was no problem with that, he would help me and we would sit down to do it. Now that he’s gone, there’s only a locker to clean up, an empty field that is viewed with skepticism and a box stop full of caps, tears and disconcerted. There wasn’t – perhaps it will never be repeated - a 24-year-old pitcher with a 2.58 ERA in his first 70 games. Not a single one among all those who have existed. The Pythagorean philosophy in Greece saw perfection in the number 10. It was the union of the sum of the one (the unity), the two (the duality), the three (the trinity, with the heavenly, the earthly and the hellish) and the four (quaternary: land, air, fire and water). When I saw Fernández I thought they had made a mistake. I thought of the 16. It’s still not the time or place to talk about his numbers. Only those who know the game in its...

Photo: www.baseballamerica.com

10 questions for talented baseball player Diosbel Arias

Diosbel Arias is 20 years old. He is one of the most talented Cuban baseball players looking to get hired by an MLB team. He has great hands, he's fast, he has a good grasp of the strike zone, and he has experience as a catcher - he was the catcher of his team in 2013 and 2014. Arias decided to migrate in 2015. With only two National Series played and the fresh memory of his sub-23 with the Artemisa team. He also remembers his first homerun in a National Series, when he had just left the sub-18 series. It was the first homerun of the 54th series against Isla de la Juventud. "We won the game with that homerun and the team gave me a ball signed by all the players, which I still keep as a treasure. That was one of the best moments in my career because I earned the respect and admiration of my team and my followers," he told OnCuba. He was part of a talented generation of Artemisa players - along with Yanio Luis Pérez, Misael Villa, Dariel Crespo, Lázaro Hernández and Navid Cosme - who saw 13 players leave the country in 2015....

Carlos Leon. Photo: Courtesy of the interviewee

Carlos Orlando Leon never missed a day’s training

Carlos Orlando León gets up every day with the thought of not giving up. He left Cuba a year and three months ago and has not skipped a single training session since. The young 5’ 11” talent of 23 only played for Cienfuegos in two National Series. Now, the infielder is represented by Edgar Mercedes of Born to Play, and, according to sources, is the interest of various Major League organizations. “It was clear that I should spend more time playing in Cuba and try to get better results and better figures because these statistics are worth much more here. However, I was in a difficult situation, the economy, you know how it is and I didn’t have any other option but to try my luck and make a sacrifice for a dream and for the good of my family,” he told OnCuba after having played a little time at the highest level of the Cuban League. Factors like the near-mass exodus of baseball players from Cienfuegos helped the promising shortstop’s exit: “Of course the departure of my teammates has a psychological effect on me, but with the help of my family I made my own decision.” León’s trigger would...

Alfredo Rodríguez / Photo: Courtesy of Alfredo Rodríguez

Will Alfredo Rodríguez make it to the Major League?

The answer is a rotund yes: Alfredo Rodríguez will make it to the Major League, but it doesn’t mean that he will have a guaranteed shining career. But given that this is the dream that thousands of baseball players all over the world strive for, the shortstop is in privileged territory. Many laughed when they saw him on the list of 25 talented Cubans to watch in 2015. Some even asked: “so who is this guy?” Alfredo made sure to answer them a month later, with a remarkable performance playing with his Isla de la Juventud team. “I have worked really hard in training going up against pitchers and watching them pitch. So, when I go into a match the pitching doesn't surprise me so much. I think that’s where the success is,” said Rodríguez in an exclusive to OnCuba in answer to a question about what he was doing to control the strike zone. The commentators of American Baseball magazine locate the 21-year old Havana native as on the point of signing a contract with a Major League team. However, he has worked on his contact and his power, which could produce a qualitative leap in the offensive line...

Victor Mesa, manager of the Cuba national team.

2015: record migration in Cuban baseball

In the year just finished, the history of the migration of Cuban baseball players reached a new record: 150 baseball players abandoned the country (both legally and illegally) with the same gaol: become professional players. This phenomenon continues to persist in the midst of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States. It is no secret that the embargo imposed on Cuba has motivated the baseball players’ emigration since the 1960s. However, this unconfirmed register (that passed 80 in 2014) reaffirms the severity of the crisis in which national baseball finds itself. According to Heriberto Suárez, National Commissioner of Baseball “this is a vulnerable stage, mainly in the sense of the exodus we’ve seen over the last five, six years.” The advances in the negotiations between the MLB and Cuba are an example of the mutual interest in stopping the exodus. “It’s a way for MLB to get a definite, and legal, participation from Cubans in the MLB. We hope to negotiate with them and that requires cooperation from the United States and the Cuban governments, but we hope to do it,” said executive Vice-president of the MLB, Dan Halem on December 15th in Havana. Days later,...

Cuban baseball players around the world: 2015 Highlights

Now that 2015 is over, it is a good time to have a quick look at what happened with Cuban baseball players over the last 12 months in different leagues in the world, including the Caribbean Series and the MLB. The visit of MLB representatives to Cuba in December was a major turning point, which could help improve relations between the two countries in this field. These are, in my opinion, some of the events and facts worth noting. The Best Cuban player: Yoenis Cespedes Yoenis Cespedes was the player who made the most progress. He played 57 games, hitting 35 home runs, and 105 RBIs, for an AVG of 291; he played in the World Series, and was voted the 13th most valuable player. He also won his first Gold Glove, and on top of all that, he's soon to become the one of the best paid Cuban players in the history of the MLB. The most negative 1) Frederich Cepeda's 21 times at bat with no hits in Japan. 2) The Cuban team’s defeats at the Toronto Pan-Am Games and the Premier 12. 3) The number of players that fled the country, which set a new record in...

More Than a 100 Baseball Players Have Left Cuba This Year

At the close of September, Cuban baseball broke a new record: 102 players have left the island in the course of nine months. No more than 100 players had left the country within a year ever before in the history of Cuban baseball (in 2014, some 60 players did so). Ironically, this migratory increase has taken place at a time when wages are rising and foreign contracts are being signed, under the new policies adopted by the leadership of the National Sports and Recreation Institute (INDER) and the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB). “The reasons many players are leaving Cuba now have to do with money,” Ben Adler, from Baseball America, told OnCuba. “Cuban players are seeing the contracts that their former teammates are signing with Major League teams and they believe their lives can change by signing with an MLB team.” Emigration by baseball players to the United States dates back to the early 20th century. Following the triumph of the revolution in 1959 and despite the political divorce between the two countries, a passive flow of players was maintained from 1960 to 1990 (a phenomenon the Cuban Adjustment Act encouraged). This year’s figure, however, is quite startling. Five Cubans...

Small tribute to Alexei Ramirez

March 31, 2008 marked Alexei Ramirez´s debut in MLB. Almost seven years later, his story has changed within MLB environment and he is considered one of the best shortstops in baseball. He debuted seven years ago against the Cleveland Indians and went 0 for 4. In all that time period, Alexei hasn’t gone to the minor leagues, nor has ever been, even once, to the disabled list. He has remained healthy for 7 seasons where he has played 1072 games, averaging 153 games per season. His debut in 2008 with average of .290, 21 HR and 77 RBIs in 136 games meant his election as Rookie of the Year in the American League. But in the playoffs the Canadian Evan Longoria changed the ballots with his performance and deprived from the coveted prize Alexei, who finished second. In that same season, it still stands in memory his current and unknown rookie record of more grand slams in the American League with 4. Many will recall that the last of his four grand slams was on September 29, 2008 against Detroit pitcher Gary Glover, in a decisive game that sent the White Sox to a tiebreaker match against the Minnesota Twins....

Photo: Patrick Pfister/pfoto.com

Felix Perez: “I miss my family, my island and my baseball”

Maybe when Felix Perez left Cuba on April 26, 2008 he never imagined he would not even be close to reach MLB. If there is a time when Felix Perez is close to MLB it would be now without hesitation. The lefty outfielder did not imagine he would be MVP of the finals in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League (LVBP by its Spanish acronym) in 2015. Perez is already 30 but he has not said his last word yet. The numbers never lie. Felix Perez is the kind of placer that has had several years of real rise and not many have been apt to see this secret. Perez, who was born in the Isle of Youth, only hit .264 in Cuba with 7 HR in 3 seasons. But who would have thought that a player with a record of service as unknown could have some kind of promotion? Perez, who was signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 2010, changed some parts of his daily performance. He became the 30th prospect of the franchise in 2010, and went climbing the scale of the minors to arrive at AAA stably since 2011. The progression of Felix Perez in the AAA subsidiary...

The perseverance of Raul Valdes

The Cuban pitcher Raul Valdes is indisputably a persistent player. At 37 he remains active with good results and next season will play with the Chunichi Dragons in the Japanese League, the same team that welcomed Omar Linares when he retired from Cuban baseball. Valdes handed over six seasons in National Series and had a negative balance of 52-58 but achieved an acceptable 3.61 ERA and his opponents only batted for .268. He's been a strikeout pitcher in every league he has worked. In Cuba he achieved 762 strikeouts and his K / 9 was a formidable 7.17. He has a record hard to break in Cuban classics. In a Cuban baseball Star Game he struck out six in a row. He is along with Santiago "Changa" Mederos and Yulieski González one of the three lefties who has won 15 games in a season. Raul Valdes's career in the United States began in 2004 when he signed a minor league contract with the Chicago Cubs. He spent 9 seasons in the minors and there he had a balance of 36-29 and ERA of 3.80. He destroyed hitters with his K / 9 of 9.29, striking out 596 rivals in 577.2...

The impact of Cuba on MLB for 2015

2015 can be a historic season for Cubans in the MLB. 25 Cuban players presented credentials of talent in the last season. Nine of them were rookies who left their wake in a greater or lesser extent. Since 1955 no more than 8 Cubans debuted in MLB. Apparently, in the current season 30 or more players from the island may be in the best level of world baseball. During 2014 there were 5 Cubans in the All Star Game, a rookie of the year in the American League (José Abreu), a HR Derby winner for the second consecutive year (Yoenis Céspedes) and Silver Slugger winners (Abreu and Alexei Ramirez ) and 3 nominees to the Golden Gloves (Adeiny Hechavarría, Yoenis Céspedes and Alexei Ramirez). In this paper we analyze the projections of Cuban players with the greatest impact for 2015: José Abreu: The Steamer projection house puts Abreu with 293/367/554, hitting 36 HR with 102 RBI. Abreu´s performance will be a priority for the health of the Chicago White Sox in the standings. Fangraphs.com sees him with a WAR (Wins as replacement) of 4.3, one less victory than in 2014 (5.3). If keeping his OBP (383, tenth in the entire...

Yadel Martí: an underrated player with the soul of a champion

This interview is dedicated to Yadel Martí, "this time green but always a lion"  In the 2006 World Baseball Classic (WBSC) all Cuba traveled with his pitches. Some breathed his air and other vibrated with his leisurely spirit, where hope for victory has always prevailed. Who remembers Yadel Martí? Many do, and yearn to see him once again with the number 90 in the mound of the Latinoamericano Stadium. Others wonder where he is now pitching, with his usual straw in the mouth and this double movement of his pitching foot. His appearances against Panama and Venezuela at Hiram Bithorn of Puerto Rico and his game tossed in the semifinal against Dominican Republic (which Pedro Luis Lazo would win), left a mark in the pupil of the Cuban fans. In an era (after 2000) where the Cuba baseball team was no longer Goliath against David, for about 12.2 innings Yadel Martí seemed to be Goliath again, when no team could score a run against him in the tournament. Yadel Martí was elected to the All-Star team of the 2006 WBSC with the distinction of being the leader in ERA (0.00), along with pitchers like Daisuke Matsuzaka (3 games won) and...

Foto: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Top 25 prospects of Cuban baseball in 2015

This list of Cuban baseball prospects, still producing talents endlessly, focuses on establishing a long-term value. Therefore, many of these players are more linked to the future than to an immediate impact. I've been working on this list since August 2014, extracting reports and doing scout work, conversations with trainers, and records of coaches, sabermetric assessments and estimated projections of talent. Here I only consider U-23 players (with the exception of Luis Y. La O and Dariel Crespo) and residents in Cuba; however Pinar del Rio´s Vladimir Gutierrez and Lazaro Alonso still appear in this work, as they played until January 2015 in Cuba. Some of the players ranked among the top 10 in the list do have tools to succeed in baseball in the near future. 25- Alfredo Rodriguez (SS). Isla de la Juventud. (20) 1,74 m / 82kg Alfredo Rodriguez was born in Havana. He has limited power and seems to be a hitter with an average no higher than .270. But his glove and speed (7 SB) put it in this list. He needs many at-bats yet, but is an interesting player. 24- Lazaro Hernandez (3B). Artemisa. (21) 1.87m / 90kg Hernández needs to work with his...

Cubans who shone the most in Winter Leagues

Baseball´s Winter League arrived at its end. And for another year countries such as Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic have shown again the machinery of talent they possess in their leagues still decreased due to the absence of stars from the MLB. However, even in this high-ranking baseball prospect players participate, others trying to revive their careers and find a position in Spring Training or the some MLB stars whose franchises allow to play under constraints. Given this reality representation of Cuban baseball has left its mark. Here we look at the Cubans who shone the most during the winter season. Venezuelan Professional Baseball League (LVBP) Adonis Garcia (Navegantes de Magallanes). He dispelled doubts instability with a solid season. 313/369/468 offensive line and 21 extra-base hits in 57 games. Garcia led his team to victory with 7 HR and 41 RBIs, second in the entire league playing third base and right field. He was one of the guides for the Marineros to repeat the title for the third consecutive year. His postseason was not the best, averaging below 250. He was named player of the sixth and tenth week in the league. Félix Pérez (Leones de Caracas...

The farewell to Lorenzo Quintana and Julio Alfredo Martínez

Lorenzo Quintana and Julio Alfredo Martínez have gone out of Cuban baseball. Both left without saying goodbye. On December 28l ast year they did not show up at the All-Star Game in Granma and there the rumors began. According to a note from the National Baseball Directorate on January 8, Julio Alfredo and Quintana were punished for leaving the team in the current season. Hours later it was learned from the guerrillero.cu website that they had requested the deregistration of Pinar del Río team for personal reasons and would be traveling abroad soon. Quintana (25) still promises to be a batter with a future. Despite having a limited below average defense (AVE 985 and 178 Stolen in 7 seasons), with his youth he can acquire a role as a designated hitter or maybe he could make a transition to first base or left field. He joined from young age the national team in the category championship in Mexico 2007, under the command of Giraldo González. He had already made the national team in 2014, participating as DH in the Cuba-United States friendly series and in the tournament for the centenary of baseball in Colombia. In the long term memory of...

The hidden talents of Robert Baldoquin

To my friend El Tuna The Las Tunas player Roberto Suliban Baldoquin  signed on Tuesday December 9 with Angels of Anaheim for a bonus of 8 million. Since December 2004 the California franchise did not direct its attention to Cuban free agents. Then, the Angels added to their ranks Kendrys Morales for 3 million dollars. The contract of Baldoquin looks like an enigma, given that he did not have the fame that Morales brought from Cuba when he made it to the national team in 2003. The presence of Baldoquin  in the three National Series he played was just anecdotic. However, it is very possible that there is an esoteric feature in Baldoquin to present him as an unknown diamond. Los Angeles of Anaheim only had 2.4 million to spend on international free agency, and the price they have paid for Baldoquin has tripled that, which will condition the franchise to two periods of hiring unable to overcome the barrier of $ 300,000. So what is the reason that the Angels have risked so much? "They must have seen wonders in that boy to take much risk," said a source from Miami baseball. The signing of Cuban exceeded the 3.1...

The open future of Yoan Lopez

Cuban pitcher Yoan Lopez will sign soon a contract with a MLB club and at 21 his future is very promising. The right-handed settled down in the Dominican Republic at the beginning of 2014 and waited for the documents declaring him a free agent. During the wait, he worked on his pitches. According to MLB Trade Rumors, on November 27 he was finally decalred free agent. In the race for the Cuban, there are teams like NY Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres. Lopez, 6 foot four, and weighing 190 pounds, is one of the rising prospects of Cuban baseball in the US along Yoan Moncada, Ariel Miranda and Jorge Hernández. After leaving Cuba, at the very beginning of the 53 Serie Nacional, Lopez has proven to be a power pitcher according to the scouting reports in the MLB. His fastball inhabits the mid-90s and having topped the 100 miles per hour. His work will have to continue his progression in the minors after signing a contract as international free agent with restrictions since he did not play 5 series in Cuba nor his age exceeds 23 years. But, why has Lopez fastball gained in speed?...

Yasiel Puig

Cuba and MLB could reach agreement

For the first time in over 60 years, the Cuban baseball and the Major League Baseball (MLB) could be closer to each other. Following the announcement on Wednesday, December 17 on the normalization of diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba the question between these two entities that have remained apart from the triumph of the revolution, after the establishing of a US economic embargo against the island is that synthesized that any baseball player to leave Cuba must obtain a license from the US Treasury Department before signing with Major League teams. "The agreement opens a new chapter between the nations of America," Obama said in televised speech. After this statement, the MLB waits for the next steps that could be taken in the field of sports and baseball in particular. "The MLB was rubbing hands minutes after the speeches of Barack Obama and Raul Castro," the newspaper El Mundo reported. Although it is a certainty that the transformation that may occur between the two policies could take some time, everything tends to assume that a new stage between Cuban baseball and American baseball will be opened. "We will be pending at this important event, and keep our teams...

Yoenis Céspedes

Cubans with new destinations in the MLB

The Cuban baseball continues to expand its range in the majors. In recent weeks the MLB market has opened its gates and in various moves some Cubans with strong presence in the big leagues as in the case of Yoenis Céspedes or Kendrys Morales have been involved. Other players were signed as free international agents and must spend time in the minors before testing their value and reach the highest level of baseball. We analyze some of the most recent moves of Cubans: Yoenis Cespedes: He was traded to the Detroit Tigers, as reported by MLB Network. In return, Boston received the pitcher Rick Porcello. Cespedes will join the powerful Tigers line-up and try to improve his percentage of OBP, which has not been higher than 310. In Detroit, Céspedes must ensure comfort zone to hit more than 20 HR again and over 100 RBI for the second consecutive year. Yasmani Tomas: Signed for 68.5 million with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Although many believe the contract was overrated, operations chief Tony La Russa believes otherwise. La Russa´s experience suggests that as Arizona is in reconstruction stage there is no rush. Tomas will be focused on improving his strikeout rate and discrimination...

Alexei Ramírez

Alexei Ramírez or the boomerang that did not return

In 2009, Alexei Ramirez, shortstop for the Chicago White Sox, came close to winning a Gold Glove. On that occasion the desired award went to Derek Jeter though The Cuban Missile had excelled in average field travel (UZR) and was 4th in the entire league in errors. Still, the Pinar del Rio player had no choice and could not be the most qualified defender of the majors in the shortstop, trophy that would had joined his second Silver Slugger Field recently received. The god Chronos suddenly waved his time and five years later, on the night of November 4, 2014, the Cuban showed up and tried again to win his first Gold Glove. But this was elusive for him. The winner was JJ Hardy of the Baltimore Orioles. Now you must know all these votes are dominated by 75% of managers, coaches and players in the league, leaving only 25% to the criterion of journalists and writers who are quite unanimous. That is why the nature of this prize is still arbitrary and random. In many predictions and reports the potential winners were Alexei Ramirez and Alcides Escobar. However, the award went to the hands of Hardy for the third...

ADVERTISEMENT