With the 2010 Cuban National Series regular season complete, the following provides an update of some of the country’s best players. The Cuban League is interesting because of the amazing number of great players who cannot play in the United States. Considering I have never traveled to Cuba (not a supporter outside baseball), my knowledge comes from second-hand sources.
Cuban Ball Players is a new site providing an amazing amount of information. Most importantly, the site has video, which is helpful when trying to evaluate the players. Baseballdecuba.com contains awesome statistical information and live video feeds of Cuban baseball games. Peter Bjarkman’s blog is also interesting because it provides firsthand accounts of the players. While each site provides great information, none have a basic list ranking the top players on the island. Therefore, I decided to try ranking the top 10 prospects in Cuba:
1. Alfredo Despaingne—Despaigne surpassed Gourriel as the best player in Cuba over the past two seasons. An outfielder with ridiculous talent, 2010 was another impressive year. In 317 AB’s, he batted over .400 hitting 31 home runs and 95 RBI’s.
2. Yulieski Gourriel—Gourriel has been widely-followed since the 2006 World Baseball Classic. He is a third-baseman in Cuba who could also play second base in the United States. Gourriel had another great season, batting .363 with 30 home runs and 105 RBI’s.
3. Jose Dariel Abreu—Abreu is a 22-year old first baseman who produced offensive numbers this season rivaling Gourriel and Despaigne. He hit 30 home runs and posted an astonishing on base percentage of .555. He established himself as a legitimate star, and is considered one of the most promising young players in Cuba.
4. Alexander Guerrero—I wish I could provide more information about Guerrero. He is a 21-year old shortstop who ranked among the leaders in the National Series in various offensive categories. There is little written—good or bad—about his defense, but he is an awesome prospect assuming he could play defense well enough to remain at shortstop in the major leagues.
5. Vladamir Garcia—a 21-year old pitcher nicknamed “bullet,” Garcia is considered the most promising young pitcher in Cuba. He spent his first two professional seasons pitching effectively as a reliever, but transitioned well into the rotation this season. It takes a nickname like “bullet” to make a 94 mph fastball sound disappointing.
6. Henry Urrutia—Urrutia, whose older brother Osmani is considered one of the best players in Cuba, is an outfielder who became a star in his own right after posting stellar numbers in 2010.
7. Ramon Lunar—one of the best rookies in Cuba in 2009, Lunar had another great season in 2010 for Villa Clara. Villa Clara also has another young outfielder, Leonis Martin, who is considered a very good prospect.
8. Yoennis Cespedes—Cespedes (age 25) is a slightly older prospect whose talent ranked slightly behind Gourriel’s when they arrived in the National Series around the same time. He is a multi-tool outfielder who established himself as a terrific player and would start for most major league teams.
9. Yasmani Hernandez—at age 18, Hernandez held his own during the National Series in 2010, finishing the season with numbers respectable enough for many to consider him the league’s best rookie. He is a left-handed pitcher with a fastball exceeding 90 miles per hour who also offers several good secondary pitches.
10. Ordasimer Despaigne—a 21 year old pitcher for Industriales, Despaigne’s numbers are intriguing because of his solid strikeout to walk ratio while maintaining a solid–but not spectacular–ERA.
Defection Worth Mentioning
Yunieski Maya—Maya’s defection gained little fanfare compared to Chapman’s. But the right-hander has been one of the best pitchers in Cuba over past several seasons and some claim his fastball reaches 96 mph. Bjarkman provides a strong reccomendation of Maya based upon watching him pitch. He is working out in the Dominican Republic and is apparently close to signing a contract with the Boston Red Sox (who made a great signing w/ Jose Iglesias). Maya has less upside than Chapman, but he seems like a solid selection considering he is a pitcher who could make an impact by next season.