Yoennis Céspedes Expands the List of Cuban Big Leaguers to 167 and Counting

Peter C. Bjarkman*

Yoennis Cespedes (now with the Oakland As) set a Cuban League home run record last season for Granma. His teammate Alfredo Despaigne broke it this season.

HAVANA TIMES, April 7 — Oakland A’s rookie slugger Yoennis Céspedes has already surrendered his share of the Cuban League single-season home run record. But apparently not looking back, Céspedes has been busy enough making his own loud splash at the big league level during Major League Baseball’s opening week.

After debuting with a ringing homer in his inaugural Arizona spring training contest (March 10), the former Granma slugger logged base hits during both ends of his pair of official opening weekend American League outings (March 28-29). Those two late-March games were staged in Asia as part of a brief MLB lid-lifter series at Japan’s Tokyo Dome.

Then in his initial big league game on North American soil Céspedes kept up his torrid pace with a true tape measure home run shot (calculated at more than 460 feet) on April 6 in the Oakland Coliseum. Ironically the most recent Céspedes long ball came in the same stadium and on the same date as an earlier historic round-tripper by another pioneering Cuban big leaguer. Minnesota’s Tony Oliva had launched the first-ever homer by a DH in the same arena back on April 6, 1973.

Céspedes’ Cuban League mark (set last year) went by the wayside earlier this week in Havana when former Granma teammate Alfredo Despaigne upped the standard from 33 to 35 with more than two weeks still left to play in the current Cuban National Series campaign. Meanwhile Céspedes is already proving that he is a legitimate big leaguer bent on earning his hefty 4-year $36 million contract inked with the Oakland club. It is obviously far too early to begin anointing the Cuban ex-patriot as a surefire bet for American League rookie of the year honors—a prediction  recently proclaimed on the Oakland A’s official team web site but also something that no Cuban has accomplished since the aforementioned Tony Oliva back in 1964.

Despite his several early power displays Céspedes hit only .229 over 11 games and 35 at-bats during his spring training trial. If some of the hype might be premature, there already appears to be sufficient evidence of the Cuban’s potential as one of the brighter offensive stars among the handful of Cuban Leaguers who have fled to the big leagues over the past decade. Nonetheless only a remarkable rookie campaign will surpass the 2009 season numbers posted by fellow countryman Kendry Morales for the Los Angeles Angels (34 HR, 108 RBI, .306 BA). Although Morales was already in his fourth big league season by the time he enjoyed his breakout year, he was only 26 at the time. Céspedes himself turned 26 last October.

As the only Cuban rookie on any big league roster for the season’s opening week, Yoennis Céspedes has now pushed the list of Cuban-born major leaguers to 167 and counting. The last islander to debut was Texas Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin, a late-season call-up last fall by the American League champions. Martin will begin the current campaign playing for the Texas AAA affiliate in Round Rock.

The other nine Cubans on this season’s opening day rosters include the following: Yonder Alonso (San Diego Padres), Alexei Ramírez and Dayan Viciedo (Chicago White Sox), Kendry Morales (Los Angeles Angeles), José Contreras (Philadelphia Phillies), Yunieski Betancourt and Branyan Peña (Kansas City Royals), and Aroldis Chapman (Cincinnati Reds). Of this group, all but Alonso and Peña made at least brief Cuban League appearances.

Céspedes is now the thirty-first ex-Cuban Leaguer (“defector”) to reach the majors, but of that number only a handful have enjoyed much big league success (Danys Báez, Orlando Hernández, Liván Hernández, Contreras, Ramírez, Morales, Betancourt, Escobar, and Rolando Arrojo topping the list). Céspedes already appears a strong bet to enter into that fraternity.

Cuban Major Leaguers List (167 Cuban Major Leaguers)

Cuban BallplayersDebut Dates PositionsDebut TeamsDebut LeaguesSeasons (Games)
Pre-Twentieth Century1800s    
Enrique Esteban Bellán (1)1871 (5/9/1871) InfieldTroy HaymakersNational Association3 (60)
Pre-Revolution Period1911-1960    
Armando Marsans (2)1911 (7/4/1911) OutfieldCincinnati RedsNational League8 (655)
Rafael Almeida (3)1911 (7/4/1911) OutfieldCincinnati RedsNational League3 (102)
Miguel (Mike) González (4)1912 (9/28/1912) CatcherBoston BravesNational League19 (1042)
Merito (Baldomero) Acosta (5)1913 (6/15/1913) OutfieldWashington SenatorsNational League5 (180)
Jacinto (Jack) Calvo (6)1913 (9/5/1913) OutfieldWashington SenatorsAmerican League2 (34)
Angel (Pete) Aragón (7)1914 (8/20/1914) InfieldNew York YankeesAmerican League3 (32)
Adolfo (Dolf) Luque (8)1914 (5/20/1914) RHPBoston BravesNational League20 (550)
Manolo (Manuel) Cueto (9)1914 (6/25/1914) OutfieldCincinnati RedsNational League3 (151)
Emilio (Pal) Palmero (10)1915 (9/21/1915) RHPNew York GiantsNational League4 (41)
Joseito Rodríguez (11)1916 (10/5/1916) InfieldNew York GiantsNational League5 (58)
Oscar Tuero (12)1918 (5/30/1918) RHPSt. Louis CardinalsNational League3 (58)
Eusebio González (13)1918 (7/26/1918) SSBoston Red SoxAmerican League1 (3)
Ricardo Torres (14)1920 (5/18/1920) CatcherWashington SenatorsAmerican League3 (22)
José Acosta (15)1920 (7/28/1920) RHPWashington SenatorsAmerican League3 (55)
Pedro Dibut (16)1924 (5/1/1924) RHPCincinnati RedsNational League2 (8)
Ramón (Mike) Herrera (17)1925 (9/22/1925) InfieldBoston Red SoxAmerican League2 (84)
Oscar Estrada (18)1929 (4/21/1929) LHPSt. Louis BrownsAmerican League1 (1)
Roberto (Tarzan) Estalella (19)1935 (9/7/1935) OutfieldWashington SenatorsAmerican League8 (680)
Fermín (Mike) Guerra (20)1937 (9/19/1937) CatcherWashington SenatorsAmerican League9 (565)
René Monteagudo (21)1938 (9/6/1938) LHPWashington SenatorsAmerican League3 (46)
Gilberto Torres (22)1940 (4/25/1940) InfieldWashington SenatorsAmerican League4 (44)
Jack (Angel) Aragón (23)1941 (8/13/1941) Pinch RunnerNew York GiantsNational League1 (1)
Roberto (Bobby) Ortíz (24)1941 (9/6/1941) OutfieldWashington SenatorsAmerican League6 (213)
Chico (Sal) Hernández (25)1942 (4/16/1942) CatcherChicago CubsNational League2 (90)
Napoleón (Nap) Reyes (26)1943 (5/19/1943) InfieldNew York GiantsNational League4 (279)
Mosquito Ordeñana (27)1943 (10/3/1943) SSPittsburgh PiratesNational League1 (1)
Tomás (Tommy) de la Cruz (28)1944 (4/20/1944) RHPCincinnati RedsNational League1 (34)
Santiago (Carlos) Ullrich (29)1944 (5/3/1944) RHPWashington SenatorsAmerican League2 (31)
Rogelio (Roy) Valdés (30)1944 (5/3/1944) Pinch HitterWashington SenatorsAmerican League1 (1)
Preston (Pedro) Gómez (31)1944 (5/5/1944) InfieldWashington SenatorsAmerican League1 (8)
Luis Suarez (32)1944 (5/28/1944) Third BaseWashington SenatorsAmerican League1 (1)
Baby (Oliverio) Ortíz (33)1944 (9/23/1944) RHPWashington SenatorsAmerican League1 (2)
José Zardón (34)1945 (4/18/1945) OutfieldWashington SenatorsAmerican League1 (54)
Jorge Comellas (35)1945 (4/19/1945) RHPChicago CubsNational League1 (7)
Armando Roche (36)1945 (5/10/1945) RHPWashington SenatorsAmerican League1 (2)
Isidoro (Sid) Léon (37)1945 (6/21/1945) RHPPhiladelphia PhilliesNational League1 (14)
Adrian Zabala (38)1945 (8/11/1945) LHPNew York GiantsNational League2 (26)
Regino (Reggie) Otero (39)1945 (9/2/1945) First BaseChicago CubsNational League1 (14)
Moín (Ramón) García (40)1948 (4/19/1948) RHPWashington SenatorsAmerican League1 (4)
Angel Fleitas (41)1948 (7/5/1948) SSWashington SenatorsAmerican League1 (15)
Julio (Enríque) González (42)1949 (8/9/1949) RHPWashington SenatorsAmerican League1 (13)
Orestes (Minnie) Miñoso (43)1949 (4/9/1949) OutfieldCleveland IndiansAmerican League17 (1835)
Luis (Witto) Aloma (44)1950 (4/19/1950) RHPWashington SenatorsAmerican League4 (116)
Conrado (Connie) Marrero (45)1950 (4/21/1950) RHPWashington SenatorsAmerican League5 (118)
Sandalio (Sandy) Consuegra (46)1950 (2/2/1950) RHPWashington SenatorsAmerican League8 (248)
Rogelio (Limonar) Martínez (47)1950 (2/2/1950) RHPWashington SenatorsAmerican League1 (2)
Julio (Jiqui) Moreno (48)1950 (2/2/1950) RHPWashington SenatorsAmerican League4 (73)
Carlos Pascual (49)1950 (2/2/1950) RHPWashington SenatorsAmerican League1 (2)
Rafael (Ray) Noble (50)1951 (2/2/1951) CatcherNew York GiantsNational League3 (107)
Willy (Guillermo) Miranda (51)1951 (5/6/1951) SSWashington SenatorsAmerican League9 (824)
Francisco (Cisco) Campos (52)1951 (9/11/1951) OutfieldWashington SenatorsAmerican League3 (71)
Héctor Rodríguez (53)1952 (4/15/1952) Third BaseChicago White SoxAmerican League1 (124)
Raúl Sánchez (54)1952 (4/17/1952) RHPWashington SenatorsAmerican League3 (49)
Edmundo (Sandy) Amorós (55)1952 (8/22/1952) OutfieldBrooklyn DodgersNational League7 (517)
Miguel (Mike) Fornieles (56)1952 (9/2/1952) RHPWashington SenatorsAmerican League12 (432)
Camilo Pascual (57)1954 (4/15/1954) RHPWashington SenatorsAmerican League18 (529)
Carlos Paula (58)1954 (9/6/1954) OutfieldWashington SenatorsAmerican League3 (157)
Pedro (Pete) Ramos (59)1955 (4/11/1955) RHPWashington SenatorsAmerican League15 (582)
Roman Mejías (60)1955 (4/13/1955) OutfieldPittsburgh PiratesNational League9 (627)
Vince (Wenceslao) González (61)1955 (4/13/1955) LHPWashington SenatorsAmerican League1 (2)
Juan Delís (62)1955 (4/16/1955) Third BaseWashington SenatorsAmerican League1 (54)
Vicente Amor (63)1955 (4/16/1955) RHPChicago CubsNational League2 (13)
Lino Dinoso (64)1955 (6/18/1955) LHPPittsburgh PiratesNational League2 (28)
José (Joe) Valdivielso (65)1955 (6/21/1955) SSWashington SenatorsAmerican League5 (401)
Julio Bécquer (66)1955 (9/13/1955) First BaseWashington SenatorsAmerican League7 (488)
Lázaro (Cholly) Naranjo (67)1956 (7/8/1956) RHPPittsburgh PiratesNational League1 (17)
Chico (Humberto) Fernández (68)1956 (7/14/1956) SSBrooklyn DodgersNational League8 (856)
Evelio Hernández (69)1956 (9/12/1956) RHPWashington SenatorsAmerican League2 (18)
René Valdez (70)1957 (4/21/1957) RHPBrooklyn DodgersNational League1 (5)
Tony (Antonio) Taylor (71)1958 (4/15/1958) InfieldChicago CubsNational League19 (2195)
Panchón (Juan) Herrera (72)1958 (4/15/1958) First BasePhiladelphia PhilliesNational League3 (300)
Fernando (Freddie) Rodríguez (73)1958 (4/18/1958) RHPChicago CubsNational League2 (8)
Osvaldo (Ossie) Alvarez (74)1958 (4/19/1958) InfieldWashington SenatorsAmerican League2 (95)
Daniel (Dan) Morejón (75)1958 (7/11/1958) OutfieldCincinnati RedsNational League1 (12)
Orlando Peña (76)1958 (8/24/1958) RHPCincinnati RedsNational League18 (427)
Rodolfo (Rudy) Arias (77)1959 (4/10/1959) LHPChicago White SoxAmerican League1 (34)
Miguel (Mike) Cuéllar (78)1959 (4/18/1959) LHPCincinnati RedsNational League15 (453)
Zoilo (Zorro) Versalles (79)1959 (8/1/1959) SSWashington SenatorsAmerican League13 (1400)
Tony (Antonio) González (80)1960 (4/12/1960) InfieldCincinnati RedsNational League12 (1559)
Eduardo (Ed) Bauta (81)1960 (7/6/1960) RHPSt. Louis CardinalsNational League5 (97)
Miguel (Mike) de la Hoz (82)1960 (7/22/1960) InfieldCleveland IndiansAmerican League9 (494)
Leo (Leonardo) Cárdenas (83)1960 (7/25/1960) InfieldCincinnati RedsNational League16 (1941)
Joe (Joaquin) Azcue (84)1960 (8/3/1960) InfieldCincinnati RedsNational League11 (909)
Borrego (Rogelio) Alvarez (85)1960 (9/18/1960) First BaseCincinnati RedsNational League2 (17)
Leo (Leopoldo) Posada (86)1960 (9/21/1960) OutfieldKansas City AthleticsAmerican League3 (155)
Héctor Maestri (87)1960 (9/24/1960) RHPWashington SenatorsAmerican League2 (2)
Post-Revolution Period1961-2011    
Berto (Dagoberto) Cueto (88)1961 (6/18/1961) RHPMinnesota TwinsAmerican League1 (7)
Manuel (Manny) Montejo (89)1961 (7/25/1961) RHPDetroit TigersAmerican League1 (12)
Orlando McFarlane (90)1962 (4/3/1962) CatcherPittsburgh PiratesNational League5 (124)
Octavio (Cookie) Rojas (91)1962 (4/10/1962) InfieldCincinnati RedsNational League16 (1822)
José Tartabull (92)1962 (4/10/1962) OutfieldKansas City AthleticsAmerican League9 (749)
Diego Seguí (93)1962 (4/12/1962) RHPKansas City AthleticsAmerican League16 (639)
Marty (Orlando) Martínez (94)1962 (5/2/1962) InfieldMinnesota TwinsAmerican League7 (436)
Héctor (Rodolfo) Martínez (95)1962 (9/3/1962) OutfieldKansas City AthleticsAmerican League2 (7)
Tony (Pedro) Oliva (96)1962 (9/9/1962) OutfieldMinnesota TwinsAmerican League18 (2017)
Tony (Gabriel) Martínez (97)1963 (4/9/1963) InfieldCleveland IndiansAmerican League4 (73)
José Cardenal (98)1963 (4/14/1963) InfieldSan Francisco GiantsNational League18 (2017)
Marcelino López (99)1963 (4/14/1963) LHPPhiladelphia PhilliesNational League8 (171)
Aurelio Monteagudo (100)1963 (9/1/1963) RHPKansas City AthleticsAmerican League7 (72)
Chico (Hiraldo) Ruiz (101)1964 (4/13/1964) InfieldCincinnati RedsNational League8 (565)
Luis Tiant Jr. (102)1964 (7/19/1964) RHPCleveland IndiansAmerican League19 (573)
Dagoberto Campaneris (103)1964 (7/23/1964) InfieldKansas City AthleticsAmerican League20 (2328)
Tony (Atanasio) Pérez (104)1964 (7/26/ 1964) InfieldCincinnati RedsNational League23 (2777)
Sandy (Hilario) Valdespino (105)1965 (4/12/1965) OutfieldMinnesota TwinsAmerican League7 (382)
Tito (Rigoberto) Fuentes (106)1965 (8/18/1965) OutfieldSan Francisco GiantsNational League13 (1499)
Jackie (Jacinto) Hernández (107)1965 (9/14/1965) SSCalifornia AngelsAmerican League9 (618)
Paul (Paulino) Casanova (108)1965 (9/18/1965) CatcherWashington SenatorsAmerican League10 (859)
Minnie (Minervino) Rojas (109)1966 (5/30/1966) RHPCalifornia AngelsAmerican League3 (157)
José Ramón López (110)1966 (8/21/1966) RHPCalifornia AngelsAmerican League1 (4)
Hank (Enrique) Izquierdo (111)1967 (8/9i/1967) CatcherMinnesota TwinsAmerican League1 (16)
George (Jorge) Lauzerique (112)1967 (9/17/1967) RHPKansas City AthleticsAmerican League4 (34)
José Arcia (113)1968 (4/10/1968) InfieldChicago CubsNational League3 (293)
Chico (Lorenzo) Fernández (114)1968 (4/20/1968) InfieldBaltimore OriolesAmerican League1 (24)
José Martínez (115)1969 (6/18/1969) InfieldPittsburgh PiratesNational League2 (96)
Minnie (Berto) Mendoza (116)1970 (4/9/1970) InfieldMinnesota twinsAmerican League1 (16)
Oscar Zamora (117)1974 (6/18/1974) RHPChicago CubsNational League4 (158)
Orlando González (118)1976 (6/7/1976) First BaseCleveland IndiansAmerican League3 (79)
Bobby (Roberto) Ramos (119)1978 (9/26/1978) CatcherMontreal ExposNational League6 (103)
Leo (Leonardo) Sutherland (120)1980 (8/11/1980) OutfieldChicago White SoxAmerican League2 (45)
Bárbaro Garbéy (121)1984 (4/3/1984) OutfieldDetroit TigersAmerican League3 (226)
José Canseco (122)1985 (9/2/1985) OutfieldOakland AthleticsAmerican League17 (1887)
Rafael Palmeiro (123)1986 (9/8/1986) First BaseChicago CubsNational League20 (2831)
Orestes Destrade (124)1987 (9/11/1987) First BaseNew York YankeesAmerican League4 (237)
Nelson Santovenia (125)1987 (9/16/1987) CatcherMontreal ExposNational League7 (297)
Tony (Emilio) Fossas (126)1988 (5/15/1988) LHPTexas RangersAmerican League12 (567)
Israel Sánchez (127)1988 (7/7/1988) LHPKansas City RoyalsAmerican League2(30)
Ozzie Canseco (128)1990 (7/18/1990) OutfieldOakland AthleticsAmerican League3 (24)
Tony Menéndez (129)1992 (6/22/1992) RHPCincinnati RedsNational League3 (23)
René Arocha (130)1993 (4/9/1993) RHPSt. Louis CardinalsNational League5 (124)
Ariel Prieto(131)1995 (7/2/1995) RHPOakland AthleticsAmerican League5 (67)
Rey Ordóñez (132)1996 (4/1/1996) SSNew York MetsNational League9 (973)
Osvaldo Fernández (133)1996 (4/5/1996) RHPSan Francisco GiantsNational League7 (76)
Eisler (Liván) Hernández (134)1996 (9/24/1996) RHPFlorida MarlinsNational League16 (475)
Elieser (Eli) Marrero (135)1997 (9/3/1997) CatcherSt. Louis CardinalsNational League10 (724)
Rolando Arrojo (136)1998 (4/1/1998) RHPTampa Bay RaysAmerican League5 (158)
Orlando (Duque) Hernández (137)1998 (6/3/1998) RHPNew York YankeesAmerican League9 (219)
Vladimir Núñez (138)1998 (9/11/1998) RHPArizona DiamondbacksNational League9 (254)
Michael Tejera (139)1999 (9/8/1999) LHPFlorida MarlinsNational League5 (111)
Jorge Toca (140)1999 (9/12/1999) InfieldNew York MetsNational League3 (25)
Adrian Hernández (141)2001 (4/21/2001) RHPNew York YankeesAmerican League3 (14)
Danys Báez (142)2001 (5/13/2001) RHPCleveland IndiansAmerican League10 (533)
Edilberto (Eddie) Oropeza (143)2001 (4/2/2001) LHPPhiladelphia PhilliesNational League4 (125)
Alex Sánchez (144)2001 (6/15/2001) OutfieldMilwaukee BrewersNational League5 (427)
Bill Ortega (145)2001 (9/7/2001) OutfieldSt. Louis CardinalsNational League1 (5)
Hanzel Izquierdo (146)2002 (4/21/2002) RHPFlorida MarlinsNational League1 (20)
Juan Díaz(147)2002 (6/12/2002) First BaseBoston Red SoxNational League1 (4)
José Ariel Contreras (148)2003 (3/31/2003) RHPNew York YankeesAmerican League10 (275)
Michel Hernández (149)2003 (9/6/2003) CatcherNew York YankeesAmerican League3 (45)
Branyan Peña (150)2005 (5/23/2005) CatcherAtlanta BravesNational League8 (268)
Yuniesky Betancourt (151)2005 (7/8/2005) SSSeattle MarinersAmerican League8 (963)
Kendry Morales (152)2006 (5/23/2006) First BaseAnaheim AngelsAmerican League6 (331)
Yunel Escobar (153)2007 (6/2/2007) SSAtlanta BravesNational League6 (640)
Alexei Ramírez (154)2008 (3/31/2008) InfieldChicago White SoxAmerican League5 (599)
Alberto Castillo (155)2008 (4/28/2008) LHPBaltimore OriolesAmerican League4 (74)
Francisley Bueno (156)2008 (8/13/2008) RHPAtlanta BravesNational League1 (1)
Juan Miranda (157)2008 (9/18/2008) First BaseNew York YankeesAmerican League4 (111)
Bárbaro Cañizares (158)2009 (6/11/2009) InfieldAtlanta BravesNational League1 (5)
Raúl Valdés (159)2010 (4/11/2010) LHPNew York MetsNational League2 (45)
Dayan Viciedo (160)2010 (6/20/2010) InfieldChicago White SoxAmerican League3 (68)
Aroldis Chapman (161)2010 (8/31/2010) LHPCincinnati RedsNational League3 (70)
Yonder Alonso (162)2010 (9/1/2010) OutfieldCincinnati RedsNational League3 (71)
Yunieski Maya (163)2010 (9/7/2010) RHPWashington NationalsNational League2 (11)
José Iglesias (164)2011 (5/8/2011) SSBoston Red SoxAmerican League1 (6)
Amaury Sanit (165)2011 (5/12/2011) RHPNew York YankeesAmerican League1 (4)
Leonys Martin (166)2011 (9/2/2011) OutfieldTexas RangersAmerican League2 (3)
Yoennis Céspedes (167)2012 (3/28/2012) OutfieldOakland AthleticsAmerican League1 (3)

3 thoughts on “Yoennis Céspedes Expands the List of Cuban Big Leaguers to 167 and Counting

  • Regarding Dawn’s comment, I could not agree more. This is precisely why I follow and admire Cuban League baseball much more than the commercial major league version.
    Regarding Michael’s question: Bartolo Portuondo who played in the Cuban professional winter league between 1916 and 1927 was a Black Cuban and thus banned from the North American MLB pro leagues by the racial politics that existed before 1947. He suffered the same fate as Martin Dihigo, Luis Tiant Sr., and other Cuban Black stars of that era. Portuondo did play in North America but in the summer season Negro Leagues. But ironically he also would not have qualified for my list even if he had reached the majors since he was born in Key West. My list includes only Cuban who were actually born in Cuba. Pete Bjarkman

  • Thanks for including the historic chart, from the 19th Century ’til now! Of especial interest since I just finished teaching Ray Kinsalla’s SHOELESS JOE (and comparing/contrasting it with the subsequent, and unsatisfactory, film version, “Field of Dreams.”) By the way, as I looked through this listing I was trying, but couldn’t, find the name of Omara Portuondo’s father, who she said, in “The Buena Vista Social Club,” played in the Northamerican Major Leagues.

  • “earning his hefty 4-year $36 million contract”

    One may get PAID that much, but I do not see how it is possible for one to EARN that much money for playing ball. Meanwhile teachers in the US are struggling to pay their rent. Some messed up priorities right there.

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