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 Ballplayers Debut Dates  Positions Debut Teams Debut Leagues Seasons (Games)
Pre-Twentieth Century 1800s        
Enrique Esteban Bellán (1) 1871 (5/9/1871)  Infield Troy Haymakers National Association 3 (60)
Pre-Revolution Period 1911-1960        
Armando Marsans (2) 1911 (7/4/1911)  Outfield Cincinnati Reds National League 8 (655)
Rafael Almeida (3) 1911 (7/4/1911)  Outfield Cincinnati Reds National League 3 (102)
Miguel (Mike) González (4) 1912 (9/28/1912)  Catcher Boston Braves National League 19 (1042)
Merito (Baldomero) Acosta (5) 1913 (6/15/1913)  Outfield Washington Senators National League 5 (180)
Jacinto (Jack) Calvo (6) 1913 (9/5/1913)  Outfield Washington Senators American League 2 (34)
Angel (Pete) Aragón (7) 1914 (8/20/1914)  Infield New York Yankees American League 3 (32)
Adolfo (Dolf) Luque (8) 1914 (5/20/1914)  RHP Boston Braves National League 20 (550)
Manolo (Manuel) Cueto (9) 1914 (6/25/1914)  Outfield Cincinnati Reds National League 3 (151)
Emilio (Pal) Palmero (10) 1915 (9/21/1915)  RHP New York Giants National League 4 (41)
Joseito Rodríguez (11) 1916 (10/5/1916)  Infield New York Giants National League 5 (58)
Oscar Tuero (12) 1918 (5/30/1918)  RHP St. Louis Cardinals National League 3 (58)
Eusebio González (13) 1918 (7/26/1918)  SS Boston Red Sox American League 1 (3)
Ricardo Torres (14) 1920 (5/18/1920)  Catcher Washington Senators American League 3 (22)
José Acosta (15) 1920 (7/28/1920)  RHP Washington Senators American League 3 (55)
Pedro Dibut (16) 1924 (5/1/1924)  RHP Cincinnati Reds National League 2 (8)
Ramón (Mike) Herrera (17) 1925 (9/22/1925)  Infield Boston Red Sox American League 2 (84)
Oscar Estrada (18) 1929 (4/21/1929)  LHP St. Louis Browns American League 1 (1)
Roberto (Tarzan) Estalella (19) 1935 (9/7/1935)  Outfield Washington Senators American League 8 (680)
Fermín (Mike) Guerra (20) 1937 (9/19/1937)  Catcher Washington Senators American League 9 (565)
René Monteagudo (21) 1938 (9/6/1938)  LHP Washington Senators American League 3 (46)
Gilberto Torres (22) 1940 (4/25/1940)  Infield Washington Senators American League 4 (44)
Jack (Angel) Aragón (23) 1941 (8/13/1941)  Pinch Runner New York Giants National League 1 (1)
Roberto (Bobby) Ortíz (24) 1941 (9/6/1941)  Outfield Washington Senators American League 6 (213)
Chico (Sal) Hernández (25) 1942 (4/16/1942)  Catcher Chicago Cubs National League 2 (90)
Napoleón (Nap) Reyes (26) 1943 (5/19/1943)  Infield New York Giants National League 4 (279)
Mosquito Ordeñana (27) 1943 (10/3/1943)  SS Pittsburgh Pirates National League 1 (1)
Tomás (Tommy) de la Cruz (28) 1944 (4/20/1944)  RHP Cincinnati Reds National League 1 (34)
Santiago (Carlos) Ullrich (29) 1944 (5/3/1944)  RHP Washington Senators American League 2 (31)
Rogelio (Roy) Valdés (30) 1944 (5/3/1944)  Pinch Hitter Washington Senators American League 1 (1)
Preston (Pedro) Gómez (31) 1944 (5/5/1944)  Infield Washington Senators American League 1 (8)
Luis Suarez (32) 1944 (5/28/1944)  Third Base Washington Senators American League 1 (1)
Baby (Oliverio) Ortíz (33) 1944 (9/23/1944)  RHP Washington Senators American League 1 (2)
José Zardón (34) 1945 (4/18/1945)  Outfield Washington Senators American League 1 (54)
Jorge Comellas (35) 1945 (4/19/1945)  RHP Chicago Cubs National League 1 (7)
Armando Roche (36) 1945 (5/10/1945)  RHP Washington Senators American League 1 (2)
Isidoro (Sid) Léon (37) 1945 (6/21/1945)  RHP Philadelphia Phillies National League 1 (14)
Adrian Zabala (38) 1945 (8/11/1945)  LHP New York Giants National League 2 (26)
Regino (Reggie) Otero (39) 1945 (9/2/1945)  First Base Chicago Cubs National League 1 (14)
Moín (Ramón) García (40) 1948 (4/19/1948)  RHP Washington Senators American League 1 (4)
Angel Fleitas (41) 1948 (7/5/1948)  SS Washington Senators American League 1 (15)
Julio (Enríque) González (42) 1949 (8/9/1949)  RHP Washington Senators American League 1 (13)
Orestes (Minnie) Miñoso (43) 1949 (4/9/1949)  Outfield Cleveland Indians American League 17 (1835)
Luis (Witto) Aloma (44) 1950 (4/19/1950)  RHP Washington Senators American League 4 (116)
Conrado (Connie) Marrero (45) 1950 (4/21/1950)  RHP Washington Senators American League 5 (118)
Sandalio (Sandy) Consuegra (46) 1950 (2/2/1950)  RHP Washington Senators American League 8 (248)
Rogelio (Limonar) Martínez (47) 1950 (2/2/1950)  RHP Washington Senators American League 1 (2)
Julio (Jiqui) Moreno (48) 1950 (2/2/1950)  RHP Washington Senators American League 4 (73)
Carlos Pascual (49) 1950 (2/2/1950)  RHP Washington Senators American League 1 (2)
Rafael (Ray) Noble (50) 1951 (2/2/1951)  Catcher New York Giants National League 3 (107)
Willy (Guillermo) Miranda (51) 1951 (5/6/1951)  SS Washington Senators American League 9 (824)
Francisco (Cisco) Campos (52) 1951 (9/11/1951)  Outfield Washington Senators American League 3 (71)
Héctor Rodríguez (53) 1952 (4/15/1952)  Third Base Chicago White Sox American League 1 (124)
Raúl Sánchez (54) 1952 (4/17/1952)  RHP Washington Senators American League 3 (49)
Edmundo (Sandy) Amorós (55) 1952 (8/22/1952)  Outfield Brooklyn Dodgers National League 7 (517)
Miguel (Mike) Fornieles (56) 1952 (9/2/1952)  RHP Washington Senators American League 12 (432)
Camilo Pascual (57) 1954 (4/15/1954)  RHP Washington Senators American League 18 (529)
Carlos Paula (58) 1954 (9/6/1954)  Outfield Washington Senators American League 3 (157)
Pedro (Pete) Ramos (59) 1955 (4/11/1955)  RHP Washington Senators American League 15 (582)
Roman Mejías (60) 1955 (4/13/1955)  Outfield Pittsburgh Pirates National League 9 (627)
Vince (Wenceslao) González (61) 1955 (4/13/1955)  LHP Washington Senators American League 1 (2)
Juan Delís (62) 1955 (4/16/1955)  Third Base Washington Senators American League 1 (54)
Vicente Amor (63) 1955 (4/16/1955)  RHP Chicago Cubs National League 2 (13)
Lino Dinoso (64) 1955 (6/18/1955)  LHP Pittsburgh Pirates National League 2 (28)
José (Joe) Valdivielso (65) 1955 (6/21/1955)  SS Washington Senators American League 5 (401)
Julio Bécquer (66) 1955 (9/13/1955)  First Base Washington Senators American League 7 (488)
Lázaro (Cholly) Naranjo (67) 1956 (7/8/1956)  RHP Pittsburgh Pirates National League 1 (17)
Chico (Humberto) Fernández (68) 1956 (7/14/1956)  SS Brooklyn Dodgers National League 8 (856)
Evelio Hernández (69) 1956 (9/12/1956)  RHP Washington Senators American League 2 (18)
René Valdez (70) 1957 (4/21/1957)  RHP Brooklyn Dodgers National League 1 (5)
Tony (Antonio) Taylor (71) 1958 (4/15/1958)  Infield Chicago Cubs National League 19 (2195)
Panchón (Juan) Herrera (72) 1958 (4/15/1958)  First Base Philadelphia Phillies National League 3 (300)
Fernando (Freddie) Rodríguez (73) 1958 (4/18/1958)  RHP Chicago Cubs National League 2 (8)
Osvaldo (Ossie) Alvarez (74) 1958 (4/19/1958)  Infield Washington Senators American League 2 (95)
Daniel (Dan) Morejón (75) 1958 (7/11/1958)  Outfield Cincinnati Reds National League 1 (12)
Orlando Peña (76) 1958 (8/24/1958)  RHP Cincinnati Reds National League 18 (427)
Rodolfo (Rudy) Arias (77) 1959 (4/10/1959)  LHP Chicago White Sox American League 1 (34)
Miguel (Mike) Cuéllar (78) 1959 (4/18/1959)  LHP Cincinnati Reds National League 15 (453)
Zoilo (Zorro) Versalles (79) 1959 (8/1/1959)  SS Washington Senators American League 13 (1400)
Tony (Antonio) González (80) 1960 (4/12/1960)  Infield Cincinnati Reds National League 12 (1559)
Eduardo (Ed) Bauta (81) 1960 (7/6/1960)  RHP St. Louis Cardinals National League 5 (97)
Miguel (Mike) de la Hoz (82) 1960 (7/22/1960)  Infield Cleveland Indians American League 9 (494)
Leo (Leonardo) Cárdenas (83) 1960 (7/25/1960)  Infield Cincinnati Reds National League 16 (1941)
Joe (Joaquin) Azcue (84) 1960 (8/3/1960)  Infield Cincinnati Reds National League 11 (909)
Borrego (Rogelio) Alvarez (85) 1960 (9/18/1960)  First Base Cincinnati Reds National League 2 (17)
Leo (Leopoldo) Posada (86) 1960 (9/21/1960)  Outfield Kansas City Athletics American League 3 (155)
Héctor Maestri (87) 1960 (9/24/1960)  RHP Washington Senators American League 2 (2)
Post-Revolution Period 1961-2011        
Berto (Dagoberto) Cueto (88) 1961 (6/18/1961)  RHP Minnesota Twins American League 1 (7)
Manuel (Manny) Montejo (89) 1961 (7/25/1961)  RHP Detroit Tigers American League 1 (12)
Orlando McFarlane (90) 1962 (4/3/1962)  Catcher Pittsburgh Pirates National League 5 (124)
Octavio (Cookie) Rojas (91) 1962 (4/10/1962)  Infield Cincinnati Reds National League 16 (1822)
José Tartabull (92) 1962 (4/10/1962)  Outfield Kansas City Athletics American League 9 (749)
Diego Seguí (93) 1962 (4/12/1962)  RHP Kansas City Athletics American League 16 (639)
Marty (Orlando) Martínez (94) 1962 (5/2/1962)  Infield Minnesota Twins American League 7 (436)
Héctor (Rodolfo) Martínez (95) 1962 (9/3/1962)  Outfield Kansas City Athletics American League 2 (7)
Tony (Pedro) Oliva (96) 1962 (9/9/1962)  Outfield Minnesota Twins American League 18 (2017)
Tony (Gabriel) Martínez (97) 1963 (4/9/1963)  Infield Cleveland Indians American League 4 (73)
José Cardenal (98) 1963 (4/14/1963)  Infield San Francisco Giants National League 18 (2017)
Marcelino López (99) 1963 (4/14/1963)  LHP Philadelphia Phillies National League 8 (171)
Aurelio Monteagudo (100) 1963 (9/1/1963)  RHP Kansas City Athletics American League 7 (72)
Chico (Hiraldo) Ruiz (101) 1964 (4/13/1964)  Infield Cincinnati Reds National League 8 (565)
Luis Tiant Jr. (102) 1964 (7/19/1964)  RHP Cleveland Indians American League 19 (573)
Dagoberto Campaneris (103) 1964 (7/23/1964)  Infield Kansas City Athletics American League 20 (2328)
Tony (Atanasio) Pérez (104) 1964 (7/26/ 1964)  Infield Cincinnati Reds National League 23 (2777)
Sandy (Hilario) Valdespino (105) 1965 (4/12/1965)  Outfield Minnesota Twins American League 7 (382)
Tito (Rigoberto) Fuentes (106) 1965 (8/18/1965)  Outfield San Francisco Giants National League 13 (1499)
Jackie (Jacinto) Hernández (107) 1965 (9/14/1965)  SS California Angels American League 9 (618)
Paul (Paulino) Casanova (108) 1965 (9/18/1965)  Catcher Washington Senators American League 10 (859)
Minnie (Minervino) Rojas (109) 1966 (5/30/1966)  RHP California Angels American League 3 (157)
José Ramón López (110) 1966 (8/21/1966)  RHP California Angels American League 1 (4)
Hank (Enrique) Izquierdo (111) 1967 (8/9i/1967)  Catcher Minnesota Twins American League 1 (16)
George (Jorge) Lauzerique (112) 1967 (9/17/1967)  RHP Kansas City Athletics American League 4 (34)
José Arcia (113) 1968 (4/10/1968)  Infield Chicago Cubs National League 3 (293)
Chico (Lorenzo) Fernández (114) 1968 (4/20/1968)  Infield Baltimore Orioles American League 1 (24)
José Martínez (115) 1969 (6/18/1969)  Infield Pittsburgh Pirates National League 2 (96)
Minnie (Berto) Mendoza (116) 1970 (4/9/1970)  Infield Minnesota twins American League 1 (16)
Oscar Zamora (117) 1974 (6/18/1974)  RHP Chicago Cubs National League 4 (158)
Orlando González (118) 1976 (6/7/1976)  First Base Cleveland Indians American League 3 (79)
Bobby (Roberto) Ramos (119) 1978 (9/26/1978)  Catcher Montreal Expos National League 6 (103)
Leo (Leonardo) Sutherland (120) 1980 (8/11/1980)  Outfield Chicago White Sox American League 2 (45)
Bárbaro Garbéy (121) 1984 (4/3/1984)  Outfield Detroit Tigers American League 3 (226)
José Canseco (122) 1985 (9/2/1985)  Outfield Oakland Athletics American League 17 (1887)
Rafael Palmeiro (123) 1986 (9/8/1986)  First Base Chicago Cubs National League 20 (2831)
Orestes Destrade (124) 1987 (9/11/1987)  First Base New York Yankees American League 4 (237)
Nelson Santovenia (125) 1987 (9/16/1987)  Catcher Montreal Expos National League 7 (297)
Tony (Emilio) Fossas (126) 1988 (5/15/1988)  LHP Texas Rangers American League 12 (567)
Israel Sánchez (127) 1988 (7/7/1988)  LHP Kansas City Royals American League 2(30)
Ozzie Canseco (128) 1990 (7/18/1990)  Outfield Oakland Athletics American League 3 (24)
Tony Menéndez (129) 1992 (6/22/1992)  RHP Cincinnati Reds National League 3 (23)
René Arocha (130) 1993 (4/9/1993)  RHP St. Louis Cardinals National League 5 (124)
Ariel Prieto(131) 1995 (7/2/1995)  RHP Oakland Athletics American League 5 (67)
Rey Ordóñez (132) 1996 (4/1/1996)  SS New York Mets National League 9 (973)
Osvaldo Fernández (133) 1996 (4/5/1996)  RHP San Francisco Giants National League 7 (76)
Eisler (Liván) Hernández (134) 1996 (9/24/1996)  RHP Florida Marlins National League 16 (475)
Elieser (Eli) Marrero (135) 1997 (9/3/1997)  Catcher St. Louis Cardinals National League 10 (724)
Rolando Arrojo (136) 1998 (4/1/1998)  RHP Tampa Bay Rays American League 5 (158)
Orlando (Duque) Hernández (137) 1998 (6/3/1998)  RHP New York Yankees American League 9 (219)
Vladimir Núñez (138) 1998 (9/11/1998)  RHP Arizona Diamondbacks National League 9 (254)
Michael Tejera (139) 1999 (9/8/1999)  LHP Florida Marlins National League 5 (111)
Jorge Toca (140) 1999 (9/12/1999)  Infield New York Mets National League 3 (25)
Adrian Hernández (141) 2001 (4/21/2001)  RHP New York Yankees American League 3 (14)
Danys Báez (142) 2001 (5/13/2001)  RHP Cleveland Indians American League 10 (533)
Edilberto (Eddie) Oropeza (143) 2001 (4/2/2001)  LHP Philadelphia Phillies National League 4 (125)
Alex Sánchez (144) 2001 (6/15/2001)  Outfield Milwaukee Brewers National League 5 (427)
Bill Ortega (145) 2001 (9/7/2001)  Outfield St. Louis Cardinals National League 1 (5)
Hanzel Izquierdo (146) 2002 (4/21/2002)  RHP Florida Marlins National League 1 (20)
Juan Díaz(147) 2002 (6/12/2002)  First Base Boston Red Sox National League 1 (4)
José Ariel Contreras (148) 2003 (3/31/2003)  RHP New York Yankees American League 10 (275)
Michel Hernández (149) 2003 (9/6/2003)  Catcher New York Yankees American League 3 (45)
Branyan Peña (150) 2005 (5/23/2005)  Catcher Atlanta Braves National League 8 (268)
Yuniesky Betancourt (151) 2005 (7/8/2005)  SS Seattle Mariners American League 8 (963)
Kendry Morales (152) 2006 (5/23/2006)  First Base Anaheim Angels American League 6 (331)
Yunel Escobar (153) 2007 (6/2/2007)  SS Atlanta Braves National League 6 (640)
Alexei Ramírez (154) 2008 (3/31/2008)  Infield Chicago White Sox American League 5 (599)
Alberto Castillo (155) 2008 (4/28/2008)  LHP Baltimore Orioles American League 4 (74)
Francisley Bueno (156) 2008 (8/13/2008)  RHP Atlanta Braves National League 1 (1)
Juan Miranda (157) 2008 (9/18/2008)  First Base New York Yankees American League 4 (111)
Bárbaro Cañizares (158) 2009 (6/11/2009)  Infield Atlanta Braves National League 1 (5)
Raúl Valdés (159) 2010 (4/11/2010)  LHP New York Mets National League 2 (45)
Dayan Viciedo (160) 2010 (6/20/2010)  Infield Chicago White Sox American League 3 (68)
Aroldis Chapman (161) 2010 (8/31/2010)  LHP Cincinnati Reds National League 3 (70)
Yonder Alonso (162) 2010 (9/1/2010)  Outfield Cincinnati Reds National League 3 (71)
Yunieski Maya (163) 2010 (9/7/2010)  RHP Washington Nationals National League 2 (11)
José Iglesias (164) 2011 (5/8/2011)  SS Boston Red Sox American League 1 (6)
Amaury Sanit (165) 2011 (5/12/2011)  RHP New York Yankees American League 1 (4)
Leonys Martin (166) 2011 (9/2/2011)  Outfield Texas Rangers American League 2 (3)
Yoennis Céspedes (167) 2012 (3/28/2012)  Outfield Oakland Athletics American League 1 (3)


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

  • “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.

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
  • 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.

    Reply

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