Cuba Baseball League Announces 2014 National Series Award Winners

Peter C. Bjarkman*

YTorresMVPHAVANA TIMES — On the eve of the final stage of the National Series playoffs unfolding in Matanzas, the Cuban Baseball Federation has announced this year’s individual ballplayer award winners, and prime pennant challenger Pinar del Río has already proven to be the biggest winner.

A top tandem of star Vegueros hurlers have walked off with the two most impressive trophies, and with the Green Tsunami club now one victory away from garnering their tenth league title (Industriales still leads the pack with twelve), recently returned veteran manager Alfonso Urquiola may soon be adding to the clean sweep with highly likely Manager of the Year plaudits.

Coming off a brilliant 15-3 (1.78 ERA) performance, ten-year veteran right-hander Yosvani Torres edged transplanted Industriales third sacker Yulieski Gourriel and Matanzas outfielder Yadiel Hernández for the prestigious Most Valuable Player trophy. And by posting a strong showing out of Urquiola’s bullpen (5-5, with 24 relief appearances and 5 saves), Vladimir Gutierrez also walked off with Rookie of the Year honors.

Also announced yesterday in Havana were the top offensive and defensive all-star squads, with four ballplayers (indicated in boldface type below) being tapped on both honorary squads. The position-by-position defensive nominees stand as the equivalent to Major League Baseball’s designated Gold Glove winners.

National Series #53 Offensive All-Stars

Catcher: Yulexis La Rosa (Villa Clara); First Base: William Saavedra (Pinar del Río); Second Base: José Miguel Fernández (Matanzas); Third Base: Yulieski Gourriel (Industriales); Shortstop: Alexander Ayala (Camagüey, Artemisa); Outfielders: Maikel Cáceres (Holguín), Roel Santos (Granma, Pinar del Río), Yadiel Hernández (Matanzas); Designated Hitter: Frederich Cepeda (Sancti Spíritus, Artemisa); Utility Player: Raúl González (Ciego de Avila); RHP: Yosvani Torres (Pinar del Rio); LHP: Yoanni Yera (Matanzas); Relief Pitcher: José Angel García (Artemisa)

National Series #53 Defensive All-Stars (Gold Gloves)

Catcher: Frank Camilo Morejón (Industriales); First Base: Ramón Lunar (Villa Clara); Second Base: Andy Sarduy (Villa Clara); Third Base: Yulieski Gourriel (Industriales); Shortstop: Angel Miguel Fernández (Isla de la Juventud); Outfielders: Maikel Cáceres (Holguín), Victor Victor Mesa (Matanzas), Yadiel Hernández (Matanzas); Pitcher: Yoanni Yera (Matanzas)

VladimirGutierrezROYThere are several interesting footnotes to this year’s league individual awards. By running second for the top MVP honor, Yulieski Gourriel narrowly missed out on the chance to join Omar Linares, Wilfredo Sánchez and Alfredo Despaigne as the only trio of three-time winners.

Transfered to the Havana Industriales squad only this season, Gourriel also stood to become the first ever to garner MVP distinctions with two different ball clubs, a phenomenon made possible only last year with a new split-season format that allows for reinforcement players during the campaign’s second half championship round.

Also noteworthy is the fact that a pitcher has garnered the honor for the second year running, the first time this has happened in more than a decade. ROY honors have now also been awarded to hurlers for four straight campaigns. This seems something of an intriguing anomaly, given a widespread view that the Cuban League has been evolving over the past decade into an acknowledged “hitters’ circuit” stripped of young pitching talent.

The current MVP and ROY trends seem to undercut so much moaning on the island concerning the overall quality of league pitching (and thus national team hurling) and to run counter to a universal accord that the pitching art has been very much on the decline of late.

Cuban NATIONAL SERIES MVPs (1962-2014)

1962­­­­-62 (NS#1) Edwin Walters (Occidentales) Outfielder
1962-63 (NS#2) Modesto Verdura (Azucareros) Pitcher
1963-64 (NS#3) Pedro Cháves (Occidentales) Outfielder (First Baseman)
1964-65 (NS#4) Urbano González (Industriales) Second Baseman
1965-66 (NS#5) Lino Betancourt (Henequeneros) First Baseman
1966-67 (NS#6) Pedro Cháves (Industriales) Outfielder (First Baseman)
1967-68 (NS#7) Eulogio Osorio (Habana) Outfielder
1968-69 (NS#8) Wilfredo Sanchez (Henequeneros) Outfielder
1969-70 (NS#9) Wilfredo Sánchez (Henequeneros) Outfielder
1970-71 (NS#10) Antonio Jiménez (Industriales) Pitcher
1971-72 (NS#11) Agustín Marquetti (Industriales) First Baseman
1972-73 (NS#12) Armando Capiró (Habana) Outfielder
1973-74 (NS#13) Antonio Múñoz (Azucareros) First Baseman
1974-75 (NS#14) Wilfredo Ruíz (Agricultores) Pitcher
1975-76 (NS#15) Omar Carrero (Ganaderos) Pitcher
1976-77 (NS#16) Isídro Pérez (Azucareros) Pitcher
1977-78 (NS#17) Fernando Sánchez (Henequeneros) Outfielder
1978-79 (NS#18) Wilfredo Sánchez (Citricultores) Outfielder
1979-80 (NS#19) Pedro José Rodríguez (Cienfuegos) Third Baseman
1980-81 (NS#20) Rogelio García (Vegueros) Pitcher
1981-82 (NS#21) Fernando Hernández (Vegueros) Outfielder
1982-83 (NS#22) Lázaro Junco (Citricultores) Outfielder
1983-84 (NS#23) Luis Giraldo Casanova (Vegueros) Outfielder
1984-85 (NS#24) Omar Linares (Vegueros) Third Baseman
1985-86 (NS#25) Lázaro Vargas (Industriales) Third Baseman
1986-87 (NS#26) Javier Méndez (Industriales) Outfielder
1987-88 (NS#27) Pedro Luis Rodríguez (Habana) Catcher
1988-89 (NS#28) Orestes Kindelán (Santiago de Cuba) Outfielder (Catcher)
1989-90 (NS#29) Omar Linares (Vegueros) Third Baseman
1990-91 (NS#30) Lázaro Madera (Vegueros) Outfielder
1991-92 (NS#31) Jorge Luis Valdés (Henequeneros) Pitcher
1992-93 (NS#32) Omar Linares (Pinar del Río) Third Baseman
1993-94 (NS#33) Lourdes Gourriel (Sancti Spíritus) First Baseman (Outfielder)
1994-95 (NS#34) Amado Zamora (Villa Clara) Outfielder
1995-96 (NS#35) Jorge Fumero (Industriales) Pitcher
1996-97 (NS#36) José Estrada (Matanzas) Outfielder
1997-98 (NS#37) Oscar Machado (Villa Clara) Outfielder
1998-99 (NS#38) Michel Enríquez (Isla de la Juventud) Third Baseman
1999-00 (NS#39) Norge Luis Vera (Santiago de Cuba) Pitcher
2000-01 (NS#40) Maels Rodríguez (Sancti Spíritus) Pitcher
2001-02 (NS#41) Michel Abreu (Matanzas) First Baseman
2002-03 (NS#42) Javier Méndez (Industriales) Outfielder
2003-04 (NS#43) Osmani Urrutia (Las Tunas) Outfielder
2004-05 (NS#44) Yulieski Gourriel (Sancti Spíritus) Infielder
2005-06 (NS#45) Yulieski Gourriel (Sancti Spíritus) Infielder
2006-07 (NS#46) Osmani Urrutia (Las Tunas) Outfielder
2007-08 (NS#47) Alexei Bell (Santiago de Cuba) Outfielder
2008-09 (NS#48) Alfredo Despaigne (Granma) Outfielder
2009-10 (NS#49) Alfredo Despaigne (Granma) Outfielder
2010-11 (NS#50) José Dariel Abreu (Cienfuegos) First Baseman
2011-12 (NS#51) Alfredo Despaigne (Granma) Outfielder
2012-13 (NS#52) Freddy Asiel Alvarez (Villa Clara) Pitcher
2013-14 (NS#53) Yosvani Torres (Pinar del Río) Pitcher

MVP Data Summary

Multiple Year MVP Winners: Alfredo Despaigne 3 (2009, 2010, 2012); Omar Linares 3 (1985, 1990, 1993); Wilfredo Sánchez 3 (1969, 1970, 1979); Yulieski Gourriel 2 (2005, 2006); Osmani Urrutia 2 (2004, 2007); Javier Méndez 2 (1987, 2003); Pedro Chávez 2 (1964, 1967)

Consecutive-Year MVP Winners: Alfredo Despaigne (2009, 2010); Yulieski Gourriel (2005, 2006); Wilfredo Sánchez (1969, 1970)

MVP Winners by Playing Position: Outfielders (25), Infielders (15), Pitchers (12), Catchers (1) (#Main position only considered)

MVP Winners by Ball Club: Industriales (8), Vegueros (6), Henequeneros (5), Sancti Spíritus (4), Santiago de Cuba (3), Azucareros (3), Habana Province (3), Villa Clara (3), Granma (3), Las Tunas (2), Matanzas (2), Occidentales (2), Citricultores (2), Pinar del Río (2), Cienfuegos (2), Agricultores (1), Ganaderos (1), Isla de la Juventud (1)

Double Winners of MVP and Rookie-of-the-Year Honors: Lourdes Gourriel (1977 ROY, 1994 MVP); Pedro José Rodríguez (1974 ROY, 1980 MVP); Michel Abreu (1997 ROY, 2002 MVP)

Cuban NATIONAL SERIES ROYs (1967-2014)

1962-62 (NS#1) Not Awarded
1962-63 (NS#2) Not Awarded
1963-64 (NS#3) Not Awarded
1964-65 (NS#4) Not Awarded
1965-66 (NS#5) Not Awarded
1966-67 (NS#6) Arturo Linares (Habana) Outfielder
1967-68 (NS#7) Rodolfo Puentes (Habana) Infielder
1968-69 (NS#8) Armando Sánchez (Henequeneros) Outfielder
1969-70 (NS#9) None Selected
1970-71 (NS#10) Heriberto Arboláez (Las Villas) Infielder
1971-72 (NS#11) Pedro Jova (Azucareros) Infielder
1972-73 (NS#12) Roberto Ramos (Azucareros) Pitcher
1973-74 (NS#13) Pedro José Rodríguez (Azucareros) Third Baseman
1974-75 (NS#14) Eduardo Terry (Citricultores) Pitcher
1975-76 (NS#15) Eladio Iglesias (Pitcher)
1976-77 (NS#16) Lourdes Gourriel (Sancti Spíritus) Outfielder
1977-78 (NS#17) José Riveira (Villa Clara) Pitcher
1978-79 (NS#18) Alejo O’Reilly (Villa Clara) Outfielder
1979-80 (NS#19) Reinaldo López (Pitcher)
1980-81 (NS#20) Rolando Verde (Industriales) Third Baseman
1981-82 (NS#21) Jorge Millan (Habana) First Baseman
1982-83 (NS#22) Rafael Gómez Mena (Metropolitanos) Pitcher
1983-84 (NS#23) Rolando Arrojo (Villa Clara) Pitcher
1984-85 (NS#24) Eddy Rojas (Villa Clara) First Baseman (Outfielder)
1985-86 (NS#25) Buenafé Nápoles (Camagüey) Pitcher
1986-87 (NS#26) Alexis Cabrejas (Industriales) Outfielder
(T) 1987-88 (NS#27) Alexander Ramos (Isla de la Juventud) Infielder
(T) 1987-88 (NS#27) Teofilo Pérez (Camagüey) Pitcher
(T) 1988-89 (NS#28) Idalberto Castillo (Granma) Pitcher
(T) 1988-89 (NS#28) Deisy Lomba (Cienfuegos) Pitcher
1989-90 (NS#29) Rubén Rodríguez (Santiago de Cuba) Pitcher
1990-91 (NS#30) José Lamarque (Holguín) Outfielder
(T) 1991-92 (NS#31) René Espin (Metropolitanos) Pitcher
(T) 1991-92 (NS#31) Jorge Díaz Olano (Villa Clara) Infielder
1992-93 (NS#32) Vaisel Acosta (Matanzas) Outfielder
1993-94 (NS#33) Reinier Capote (Pinar del Río) Shortstop
1994-95 (NS#34) Larry Rodríguez (Habana Province) Pitcher
1995-96 (NS#35) Eriel Sanchez (Sancti Spíritus) Catcher
(T) 1996-97 (NS#36) Maikel Quintero (Industriales) Pitcher
(T) 1996-97 (NS#36) Michel Abreu (Matanzas) First Baseman
(T) 1997-98 (NS#37) Yasser Gómez (Metros) Outfielder)
(T) 1997-98 (NS#37) Ismael Cortina (Pinar del Río) Pitcher
1998-99 (NS#38) Norlis Concepción (Pinar del Río)
1999-00 (NS#39) Yoandry Urgellés (Industriales) Outfielder
2000-01 (NS#40) Pedro José Rodríguez, Jr. (Cienfuegos)
2001-02 (NS#41) Kendry Morales (Industriales) Infielder
2002-03 (NS#42) Yordanis Samón (Granma)
2003-04 (NS#43) Frank Montieth (Industriales) Pitcher
2004-05 (NS#44) Yadier Pedroso (Habana Province) Pitcher
2005-06 (NS#45) Alberto Soto (Granma) Pitcher
2006-07 (NS#46) Raiko Olivares (Industriales) Infielder
2007-08 (NS#47) Yosvany Pérez (Villa Clara) Pitcher
2008-09 (NS#48) Michel Gorgüet (Guantánamo) Infielder
2009-10 (NS#49) Yusef Amado (Metropolitanos) Outfielder
2010-11 (NS#50) Gerardo Concepción (Industriales) Pitcher
2011-12 (NS#51) Carlos Juan Viera (Las Tunas) Pitcher
2012-13 (NS#52) Norge Luis Ruiz (Camagüey, Sancti Spíritus) Pitcher
2013-14 (NS#53) Vladimir Gutierrez (Pinar del Río) Pitcher

Cuban NATIONAL SERIES Post-Season MVPs (1998-2014)

While the Cuban Baseball Federation has never published any “official” list of MVP Awards for post-season play, Havana’s Radio COCO has in more recent years provided its own “unofficial” listing of MVPs for all post-season series since 1998 (National Series #37). Cuba did not hold round-robin post-season playoffs until 1986 (National Series #25).

1997-98 (NS#37) José Contreras (Pinar del Río) Pitcher
1998-99 (NS#38) Norge Luis Vera (Santiago de Cuba) Pitcher
1999-00 (NS#39) Fausto Alvarez (Santiago de Cuba) Outfielder
2000-01 (NS#40) Norge Luis Vera (Santiago de Cuba) Pitcher
2001-02 (NS#41) Oscar Gil (Holguín) Pitcher
2002-03 (NS#42) Antonio Scull (Industriales) First Baseman
2003-04 (NS#43) Enríque Díaz (Industriales) Second Baseman
2004-05 (NS#44) Ormari Romero (Santiago de Cuba) Pitcher
2005-06 (NS#45) Alexander Mayeta (Industriales) First Baseman
2006-07 (NS#46) Alexei Bell (Santiago de Cuba) Outfielder
2007-08 (NS#47) Rolando Meriño (Santiago de Cuba) Catcher
2008-09 (NS#48) Miguel Alfredo González (Habana Province) Pitcher
2009-10 (NS#49) Alexander Malleta (Industriales) First Baseman
2010-11 (NS#50) Yosvani Torres (Pinar del Rio) Pitcher
2011-12 (NS#51) Vladimir García (Ciego de Avila) Pitcher
2012-13 (NS#52) Freddy Asiel Alvarez (Villa Clara) Pitcher
2013-14 (NS#53) Not Yet Announced

(*) PETER C. BJARKMAN is a widely recognized authority on Cuban baseball past and present, an avid collector of Cuban game-worn uniforms, and a frequent visitor to the island nation. His work as a “Cuban baseball insider” has been featured on Anthony Bourdain’s Travel Channel episode of “No Reservations Cuba” (2011) and also with a 2010 front page profile story in the Wall Street Journal. He is the Senior Baseball Writer for, the leading Cuban League website.