Team Cuba is gearing up for the 2023 World Baseball Classic, and there are some exciting players on its roster who have either made a name for themselves in the Major Leagues or are in the process of doing so.
Here is a position-by-position breakdown of Team Cuba. Within each position, players are listed in alphabetical order, with any affiliation to an MLB organization noted in parentheses.
Catchers: Ariel Martínez Marrero, Andrys Pérez Garcia, Lorenzo Quintana Fernández
Martínez spent the past three seasons in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, playing for the Chunichi Dragons. In 97 games last year, he hit .277/.354/.429 with nine home runs.
Infielders: Erisbel Arruebarrena, Dayan Garcia Ortega, Yurisbel Gracial Garcia, Andy Ibáñez (Tigers), Luis Vicente Mateo Terry, Yoán Moncada (White Sox), Yadil Orestes Mujica Diaz
Moncada is still trying to rediscover his 2019 form at the plate -- he hit .315/.367/.548 with 25 homers for the White Sox that season. Last year, he had an OPS of .626 in 433 plate appearances.
Ibáñez hit .218 in 40 games for the Rangers last season before being placed on waivers and claimed by the Tigers. Gracial has spent the past five seasons with NPB’s Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, and prior to that, he had played in the Cuban National Series since 2009. He posted a .717 OPS with seven homers in 105 games for the Hawks in ’22.
Outfielders: Yoenis Céspedes, Alfredo Despaigne Rodriguez, Yadir Drake Dominguez, Yoelquis Guibert Steven, Luis Robert (White Sox), Roel Santos Martinez
The headliners among Cuba’s outfielders for the WBC are Céspedes and Robert. Céspedes, 37, last played in the Majors in 2020, and over a seven-year MLB career, he posted an .824 OPS with 165 home runs. He was runner-up for the 2012 AL Rookie of the Year Award and was an All-Star in 2014 and ’16. He also won the Home Run Derby twice, as well as a Gold Glove Award in ’15.
Robert was the runner-up in the AL Rookie of the Year vote in 2020, when he also won a Gold Glove Award. Though he’s been held back by injuries early in his career, he has an .808 OPS with 36 homers in 222 big league games.
Pitchers: Frank Abel Alvarez Diaz, Ronald Bolaños (Royals), Naykel Yoel Cruz Saldivar^, Roenis Elías (Cubs)^, Onelki Garcia^, Elian Leyva Delgado, Raidel Martinez Perez, Livan Moinello Pita^, Yeudis Reyes Gamboa, Jose Rodriguez Menendez, Yariel Rodriguez Yordi, Miguel Romero (A’s), Carlos Juan Viera Alvarez, Yoennis Yera Montalvo^
Cuba will have three current Major League-affiliated pitchers for the WBC -- Bolaños, Elías and Romero. Bolaños has pitched in 18 Major League games, five for the Padres when he made his big league debut in 2019, and 13 over the past three seasons with Kansas City. He gave up nine runs over 18 1/3 innings for the Royals last year, walking 12 and striking out 12. In 28 appearances for Triple-A Omaha in ’22, he posted a 6.26 ERA.
Elías has seven seasons of Major League experience. He gave up three runs over 7 2/3 innings for the Mariners last year and had a 5.12 ERA over 37 outings for Triple-A Tacoma in 2022.
Romero made 38 relief appearances for Oakland’s Triple-A club in Las Vegas last season, posting an 7.76 ERA.
^ Denotes left-handed pitcher