Top Cuban baseball players at home and in US
HAVANA (AP) — Baseball is as much a national pastime in Cuba as in the United States, and the source of much-coveted talent. Here’s a look at five who are thriving in Major League Baseball, and five others currently starring in the Caribbean nation’s domestic series.
— Yasiel Puig, 22, Dodgers. Batting .324 with 19 home runs this year. Helped spark Los Angeles to the NL West title. Defected in 2012. Contract: seven years, $42 million.
— Aroldis Chapman, 25, Reds. Fireballing reliever from Holguin, Cuba, has thrown the fastest pitch on record at 105 mph. Saved 38 games for Cincinnati this season. Defected in 2009. Contract: six years, $30.25 million.
— Yoenis Cespedes, 27, Athletics. Outfielder hammered 26 homers and 80 RBIs this season, and wowed fans with towering drives to the upper deck in winning the 2013 Home Run Derby. Defected in 2011. Contract: four years, $36 million.
— Jose Fernandez, 21, Marlins. Posted a 12-6 record as a starter for Miami this year, with a 2.19 ERA. A popular pick in Rookie of the Year discussions. Defected in 2008 while still in high school. Contract: one year, $490,000.
— Jose Iglesias, 23, Tigers. Havana-born shortstop hitting .310 in Detroit this year, though he’s known more for his smooth fielding. Defected in 2008. Contract: four years, $14.24 million.
Cuban National Series:
— Jose Miguel Fernandez, 24, Matanzas. Second baseman led the league in hitting last season with an eye-popping .393 average.
— Frederich Cepeda, 31, Sancti Spiritus. Outfielder is a switch-hitting terror who went .357 at the plate last season.
— Alfredo Desapaigne, 24, Granma. Outfielder was tops in home runs with 36 on the year, and hit .345.
— Yasmani Tomas, 22, Industriales. Also posted a .345 batting average as an outfielder for his Havana powerhouse club.
— Ismel Jimenez, 26, Sancti Spiritus. Starting pitcher who didn’t lose a game all season, ending with a 9-0 record. Cuba’s reigning strike-out king after fanning 60.