International Prospects: the golden era for Cubans in the NPB

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 14: Dayan Viciedo #24 of the Chicago White Sox bats against the Minnesota Twins in the fifth inning of play on September 14, 2014 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 14: Dayan Viciedo #24 of the Chicago White Sox bats against the Minnesota Twins in the fifth inning of play on September 14, 2014 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images) /
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We are in the midst of the golden era for international prospects out of Cuba playing in the NPB. Here’s a deep look at why you should be paying more attention.

HIALEAH,FL-International prospects of Cuban descent have been playing in the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) league for more than four decades. Since the days of Chico Barbon and Tony González, they have made their presence felt in the land of the rising sun.

The flood gates for Cubans opened up when the Cuban National  Series opened its gates to professionalism in 2014. This has resulted, in my opinion, in the beginning of a Golden Era for Cuban baseball in the far east.

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Now, the following I will illustrate how those from the largest of the Antilles has flourished in the orient.

2014

This was the first year Cubans from the Serie Nacional were signed by Japanese league teams. Yuli Gurriel made his professional debut with the DeNa Baystars and in 62 games the slugger hit .305 with 11 dingers and 30 runs batted in, he also slashed .349/.536/.884.

One of the more highly touted international prospects, Alfredo Despaigne also made his debut with the Chiba Lotte Marines. The hit 12 bombs and drove in 33 in 55 games.

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Frederich Cepeda  a little past his prime was playing in his first season in the Nippon circuit with the Yomiuri Giants hit a paltry .194. His teammate that year Leslie Anderson was on his way to an all-star season until he suffered a season-ending injury. During Anderson hit .319, deposited 15 balls in the seats and knocked in 50.

2015

Yoslan Herrera was the grand surprise of that season as a reliever the ex-Major Leaguer compiled in ERA of 2.96 for DeNa. Frederich Cepeda was relegated to the minors for most of the year and Leslie Anderson injured.

Alfredo Despaigne had his worst year in the land of the rising sun hitting .258 with 18 homers and driving in 62 runs in an injury-shortened season with Chiba Lotte.

Yuli Gurriel and his brother Lourdes Jr were both signed by DeNa but didn’t report and eventually defected from Cuba a few months after.

This was arguably the worst year for Cubans in Japan of the era.