Cesar Prieto defects minutes after reaching the US (+interview from our book)

Photo: (Phil Selig)

By Yusseff Díaz

César Prieto is one of the most sought after prospects on the Cuban National Team. The slick fielding opportune hitting second baseman has drawn comparisons to Robert Alomar. Only a few hours after arriving in South Florida the infielder defected from a West Palm Beach luxury hotel.

The young star was upset about having to play with the Cuban team in the qualifier and losing his contract in México with the Olmecas de Tabasco, so he decided to look for a better future in the best baseball in the world.

Next I leave you our interview with César Prieto from Pelota Cubana’s book “Cuban Baseball and my Love for the Game.”

I recently caught up with one of the most highly regarded international prospects, Cesar Prieto, as he awaits the world to return to normal to take the next step in his career. Prieto will be showcasing his talents in the Olympic qualifying tournament starting on May 31 at 1pm against Venezuela.

Since he premiered in Cuba’s juvenile leagues, one of the most highly touted international prospects Cesar Prieto was marked for stardom. The second baseman had a coming-out party at the 2017 U-18 world championship when he slashed .581/.606/.646 for the Cuban National Team.

That same year he made his debut in the Serie Nacional with Cienfuegos but only hit .058 in 17 AB, but still kept his rookie status. The following season he took the Cuban League by storm hitting .379 in the first half for the Elephants and then was picked up by Villa Clara in the second half of the tournament.

With the Sugar Farmers, he hit .335 and led them to the league final where they lost in six games. In 2018 he was elected rookie of the year in Cuba when he broke Kendrys Morales’s rookie record for hit by 20 when he swatted 134 base knocks.

In 2019 he hit .358 in the second half of the season in Cuba with Matanzas when he was chosen to reinforce the Crocodiles and led them to their first championship in team history. Cesar Prieto put the world on notice of his talents when he hit .438 in the disappointing Pan-Am games for Cuba.

That effort caught the eye of the Tabasco Olmecas of the Mexican League and the team signed Cesar Prieto. Now, one of the highly regarded international prospects will take the field with the team as soon as he’s done with the Cuban National Team in the Olympic qualifying tournament in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Photo (Yuhki Ohboshi): Prieto is Cuba’s top prospect since Óscar Luis Colás left the island.

How have you stayed in shape while in quarantine?

I have a playing field behind my house and I train there with my father, who is a former player.

Tell me something you learned in last year’s friendship series against the United States collegiate team?

During that series, we faced a lot of future big leaguers. By watching them I learned a lot of how to conduct myself as a professional player on and off the field. These young men give you a lot of insight into the world of a future professional.

You signed your first professional contract this off-season and will be playing for a team outside of Cuba for the first time ever.What are your expectations for the season when it resumes?

Playing in Mexico is the opportunity of a lifetime for me. Like you said it will be my first time playing a full season outside of Cuba and I will have to be in my best shape possible because I will be facing the best pitching, I have faced in my playing career.

How have you prepared for the Mexican League?

I’ve prepared at home like I told you earlier and have added some muscle mass with the exercise regimen I have incorporated into my workouts. I need to be in the best shape possible, especially because the season in Mexico is a long and tiring one.

You were the rookie of the year and are a National Team member now, what other goals do you have for this year?

My goal is to always get better, in the future I would definitely like to make my way to the Nippon League. I think being able to play in Mexico will serve as a stepping stone to achieve my goal, especially if I perform well. I have to keep performing well wherever I play, and like that, I will be able to make a name for myself.


What responsibilities come with being the leadoff hitter for team Cuba?

It’s a great responsibility because I have to set the table for the team and be on base for the meat of the order. I have to be very disciplined at the plate because I have to set the tone for the rest of the order.

Would you like for Cuba and MLB to revisit their now-defunct agreement?

I wish they could come to an agreement all over again because it would be the best possible scenario for the players on the island and for the baseball world. It would open up a plethora of opportunities for the Cuban baseball player and open up new talent for MLB.

Could you be a good big-league player if given the chance?

I believe I could be a good player and would love to one day have that chance. One has to have ambition in life and want to better oneself, being able to play in the best baseball league in the world always the ultimate goal. I want to always get better and be a better player.

What player do you admire the most? 

I admire two, one is my father and although he wasn’t the best player I enjoyed watching him play and the second person I admire is Frederich Cepeda. He is like a father to me and in the future, I would like to be like him as a person and a player.

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