Three Cubans who made it to the big leagues without going through the minors

Photo (Web Screen Shot): Yoenis Céspedes was highly sought after by many MLB teams after his defections.

By Yusseff Díaz

Its not often that a big leaguer can enter the bigs without a stint in the Minors. These three Cuban MLB players defied the odds and did just that.

Alexei RamirezYoenis Céspedes, and Jose Abreu will always be etched in Cuban baseball history not only for their performance on the field, but they are also the only three Cuban MLB players to defect and reach the bigs without having to go through the minors.

This is something that is very noteworthy considering the amount of talent that has left the island in the last 10 years since the flood gates for defections opened up following the 2006 World Baseball Classic.

This is something that is very noteworthy considering the amount of talent that has left the island in the last 10 years since the flood gates for defections opened up following the 2006 World Baseball Classic.

The three MLB players coincidentally shared the field at the 2014 all-star game in Minnesota.

Photo (Web Screen Shot): Alexei Ramírez has a splendid rookie season in 2008.

Alexei Ramírez (The Cuban Missle)

Ramirez was one of the first players to leave Cuba following the ‘06 WBC, but he left via a marriage visa to the Dominican Republic, but once there he decided to apply for MLB free agency.

On December 21, 2007, he signed a four-year contract with the Chicago Whitesox. In 2008 the native of Pinar del Rio, Cuba made the Southsiders opening day roster by winning a job straight out of Spring Training.

The infielder was a hit with the ball club that season collecting his first hit on April 2nd of that year and he smashed his first home run off Giants reliever Billy Sadler on May 16th. He set a major league rookie record with four grand slams that season and hit .290 with 21 dingers and 77 runs knocked in. He was the eventual runner up for the AL rookie of the year that season.

In his career, Ramirez was a two-time silver slugger winner, one-time all-star, and hit .270 during his time on the grand stage. He also had over a thousand hits and 100 round-trippers.

Yoenis Céspedes (La Potencia) 

Yoenis Céspedes is known to fans on the island as “The Potency” (La Potencia), because of his potential for making the explosive play at any time and from anywhere on the field.

This five-tool outfielder announced himself to the world in the 2009 World Baseball Classic when he slashed .458/.480/1.000 belted three triples, two homers, and drove in five runs.

The native of Campechuela, Cuba defected in 2011 from the island and established residency in 2012 in the Dominican Republic. He eventually signed a 4 year 36 million dollar contract with the Oakland A’s. The outfielder made his major league debut March 28 of 2012 and went 1-3 in the season-opening Japan Series against the Mariners. The following day he hit his first homer in the pro’s, a two-run bomb off Shawn Kelley.

During his first season, the Cuban flashed an array of skills, and although he hit .292 with 23 dingers and 82 RBI’s he was the runner up to the AL rookie of the year in 2012 to Mike Trout. His best season in the big leagues so far was 2015 with the Mets when he homered 35 times and drove in 105 runs.

In his career, he as hit 165 bombs and knocked in 528, while winning a gold glove and a silver slugger. At 34 years of age, the slugger’s career might be over after he didn’t receive any offer from any professional team.

Photo (Web Screen Shot): José Abreu who is the reigning AL MVP has a shot at making the Hall of Fame at the end of his career.

Jose Abreu (Pito)

Abreu first gained notoriety in 2013 WBC where he hit .383, went yard three times, and drove in nine as the first baseman for the Cuban team. Later that year the slugger decided to defect from the island and try his hand in professional baseball. He established residency in August of 2013 and signed a 6 year 68 million dollar contract with the Whitesox that September.

Abreu made the team out of Spring Training and on March 31, 2014, he collected his first MLB hit against Minnesota. On April 8th of that year, he hit his first two home runs in the majors at Colorado.

In 2014, his first season with the Whitesox the first baseman was selected to the all-star team and destroyed MLB pitching to the tune of a .317 batting average that was accompanied by 36 long balls and 107 runs knocked in.

He would eventually be named AL rookie of the year that season and the AL MVP last season. During his time in “the windy city,” he has hit .291, gone yard 210 times, and driven in 724. He has also been named an all-star three times,  won three silver sluggers, and led the AL in runs batted in 2019 and 2020.

When all is said and done Abreu might just be the best hitter to come out of the Serie Nacional since Kendrys Morales and has an outside shot at being named to the Hall of Fame.


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