There won’t be much Cuban action in the independent circuits this season. Between the three major independent leagues ( Frontier League, American Association and Atlantic League) their are seven players of Cuban heritage combined.
Cuban-American Ray Hernández will make his debut in the in the Atlantic League this year , while Cuban-Americans JC, Escarra and Willie Abreu will see action in the American Association. Daniel Pérez from Cienfuegos, who will also play in the AA, will be one of only three representative born on the island to grace the diamonds of the independent circuits.
Hernandez will play this season with the Gastonia Honey Hunters. Last season, the third baseman played for the New York Boulders of the Frontier League. With the New York team, the former Atlanta Braves prospect hit .278 with four homers and 26 RBIs.
In the American Association JC Escarra will return with the Kansas City Monarchs. The Cuban-American last season hit .291 with 12 home runs and 35 RBIs with the historic ball club. The Hialeah native is coming off a winter season with the Leones de Ponce where he was named to the LBPRC All-Star Game.
The Miami born Abreu was also a key hitter for Kansas City last season, hitting 13 home runs and driving in 44 runs in 60 games. The outfielder who had a .313 average last season, but this year he will play with the Sioux Falls Canaries.
Pérez, who was a prized prospect during his time in Cuba, will make his debut in a professional league with the Sioux City Explorers. In his seven seasons with the Elephants of Cienfuegos in the National Series hit a robust .306 and drove in 143 runs.
For now, two Cubans (Yoel Yanqui, Yanio Luis Pérez) and one Cuban-American (Willie Escala) will see action in the Frontier League this season. The circuit that is a league associated with MLB and is normally used by players seeking a contract with the Majors, Mexico or Asia to showcase their talents.
Yanqui, who played in Venezuela this winter with the Navegantes de Magallanes, will play with the Evansville Otters this year and could put up excellent power numbers in the league. The slugger from Santiago de Cuba hit .232 with a home run and seven RBIs in 20 games in the Venezuelan League.
Yoel had an immaculate season last summer with the Moca Farmers of the Dominican Profesional Independent Summer League. The Cuban not only led LIDOVE in hits, but also finished as the batting champion of the circuit. The former Cincinnati Reds and Arizona Diamondbacks prospect also deposited two balls in the stands and drove in 14 runs during the regular season.
Willie Escala, who saw action in 25 games with the Sussex Miners last season hitting .218, swatting one homerun and driving in eight runs, will return with the northern team for the 2023 campaign.
The son of a Cuban father was a member of the Czech Republic in the World Classic hitting .083 with the European team. Although he is an infielder, the Miamian played in the outfield and only had one hit in 12 plate appearances. During his college career, Escala played with the Universities of Miami (Fla), Miami (OH), and Barry.
In the case of Yanio Luis Pérez, the man from Artemisa,Cuba is still in negotiations to return to the Sussex Miners and be a great addition to the New Jersey squad. Last season between Sussex and the Lincoln Saltdogs of the American Association he hit a stout .306 with 10 homers and 50 RBIs.
Pérez, who signed with the Texas Rangers for $1.1 million in 2016, was named one of the top 10 international prospects by MLB Pipeline that year. In his three seasons on the Texan team’s farms he had a .261/.325/.382/.707 offensive line.