21st Century Cuban-born 2nd/SS/3rd
have mostly been left wanting. The Dodgers signed one today, his name is Jose Miguel Fernandez and Eric Stephen gave the lowdown on what he’s done in Cuba and this past winter.
Skepticism seems warranted because of the recent Dodger history with Cuban-born middle infielders. I’m going to include 3rd baseman here because while both Alex Guerrero and Hector Oliveras were middle infielders in Cuba, they either ended up or were expected to be 3rd baseman in the major leagues.
It is not only the Dodgers who have not had the best luck with Cuban free agents who played SS, 2nd, or 3rd. All of major league baseball has had problems. Not until the Cardinals gave Aledmys Diaz a shot in 2016 had any of them had a great season. Yunel Escobar had some successful seasons and by all rights is an average baseball player, but for the most part, these have been weak hitting infielders.
Two of them will head into 2017 projected to change that. Yoan Moncada is considered the top prospect in baseball and was traded to the White Sox in the huge Chris Sale deal. The speedy Moncada blew through the minors but threw a tire when he saw major league pitching in September. He’s expected to adjust and quickly become the best Cuban infielder of the 21st Century that doesn’t play 1st base. At only 22 next year he has plenty of time to work out the kinks in his game. Yulieski Gurriel was also highly touted when Houston inked him to 5/$47MM last year but he’s already 32 and did little to impress in 2016 in limited at bats. Another Hector Olivera perhaps?
Unlike Arruebarrena, Olivera, and Guerrero, Fernandez was a cheap signing and looks more to be a utility player so the expectations are lower. We won’t even know until spring training if he can even play 2nd base. Course they told us that Guerrero could play second base, after all, how could a Cuban Shortstop not be able to play second base? We found out fairly quickly, how.
It would be fitting, however, if the cheapest middle infielder signed out of Cuba by the Dodgers turns out to be the best. I love that kind of endings.
Below is a list of all Cuban-born players who played 2nd/SS/3rd in the major leagues in the 21st century courtesy of Baseball Reference and their play index. Alex Guerrero is not on the list because he played more games in the OF than 3rd. But if he was, he’d also suck.