Outlook - They haven’t won in the last two events, which is equivalent to the Yankees missing out on the playoffs for two years in a row. They did finish second to the United States both those years, but that isn’t good enough for Cuban fans. They had won the previous nine World Cups before losing to the United States in 2007. There have been 38 World Cups and Cuba has seen first place in 25 of the events. Not even the Yankees have shown such dominance.
World Cup Record - An impressive 297-34 or a .897 winning percentage
Top Three Finishes - 29 or in almost all the tournaments where they have participated.
Best Player - There have been a number of good players in their history, but it would have been nice to see how Omar Linares would have done against major leaguers. Omar did have three unproductive years in the Japanese professional league with the Chunichi Dragons, but that was after his skills had waned. He made his debut on the Cuban National team as a 17 year old, playing for six world championship teams and two Olympic gold medal winning teams. He is the one player I remember and feared every time he came to the plate. No hitter in the Cuban League has a better average than his .368 or his slugging percentage of .644.
Roster: The numbers below are their Cuban League numbers
Catcher: Ariel Pestano (Villa Clara, .287, 5, 32), Yosvani Alarcon (Las Tunas, .368, 13, 47), Frank Morejon (Industriales, .264, 0, 15)
First Base: Jose Abreu (Cienfuegos, .453, 33, 93), Frederich Cepeda (Sancti Spiritus, .397, 28, 81)
Middle Infield: Hector Olivera (Santiago, .318, 16, 70), Erisbel Arruebarruena (Cienfuegos, .280, 8, 40), Rudy Reyes (Industriales, .295, 11, 54)
Third Base: Yulieski Gourriel (Sancti Spiritus, .339, 20, 81), Michel Enriquez (Isla Juventad, .401, 13, 42)
Outfield: Alexei Bell (Santiago, .306, 7, 42), Alfredo Despaigne (Granma, .356, 27, 74), Giorvis Duvergel (Guantanamo, .338, 15, 53), Rusney Castillo (Ciego de Avila, .324, 18, 79)
Left handed Pitcher: Norberto Gonzalez (Cienfuegos, 13-2, 2.76), Yulieski Gonzalez (Artemisa/Habana, 9-7, 4.00)
Right Handed Pitcher: Dalier Hinojosa (Guantanamo, 8-4, 3.56), Freddy Alvarez (Villa Clara, 8-4, 1.89), Miguel Lahera (Artemisa/Habana, 4-1, 2.76), Miguel Gonzalez (Artemisa/Habana, 8-5, 3.19), Yadier Pedroso (Artemisa/Habana, 7-4, 3.03), Jonder Martinez (Artemisa/Habana, 5-7, 4.66), Vic Odelin (Camaguey, 9-6, 4.47), Alberto Soto la O (Granma, 7-5, 5.31)
Players to Watch - They have the top four homerun hitters in the Cuban league with Alexei Bell breaking the record first, followed by Yulieski Gourriel, Alfredo Despaigne and Jose Abreu. Alexei has lost his homerun stroke since being beaned by Yunesky Maya. He may have a hard time cracking the starting lineup in the Cuban outfield. Alfredo Despaigne is the best hitter among the group. The offensive numbers tend to be inflated because the hitters feed off the poor pitching of the weaker teams. That doesn’t mean that there are not talented pitchers on this staff. The two aces are lefthander Norberto Gonzalez and righthander Freddy Alvarez. Five of the ten pitchers are from the old La Habana Cowboys team that has changed their name to Artemisa. The closer will probably be Jonder Martinez, who had a poor year last year in the starting rotation, but is still considered one of their better pitchers. He has been used in that role in international events before. The league leader last year in saves, Duniel Ibarra, did not make the team.
Strange Fact - Not really strange, but one of their better hitters, Yoennis Cespedes, who tied with Jose Abreu for the Cuban homerun lead, defected and is now living in the Dominican Republic. He is seeking the big bucks of a major league contract.