Archive for the 'Cuba' Category

Top Ten 2021 Cuban Prospects in the National League

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

Randy Arozarena and Ronald Bolanos moved to the American League. Michel Baez is the only player who graduated from the list. Victor Victor Mesa, who got the big signing bonus dropped from the list while his younger brother, who had less credentials remained on the list. Below are the top ten Cuban prospects from the National league.

1. Adrian Morejon LHP (Padres) - Back in 2014 he pitched for Cuba’s 15 and under team, pitching them to a gold medal victory over the United States. He was voted the MVP of the 15 and under World Cup. In 2016 he defected from Cuba and signed an $11 million bonus with the Padres. His journey to the major leagues has been long, but he appears to have found the right path. Arm injuries slowed his ascension to the major leagues but he made his debut in 2019, finishing with an ugly 10.12 ERA. He was better in 2020 (4.66) and he hopes to break out this year with a spot in the rotation. He has some wicked stuff, starting with a mid 90s fastball that can touch the high 90s, something all scouts drool at with lefthanders. His curveball has a nasty bite and his change is a quality pitch. A decent slider gives him a fourth offering. What holds him back is his difficulty finding his spot in the strike zone. Too many meaty pitches in 2020 hit too much of the strike zone leading to seven dingers in just 19 innings. It is not just about throwing strikes, but throwing quality strikes. When Adrian can learn that he can fit at the top of the rotation. He will be in the Padres starting rotation in 2021 until he fails to get hitters out.

2. Jorge Ona OF (Padres) - Myworld did not give Ona a lot of respect last year, keeping him absent from the list, but the names are a bit weak in 2021 so he jumps to number 2. Jorge popped on to the list with his .583 slugging average during his major league debut in 2020, encompassing just 12 at bats. In 2019 he was limited to just 25 games because of a shoulder injury, but he hit .348 with five homeruns. There is some power in his bat, which motivated the Padres to sign him for a $7 million bonus in 2016. He does have some issues making contact, and his defense will probably limit him to left field. Ideally, his best spot could be as a designated hitter. He will start the 2021 season in AAA, but do not be surprised if the Padres trade him for some help in their playoff run. He could also be kept to be their DH when the National League incorporates it in 2022.

3. Andy Pages OF (Dodgers) - Pages was initially traded to the Angels in the first Mookie Betts trade that was called off. Don’t be surprised if he gets offered again to provide the Dodgers with some veteran depth for a playoff run. The Dodgers only signed him for $300,000, a paltry sum when you compare his bonus to other bonuses the Dodgers have shelled out to Cuban defectors. He has some impressive tools, with a strong arm for right field and a loud bat that provides impressive exit velocities when he makes contact. The challenge will be to improve that contact. In 2019 he struck out 79 times in just 63 games but he still slugged .651 with 19 homeruns. The Dodgers will probably start him in High A in 2021.

4. Johan Oviedo RHP (Cardinals) - At 6′5″ and 245 pounds Johan is an intimidating presence on the mound. The Cardinals paid out a bonus of $1.9 million in 2016, the same year they signed Randy Arozerena. As to be expected with that large frame, Johan can whip the fastball toward the plate in the mid-90s. A slider is a pretty good second pitch. What he needs to improve on is finding a third pitch and improving his command. His long arms still prove a challenge for him in finding consistency with his delivery and finding the plate. He made his major league debut last year, putting together a 5.47 ERA. Unlike his 2019 minor league season he did not get a lot of strikeouts per nine innings and he sits around 2.5 walks every nine innings. He will start the 2021 season in AAA and could see the Cardinals toward the end of the season. If his control still fails him and a third pitch is lacking he can always be used in the bullpen.

5. Miguel Vargas 3B (Dodgers) - He played with Adrian Morejon, Lazarito Armenteros and Ernesto Martinez on the Cuban Under 15 team, all of whom are now playing in the minor leagues for major league clubs. He hit .378 with nine RBIs, but unlike the three other players he did not make the all tournament team. His father played on Cuba’s 1992 and 1996 gold medal teams in the Olympics. The Dodgers signed him for $300,000 in 2017. He stands 6′3″ and lacks speed and quickness so a move from third base is possible. If that happens he will have to develop his power, which has not been prevalent in the minor leagues. He does hit for average, draws walks and finds the gaps enough to hit 40 plus doubles. Turning those doubles into homeruns would make the transition easier. Vargas could start the 2021 season in AA and could be offered as trade bait by the Dodgers to acquire veteran playoff depth.

6. Victor Mesa Jr. OF (Marlins) - His father was a superstar outfielder for the Cuban teams that won numerous gold medals in international events. His brother left for the United States to escape the expectations that Cuban fans expected from the son of a superstar. The older brother Victor Victor Mesa signed for $5.25 million. The younger brother Victor Mesa Jr. got a token $1 million bonus. Now it is the younger brother who is the better prospect. While the power is not great he does show the ability to hit for average (.284). Only 14 of his 50 hits went for extra bases. If he could play a rangy centerfield it would be better, but defensively his best fit is for a corner. He may lack the power to fill that position. Victor does make good contact with a 24/29 walk to whiff ratio. Victor should start the 2021 season in Low A where the 19 year old can be moved patiently. His 24 year old brother Victor Victor Mesa could only hit .235 with a .274 OBA in his 2019 minor league season. Missing the 2020 season put him in a bad situation where at 24 he needs to prove himself now.

7. Jose Garcia SS (Reds) - Garcia signed for $5 million in 2017. There is no question that his glove is of major league quality. Despite playing only A ball the Reds still called him up in 2020 to fill the shortstop hole. He struggled with the bat, hitting only .194 with no extra base hits and a 1/26 walk to whiff ratio. His OBA was .206 and his slugging was .194 in 24 games. It is obvious Jose needs some more work with the bat before putting on the Reds uniform. The Reds were looking for a shortstop for the 2021 season, but having failed to acquire one decided to move third baseman Eugenio Suarez to play the position. If he struggles the Reds may have no other choice than to call Garcia up, sacrificing some offense to solidify the defense. Expect Jose to start the 2021 season in AA.

8. Malcolm Nunez 3B (Cardinals) - The Cardinals signing of Nolan Arenado could put a brick wall towards Nunez opportunity with the Cardinals. The Cardinals signed Nunez for $300,000 in 2018. Nunez played with Victor Victor Mesa on the Under 15 Cuban National team in 2016 where he hit .613 with 9 walks. The defense is a little shaky and his speed is virtually non-existent, so if he is going to make it the bat will have to work. The bat did not display a lot of power in his first appearance stateside in 2019 with just two homeruns and a slugging average of .318. That will have to improve. He did slug 13 homeruns with a .415 average and .774 slugging percentage in the Dominican Summer League the prior year. He should begin the 2021 season in Low A.

9. Vladimir Gutierrez RHP (Reds) - The Reds signed Gutierrez the same year they signed Jose Garcia, shelling out $4.75 million for Gutierrez. Vladimir is not over powering with a fastball that sits in the low 90s. His top pitch may be his curve with a decent change, but the curve can be inconsistent. When he struggles to get the pitch over the plate he becomes very hittable. His minor league seasons have been afflicted with the homerun ball, giving up 26 in 2019. That resulted in a poor 6.04 ERA. At best, Vladimir may be an end of the rotation pitcher or a spot starter. He was placed on the 40 man roster in a rebuilding year for the Reds. He should make his major league debut sometime mid-season, provided he stays healthy and is pitching effectively.

10. Daysbel Hernandez RHP (Braves) - The Braves signed Daysbel for $190,000 in 2017. At 5′10″ he is not a big presence, but he can hit the mid-90s on the radar gun with his fastball. A lack of control and a missing third pitch destines him for the bullpen where he has pitched in all 56 of his appearances. In his two minor league seasons in 2018 and 2019 he has limited the opposition to a .193 average. His best season was in 2019 where he picked up 7 saves with a 1.71 ERA. At 24 years of age the Braves must move him quickly. He should start the 2021 season in AA and could see his major league debut with a successful minor league season.

2014 15 and Under All Tournament Team an Impressive Bunch

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

As myworld was putting together the top 2021 prospects for Cuba, one thing we noted were the names that were selected to the 15 and under All tournament team for the World Cup. These are some of the names:

Catcher - Miguel Amaya from Panama was voted as the top catcher. He is now a top prospect for the Cubs. Another catcher that was selected was Rafael Marchan from Venezuela. He is now a top catching prospect of the Phillies. Marchan hit .531 in that tournament while Amaya hit just .233 so we know Amaya was selected for his defense.

First Base - Ernesto Martinez from Cuba was voted as the top first baseman, hitting .436 with one homerun. While he does not appear on any prospect lists, he now stands 6′6″ and signed with the Brewers.

Second Base - Royce Lewis from the United States. He was the first pick in the 2017 draft but knee surgery will see him sit out the 2021 season.

Shortstop - Isaac Paredes from Mexico. The Tigers signed him and he has out grown shortstop. He is one of the Tigers top ten prospects.

Left Field - Lazarito Armentaros from Cuba has struggled since his arrival in the United States. He hit .462 with five triples to make this list, but he has had issues making contact with breaking pitches since his arrival in the United States.

Center Field - Brice Turang was a first round pick of the Brewers in 2018. He is one of their better prospects.

Right Field - Shu Masuda from Japan hit .556 in he tournament. He was drafted by the Softbank Hawks in the NPB and made his debut in 2019. A wrist injury prevented him from playing in 2020.

Pitcher - Adrian Morejon won the MVP of the torunament beating the United States in the gold medal game. He is now pitchng for the Padres.

That is a pretty impressive list of players. The only position missing is third base, which was won by Ming-Chi Juan from Taiwan, but myworld could find nothing on him.

Granma Wins Cuban Championship

Monday, April 5th, 2021

Granma defeated the defending champion Matanzas Crocodiles 6-5 to win the Cuban championship in six games. They did it without one of their big bats Alfredo Despaigne, who is in Japan playing for the Softbank Hawks. Guillermo Garcia had the walk off hit in the bottom of the ninth to complete the comeback victory. Granma had won back to back championships in 2017 and 2018 and they can now add a third title to their list. This is also the franchise Yoennis Cespedes played on before he departed for the major leagues.

The two pitchers Noevis Entenza for Matanzas and Leandro Martinez for Granma engaged in a pitcher’s duel to start the game off. Entenza got the win in the previous game by pitching one inning of relief. Martinez got out of a bases loaded jam in the first inning and Entenza put three runners on but was aided by a double play.

The little speedster Roel Santos broke the shutout with a bunt single to lead off the third inning. He then stole second and scored on a hustle double by Raico Santos that was hit down the left field line. That’s the way it stood until the top of the sixth.

Yadil Drake started the sixth inning off by hitting a double into right center. The eruption began. A single by Jefferson Delgado and sacrifice fly to score Drake ended the day for Martinez. The Stallion bullpen could not stop the carnage. Cesar Garcia walked Elise Arruebaruena intentionally and then walked pinch hitter Juan Vazquez not so intentionally to load the bases. Eduardo Blanco lined a single in front of the left fielder Raico Santos. The ball bounced over his head and three runs scored, Blanco advancing to third on the throw home. Yadil Mujica lined a double down the first base line to end the scoring and give Matanzas a commanding 5-1 lead. It did not last.

Granma chipped away getting a run back in the bottom half, started by Guillermo Aviles double over the centerfielder’s head. Guillermo Garcia singled Aviles to third and a double play ground out allowed Aviles to score.

In the seventh the little guy Roel Santos showed he can hit pretty big by pulling a pitch way over the right field fence to up the score to 5-3. Two walks put two more runners on but Carlos Benitez grounded into a double play to end the inning. Entenza left the game after the first walk, going 6.1 innings.

Granma continued to chip away in the eighth. A walk to Guillermo Aviles and a single by Guillermo Garcia started the inning off. Garcia would finish the game 4 for 4. A bunt moved the runners up where Aviles scored on a sacrifice fly. Roel Santos drove in the tying run with a clutch two out singe to left, his third hit of the game.

Joel Suarez could not get anyone out in the ninth, walking Raico Santos and giving up a single to Carlos Benitez. Matanzas called on Jonder Martinez to get out of the jam and allow Matanzas to live a second day. He hit Aviles to load the bases with no one out. Garcia ended the day by smashing a ball over the drawn in right fielder’s head for a walk off single. The celebration began.

Matanzas Survives One More Day

Saturday, April 3rd, 2021

Down three games to one the Matanzas Crocodiles stayed alive in the Cuban championships with a 4-3 win over the Granma Stallions. The winning run scored in the ninth inning on a wild pitch by Miguel Paradelo.

Matanzas jumped out to an early 3-0 lead with three in the third. Lazaro Blanco walked Andrys Perez to lead off the third inning. The inning went south after that. The number nine hitter Eduardo Blanco laid down a bunt that rolled underneath and past the glove of Lazaro coming off the mound to put two runners on. Anibal Medina popped up on a failed bunt attempt. The meat of the order Yadiel Mujica and Ariel Sanchez hit back to back singles to score one run. Yadil Drake grounded out, but a second run scored when the play went to second base. A line drive single by Yariel Duque drove in the third run.

Granma trimmed the lead to one with two in the fourth. They started the inning the same as Matanzas with a leadoff walk to Roel Santos. Osvaldo Abreu and Raico Santos followed up with singles to cut the lead to 3-1. Carlos Benitez sent a fly deep enough to center to score Abreu with the second run. Granma lost an opportunity to tie when Santos stole second, Guillermo Aviles singled to center and Eduardo Blanco gunned Santos out at the plate.

In the bottom frame Matanzas lost out on a run. Catcher Andrys Perez rifled a ball to left that rolled to the fence, but he could only manage a single. A single by Blanco moved him to second (but with a little more speed he should have been on third). Anibal Medina fouled off a two strike bunt attempt. Ariel Sanchez hit a two out single past the second baseman into right field, but the legs of Perez were just not fast enough to beat the throw home.

In a bit of baserunning hilarity, Granma loaded the bases with one out in the eighth. Carlos Benitez ripped a single to left field. Miguel Gonzalez scored but the third base coach got in the way of Roel Santos as he rounded third. Santos had to stop while the third base coach hit the grass. Santos was caught between third and home and eventually tagged out. What could have been two runs and the lead was only one run and a tie.

With runners on second and third in the ninth and two outs and an 0-2 count on Ariel Sanchez, the catcher squatted for an outside waste pitch. Miguel Paradelo had just come on in relief, walking Yadil Mujica intentionally. Paradelo wasted the 0-2 pitch too much, throwing it way outside and in the dirt to allow the winning run to score from third.

Yoanni Yera lasted eight innings for Matanzas, but Noelvis Entenza got the win by only facing three hitters in the ninth. It allowed Matanzas to survive to play another day.

Top 2021 Cuban Prospects in the American League

Friday, April 2nd, 2021

From last year’s list Luis Robert, the top prospect on last year’s list graduated. Ronald Bolanos and Randy Arozarena moved from the National League to the American League. If you included Arozarena’s at bats from the playoffs he would have graduated, but he is still eligible as a rookie. Julio Pablo Martinez, Yordys Valdes and Orlando Martinez dropped from the list. Two new players who were signed by the White Sox in 2021 were added to this list.

1. Rando Arozarena OF (Rays) - No one has ever been hotter in the playoffs when Arozarena, who hit 10 homeruns in 20 playoff games. For the longest time Babe Ruth held the record for most homeruns in the post season with 15, but then during that era they only played one seven game series. Arozarena almost equaled that amount in one playoff year. Don’t expect that power to result in Ruthian numbers during the regular season. He hits the ball hard but it’ll probably settle in the 30 plus homerun range. He was signed by the Cardinals in 2016 for what was then a modest bonus of $1.25 million. He has failed to fall high on prospect lists, but myworld did rate him as the second rated Cuban prospect in the National League last year. He appears to have a good hit tool, with the ability to hit in the neighborhood of .300. His speed will allow him to play centerfield, but he is a better fit in a corner with an arm strong enough for right field. The Rays acquired him from the Cardinals for Mike Liberatore. Arozarena should start at a corner for the Rays in 2021 with possible spot starts in centerfield.

2. Roberto Campos OF (Tigers) - The Tigers paid out $2.85 million to sign Campos. Like a lot of Cubans, not a lot is known about the 17 year old. In the United States he would still be in high school. He has the big, right field frame at 6′3″ and 200 pounds. He left Cuba at 13 and trained at a facility in the Dominican Republic for three years. His batting practices are impressive, but there is no game like action to show what he can do with a mixture of different offerings. The speed is there to play center, but like Arozarena his best fit appears to be right. He will probably start the 2021 season in Low A, since there will not be any rookie leagues.

3. Yusniel Diaz OF ( Orioles) - The tools are there for him to be a major leaguer. Some question whether he has the motivation. The Dodgers wheel barreled out $15 million to sign him back in 2015. They traded him to the Orioles for a half season use of Manny Machado. He slogged around in AA for more than two years. This spring he was hoping to win a job with the Orioles, but he will probably start the season in AAA. His tools are probably just above average in all categories, but power wise and defense fall far short of Manny Machado. Because he lacks the burner speed to play center, how his power develops will determine whether his bat can fit into a corner. His highest homerun total is 11 with a career slugging average of .440. Most teams want to see higher production from a corner outfielder. He will need a good season in AAA in 2021 and a couple injuries before he fits with the Orioles.

4. Yoelquis Cespedes OF (White Sox) - He is the younger brother of Yoennis Cespedes, who had a great early career in Cuba before he signed a major league contract. Yoelquis numbers in the Cuban league pale in comparison to Yoennis, yet the White Sox were still willing to pay $2.05 million for him. Yoennis signed a four year contract with the Oakland Athletics for $36 million, when there were not as many restrictions on bonuses for international players. Yoennis hit 177 homeruns in Cuba while Yoelquis has hit 12. Yoelquis only stands 5′9″, so we hold out little hope he will be a stand out player. His arm may be his strongest tool, but it is said he has some power, despite his vanilla .415 slugging percentage in Cuba. The speed is there to play center so if his power does not develop he could survive on his defense and moderate power. He reminds me a bit too much of Adolis Garcia. At 23, he should probably start the year in AA with a potential major league debut in 2022.

5. Alexander Vargas SS (Yankees) - The Yankees spent $2.5 million to sign Vargas in 2019. The 19 year old showed a smooth glove in his rookie league debut, but a little overmatched with the bat. His speed allowed him to steal 15 bases in 48 games and leg out 7 triples. At 5′11″ and only 150 pounds the power is a little short but should improve as he gets stronger. The defensive tools are there for him to stick at short. He needs to show a little better bat if he doesn’t want to fall into oblivion like a number of other Cuban shortstops that are short with the stick and battling for an opportunity to play in the major leagues. Alexander should start the 2021 season in Low A. The Yankees seem to be flush with shortstops so it would not surprise myworld if Vargas is not traded in a couple years for playoff pieces.

6. Norge Vera RHP (White Sox) - Norge is the son of Norge Luis Vera, who was a star for the Cuban National team that won a number of Olympic gold medals. At 6′4″ he has a good frame for a pitcher. The White Sox signed him for $1.5 million in 2021. That is over $3 million the White Sox spent for two Cubans. Norge throws his fastball in the low 90s but it should gain velo as he matures physically. He appears to have the requisite secondary pitches to fit in the middle of a rotation. His long levers had difficulty finding the plate when he pitched in the Cuban League, but he was only 18 then. The White Sox will start him in Low A in 2021.

7. Lazaro Armentaros OF (Athletics) - Lazaro came from Cuba with too much hype. The Athletics believed that hype and spent $3 million to sign him in 2016. He was advertised as a five tool athlete, but his arm is weak and dedicated to left field and he has trouble making contact. He struck out 227 times in 2019. If the pitch has a bend to it Lazaro has trouble making contact. He does have some speed and shows some power when he can make contact. He fell three homeruns short in 2019 from being a 20/20 player in the minor leagues. The 2021 season should see him start it in AA where he needs to focus on making more consistent contact.

8. Bryan Ramos 3B (White Sox) - The third White Sox on this list, but Ramos signed for only $300,000 in 2018. The power is there for him to stick at a corner infield position, but the glove at third may force a move to first. If that is the case there may be more pressure on him for his power to really perform. Major league teams have been reluctant to have right handed gloves who bat right handed play first base. His speed is not great, but he could also move to a corner outfield position. In his one season of Rookie level ball in 2019 he had trouble making contact with 44 whiffs in 51 games. The 2021 season should see him start in Low A.

9. Ronald Bolanos RHP (Royals) - Ronald appeared as the ninth top Cuban prospect in the National League last year. He appears as the ninth best prospect in the American League this year. The Padres signed Bolanos for $2 million in 2016, then included him in a trade to the Royals with Franchy Cordero for Tim Hill. He did get an opportunity to pitch with the Padres in 2019 and with the Royals in 2020, but his seven appearances result in an ERA of 6.94. Throwing strikes has been a bit of a challenge in the major leagues, resulting in 5 dingers in just 23 innings. His fastball hits the mid-90s and his curve has a good break, but if he wants to fit into the rotation he needs to enhance his change to get a third effective pitch. He will start the 2021 season in AAA.

10. Yolbert Sanchez SS (White Sox) - The fourth White Sox on this list. The White Sox signed him for $2.5 million. At 24 he is a veteran of the Cuban League, hitting just two homeruns in his three years there, with averages ranging from .255 to .350. In 2019 he played 29 games in the Dominican Summer League where he was playing against much younger players. The defensive tools are there to play shortstop but the bat needs to improve if he hopes to take on a regular role. A utility option exists if his bat fails to mature. The White Sox may be aggressive with him in 2021 and start him in High A or AA.

Granma With the Slaughter in Cuban Championship

Friday, April 2nd, 2021

In Cuba, if you are up by more than 10 runs after seven innings the game is over. No chance for a major comeback. When Granma scored six in the seventh to go up 15-1, Matanzas rallied back to score four. But it was one too short to continue the game as Granma came out the winners 15-5 to go up in the series three games to one.

Guillermo Garcia was the big bat for Granma. He went 4 for 5 with two homeruns and six RBIs. He drove in his first run in the second on a single to finish off the scoring in a five run second. He hit a solo shot in the fifth to put Granma up 6-0. Another single in the sixth drove in two more runs and finally his two run homer in the seventh finished off the scoring. Garcia drove in at least one run in all four innings Granma scored.

Carlos Benitez was also a big bat driving in four. He drove in two runs in the five run second with his double. Carlos added a two run single in the six run seventh, a ball that hit the fence in the air, but Carlos was content turning it into a single.

Joel Mojena worked the first six innings to get the win. He gave up one run, issuing four walks and giving up four hits. Juan Perez almost extended the game in his one inning of work. He gave up four runs on four hits and one walk.

Reinier Rivero, who started game three and was pulled after 2.2 innings because he could not find the plate was equally ineffective yesterday. He found the plate better, walking just one but still could not survive past the second inning, coughing up four of the five runs and giving up five hits in the second inning.

Crocodiles Win One in Cuban Championship Playoff Game

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

In the semi-finals the Matanzas Crocodiles lost the first two games of the seven game series before roaring back and winning four in a row. In the championship series against the Granma Stallions they lost their first two games. Are they roaring back? Yesterday they got 6.2 innings of strong relief from Naykel Cruz and beat Granma 3-1 to win that first game. Now they need three more.

Reiner Rivera appeared to be a bit wild, walking three and hitting three in his 2.1 innings of work. While he did not allow a hit, Cruz seemed the better alternative and proved that as he finished the game. After the third hit by pitch by Rivera that loaded the bases in the third Cruz came in to get a pop up and ground out to end the inning. The only run he allowed was a Roel Santos homerun in the seventh.

Matanzas strung together three singles in the third to score the first run in the game. Ariel Sanchez lined a single to right to score Eduardo Blanco from second. Despite having runners on first and third with one out the Crocodiles could not score the second run.

They did score two in the fourth. A single by Yariel Duque and a walk to Erisbel Arruebaruena put two runners on to start the inning. Eduardo Blanco bunted, the first baseman made a diving attempt to catch the bunt but it slipped out of his glove when he hit the ground. Blanco made it to first, despite colliding with the pitcher to load the bases with no outs. They scored one run on an error by the third baseman Osvaldo Abreu on a hard ground ball that glanced off his glove. Yudil Mujica single to score the second run. That ended the day for Cesar Garcia, who was 2-0 in his two previous playoff starts. Ariel Sanchez hit a fly ball to center that appeared to score the third run. A replay showed the runner never touched home plate on his slide, instead the catchers foot blocked the plate, the runners hand could only touch the catcher’s foot and the safe call was reversed to an out call.

In the ninth Yulian Milan hit a two out single on a ball that hit the ground and one hopped into his check swing bat to roll into right field for a hit. Darien Garcia was sent to pinch hit, representing the tying run, but Cruz struck him out on a 91 mile per hour fastball to finish the game.

Granma Goes up 2-0 in Cuban Championship

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021

There is no panic for Matanzas after a 6-5 loss to Granma in game two put them down two games to none. They were down two games to none in the semi-finals when they came roaring back to win four straight games and advance to the championship. Raico Santos blasted a solo shot in the bottom of the eighth to break a 5-5 tie and give Granma their second win in a row.

Granma took advantage of the wildness of Noelvis Entenza in the opening frame with two of the first four hitters getting a free pass. A wild pitch advanced Roel Santos to third, but for some reason Carlos Benitez stayed anchored on first. That proved costly when Guillermo Aviles bounced a slow single up the middle that would have scored Benitez, but instead he only advanced to third. Ivan Prieto grounded out to end the inning.

The walks proved costly again for Entenza when he walked the lead off batter in the second inning. A boot by the shortstop Arruebaruena on what should have been a double play grounder put runners on first and second, though the ball did take a bad hop. A bunt moved the runners to second and third where they scored on a gapper into left center by Roel Santos that bounced over the fence for a ground rule double.

Matanzas had done nothing against Leandro Martinez in the first four innings. They had a walk but a double play erased that baserunner, so it was 12 up and 12 down through the first four. A walk and a bloop single into centerfield put two runners on and ended the no hitter. Ariel Sanchez then connected on a pitch, sending it just over the left field fence for a three run homer to tie the game at 3-3.

In the sixth Matanzas scored two to take a brief 5-3 lead. Granma decided to go with Juan Perez to start the sixth, ending the day for Martinez despite giving up just two hits. Perez was greeted with two singles by Yadil Mujica and Javier Camero. A walk to Arruebaruena loaded the bases with just one out and ended the day for Perez. He was replaced by Erluis Blanco. Yadir Drake tomahawked a pitch into left field to score two. Arruebaruena made a costly baserunning error, sliding past third base and getting tagged for the second out to put a dagger into the rally.

Granma came back in the bottom frame with a single, walk and a sacrifice bunt that was dropped by the catcher to load the bases with no one out. That ended the day for Entenza, who walked four, three of them scoring. Naykel Cruz replaced Entenza on the mound. He retired the first two hitters he faced on a pop out and punch out. Raico Santos was not so easy. He lined a single up the middle to score two and end the day for Cruz. The game was tied 5-5.

Santos put his stamp on the game in the eighth inning by driving a ball deep into right field to put Granma up for good 6-5. Carlos Santana came on in the ninth to close the game. He gave up hits to the first two hitters he faced to put runners on first and third with no outs. A hard grounder to first turned into a 3-6-3 double play without scoring the runner from third. A whiff on a downward breaking ball ended the game.

Granma Takes the Opener in Cuban Champships

Monday, March 29th, 2021

Osvaldo Abreu smacked a two run triple in the fifth to break a 1-1 tie and that was enough to give Granma a 3-2 win over defending champs Matanzas. Lazaro Blanco went eight innings to get the win. Carlos Santana worked a perfect ninth to earn the save.

Blanco only gave up four hits in the game, but half of those cleared the fence. Yadil Mujica hit a solo shot in the first inning. Anibal Medina pulled Matanzas to within one run with his solo in the sixth. After that second solo shot Matanzas managed only one baserunner in the last three innings.

Yoanni Yera went the full eight innings for the Crocs. He gave up five hits and struck out 11. Three of those five hits came in innings where he gave up his three runs. The only walk he issued scored ahead of the Abreu triple.

Roel Santos scored the first run when he led off the inning with a single. He stole second, advanced to third on a ground out and scored on a fly ball hit by Raico Santos.

Dates Established for Cuban Championship

Saturday, March 20th, 2021

The Cuban best of seven championship between the Granma Stallions and the Matanzas Crocodiles will begin on March 28. Because of the corona virus all the games will be played in one stadium, J.A. Huelga Stadium, the home of the Sancti Spiritus Roosters. The Crocodiles are the defending champions and the Stallions are recent champions (2017 and 2018).

It will be a seven game series with one day off after the second and fifth games. Even though it is being played at a neutral sight, Matanzas will be the home team for the first and last two games, while Granma will be the home team for the middle three games.