Cuban players popular in Japan

Ever since Cuban players got permission by the Castro regime to leave the country to play abroad (except in the USA), quite a couple of players were signed by NPB clubs. The latest signees are RHP Raidel Martinez, Leonardo Urgelles and Alfredo Despaigne.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Alfredo Despaigne
Alfredo Despaigne

Alfredo Despaigne was a familiar face in Japanese baseball already of course, as he played for the Chiba Lotte Marines from 2014 through 2016. With the Marines, he hit .311, .258and .280 in those seasons respectively.

But Raidel Martinez and Leonardo Urgelles are youngsters who are new in the NPB. Martinez is a 20-year old flamethrower whose fastball tops 90 mph. Urgelles is even younger at nineteen.

Despaigne jumped ships to the seven-time Japanese champions (including their time in Osaka), the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. The 30-year old slugger is a big acquisition for the Hawks after their previous slugger, Korean Lee Dae Ho left for the USA to play in the MLB.

Raidel Martínez relevista de Ciego de Ávila en el partido entre Alazanes de Granma y Tigres de Ciego de Ávila, como parte de la gran final de la 56 Serie Nacional de Béisbol que se juega en el estadio Mártires de Barbados, en Granma, el 21 de enero de 2017. Foto: Osvaldo Gutiérrez Gómez / ACN
Raidel Martinez


Raidel Martinez and Leonardo Urgelles have both signed with the Chunichi Dragons.
Urgelles reportedly has a very strong arm and is a speedster on the basepaths.
Martinez is a relief pitcher who threw 37 innings this season, limiting his opponents to a batting average of .258 and posting an ERA of 1.45. Compared to his 2015 stats, Martinez has improved tremendously. The kid is still young and is still learning.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Leonardo Urgelles
Leonardo Urgelles

Urgelles is still a youth player, who batted .372 in 145 at bats with six homeruns, seventeen extra-basehits and a slugging percentage of .579 as he drove in 38 runs and scored 27 himself. According to his player page at baseball, Urgelles can play third base, second base and left field. So far he has played four seasons in the Cuban competition, except for the 2013 season. In his rookie season, Urgelles hit a whopping ..370 in 15 games. In the next season, his numbers dropped dramatically to a .211 BA, possibly due to an injury as he did not play in 2013 (at least, not in the Cuban Serie Nacional de Beisbol).

It remains to be seen if these two youngsters are capable of dealing with the level of the NPB. It is very likely that the Dragons first will store them at their Ni-Gun team in the
Western League.


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