The Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves are set to face off for the 2021 World Series. This represents the third appearance for Houston since 2017 and Atlanta’s return after a 22 year absence. Both squads relied at least in part on contributions from Cuban ballplayers. Let’s take a look at the Cubans in The World Series 2021.
First the Braves, who might not have the bigger names but are carrying two Cuban outfielders on their roster. Guillermo Heredia and Jorge Soler. Neither player figures to play full time but knowing how the World Series tests roster depth both have to be ready to contribute.
Guillermo Heredia broke in with the Matanzas Cocodrilos at age 18 in 2009. His peak season was 2011 when he slashed .343/.439/.527 with 10HR and 52RBI. Heredia has been a bit of a nomad during his 6 big league seasons. He has played for 5 different teams but his flexibility to play all three outfield spots has kept him employed. He put up a solid 6 outs above average for the Braves as a part time player in 2021. His bat has yet to distinguish itself as his career .235 average attests but his .315 OBP shows that he can work his way on without a strong bat.
Heredia is more of a defensive replacement and pinch runner. He has yet to eclipse 400 AB’s in a season and as shown here struggles in most quadrants of the hitting zone.
Jorge Soler is still just 29 but first debuted in 2014. He only played 12 games with La Habana, debuting in the season they won their only title. They were contracted soon after and now spiritually live on via the Mayabeque Hurricanes. Soler’s time in Cuba’s top league is really just a blip as he quickly pivoted to pursuing an MLB career. He is also chasing his second ring as he was a contributor to the Chicago Cubs title in 2016. He exploded with the Royals in 2019 and set the singles season Cuban home run record with 48 round trippers. Soler has struggled to replicate that performance but did look somewhat resurgent once being acquired by Atlanta mid way through 2021. He has been a solid playoff performer in 7 series hitting .289/.429/.644 with 3 home runs in 45 at bats.
I have discussed on multiple occasions in the past how Houston can stake claim to being Cuba’s baseball epicentre off the island. They rely more heavily on the contributions from their Cuban stars. Three Cubans figure to see time with the Stros, let’s take a look at Houston’s Cubans in The World Series.
Aledyms Diaz played in just over half of Houston’s games this year as he spent extended stints on the IL. When healthy Diaz is one of the more valuable utility players in the game. He is capable of playing every infield position and has even subbed in at the corner outfield spots. The former Villa Clara Naranja hasn’t approached his lofty National Series numbers where he hit .307/.398/.440 across five seasons, but will consistently give you professional at bats with above average power for his role.
Yordan Alvarez was a sensation in winning the 2019 Rookie of the Year but 2020 was a lost season as he elected for multiple knee surgeries. Any fears over his ability to rebound from the procedures were quickly put to rest with his 2021 performance. The 24 year old from Las Tunas hit .277 and led the squad with 33 Home Runs and 104 RBI, he was the only Astro to eclipse 100 runs driven in. Alvarez was even better in garnering ALCS MVP honours and has quickly become a cog in the lineup.
Yuli Gurriel already has a world series ring with the Astros in 2017 and is likely the signing that opened the Cuban floodgates for the franchise. Entering 2021 many questioned whether the 37 year old was in decline. An American league batting title silenced those critics. Gurriel was also one of the hardest batters to strike out. Gurriel of course joined Houston after one of the most distinguished Cuban National Series careers of all time. The Sancti Spiritus and Industriales stand out has arguably been as good as hoped during his time in The Big Show, even after debuting an advanced age for a baseball player.
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