Professional baseball first came to Houston in 1962. That is the same year the Cuban National Series launched. Perhaps it is somewhat esoteric that 60 years later The Houston Astros have 21 Cubans in their organization. This represents a modern record. They might be able to boast the most ever. The Havana Sugar Kings were once the AAA affiliate for the Cincinnati Reds and for reference in 1954 boasted 15 Cubans on their roster alone, but this appears to be the greatest concentration in that organization.
Houston has gone aggressive in signing Cubans since adding Yuli Gurriel in 2016. He quickly progressed through the system at a mature age of 32 but was willingly to play out of possession at 1B and played a key role in their first World Series title in 2017. That Gurriel signing is the Lynch pin that brings us to 21 Cubans today. However, in their 60 year history this Cuban phenomenon appears to be very recent. Join me as I chronicle the Cuban Houston Astros through the history of the franchise.
Román Mejias OF 1962
The Astros would play their 1st four seasons as the Colt 45’s and welcome their 1st Cuban in their 1st season. Mejias would lead the expansion squad in HR with 24 and RBI with 76. This would represent his peak and only season with the Colts.
Mike Cuellar Pitcher 1965-1968
Perhaps the most distinguished name on this list is one you don’t associate with Houston. Cuellar pitched 15 stellar season in MLB, but most think of him as an Oriole. Cuellar had 4 nice seasons as an Astro before making the jump in Baltimore, remarkably at age 32. He would post Four 20 plus win seasons at ages most pitchers are calling it a day.
Marty Martínez SS/3B/2B 1969-1971
Martínez epitomizes the Journeyman. He would play for six different teams in his eight year career. His glove kept him employed as in 945 career at bats he would hit Zero home runs. Marty spent three years in Houston as a super utility player.
Aurelio Monteagudo Pitcher 1966
The 1st save by a Cuban in Houston franchise history appears to belong to Aurelio Monteagudo. That would be his only save, of course in this period it usually resulted from hurling the final three innings in relief. The Closer role had yet to be defined. Aurelio would only toss 15 innings as an Astro and only threw 132 innings over parts of seven seasons.
Sandy Valdespino LF 1969
Sandy was another baseball nomad. He played for five teams in his seven year career. He would log 119 at bats in Houston as a 4th outfielder in his lone season as an Astro.
Óscar Zamora Pitcher 1978
Zamora like Monteagudo only fired 15 innings in Astros Tequila Sunrise. The first two decades of Astros baseball saw Cubans acting as cameo actors. Zamora would be the last Cuban in Houston for over three decades before The Astros became one of the modern epicentres for Cubans in MLB.
Raúl Valdés Pitcher 2014
Astros fans waited 30 plus years for a Cuban to rise up and give the team 3.2 innings in eight appearances. He did have a save in there. Valdés is still active though and just completed his 23rd professional season. He is still plying his craft in the Dominican.
Yuli Gurriel 1B 2016-Present
Gurriel arrived late but the wait appears to be worth it. This past season Yuli became the oldest 1st time batting champion. His .319 Average paced the Junior Circuit. He represented fantastic contract value for the Stros and as mentioned in the intro many point to him as the best recruiter for Cuban Houston Astros.
Aledmys Diaz IF 2019-Present
Diaz’s peak season might prove to be his rookie campaign in 2016 with the Cardinals. He had many thinking he was a permanent solution at Short Stop. That might not be the case anymore but Aledmys does represent one of the most versatile and useful utility pieces in the game. You can do a lot worse than finding 350+ At bats at multiple positions for the former Villa Clara product.
Cionel Pérez Pitcher 2018-2020
Pérez appeared in parts of three seasons in Houston, small parts. He only logged 26.2 innings over that span and has since moved onto another hot spot for Cubans in Cincinnati. His career 6.04 ERA will have to improve but at just 25 years of age there is still some time to put it together.
Rogelio Armenteros Pitcher 2019
Rogelio debuted in solid fashion picking up a three inning save in relief of Gerrit Cole. He would provide 18 innings of solid work but has fallen off the radar slightly. He spent the 2021 year in the Nationals system and underwhelmed at the AAA level.
Yordan Álvarez OF/DH 2019-Present
Álvarez was acquired in a deal where the Dodgers thought another player named Yordan Álvarez was being requested. In the category of mistaken baseball identity moving forward no one will make that mistake again. Yordan won Rookie of the Year in 2019 swatting 27 Home Runs in just over 200 At Bats. He missed effectively all of 2020 with dual knee surgery but bounced back in 2021 with 33 HR & 104 RBI. Not bad for what’s his name?