It will be hard for Cuban MLB’ers to top the impact they had in the 2021 playoffs. Yordan Alvarez caught fire, led the Astros to the World Series and captured the American League Championship Series MVP. The Astros ran into an Atlanta buzzsaw led by late season acquisition Jorge Soler who hit the first true lead off home run in World Series history and really didn’t look back. Soler would take home World Series MVP honours in swatting three home runs, all of which gave the Braves key leads.
The 2022 playoff field will lack some key names, such as Soler who joined the Marlins and will be watching on Tv. The White Sox stocked with Cuban talent were consensus favourites to win the AL Central but will also be watching the playoffs from home. However, a record 33 Cubans played in the Majors in 2022 and a number will continue onto the playoffs. Let’s take a look at the playoff field and the Cuban baseball players that will represent many of these squads. Get Inside the dugout for my Cubans in MLB Playoffs 2022 Preview.
American League Wild Card Round
Randy Arozarena -OF- Pinar del Rio
11 Playoff home runs in 96 career post season at bats is ridiculous even if 10 of those came in 1 playoff year. Arozarena’s 2020 assault on playoff records helped lead the Rays to a World Series berth, he might have to replicate that for the Rays to return.
The reigning Rookie of the Year paced the Rays offence with 20 Home Runs and 89 RBI. In many ways Arozarena’s follow up campaign looked similar to 2021 with some variance in a few categories but a similar baseline overall. He did become the first Ray with 40 doubles and 30 steals and they will need every bit of his offensive production as the rest of the lineup looked anemic most of the year. No other Ray drove in as many as 60 runs.
Despite this the plucky underpaid Rays gritted their way to another playoff berth. They fell to third place in the division late. They were in striking distance of the lead at the beginning of September and had the Yankees worried but a late swoon has them on the road for the Wild Card Play in.
Yandy Diaz -IF- Villa Clara
Diaz has become a steady piece for the Rays and a bit of a rarity in today’s launch angle game. His .401 OBP and the fact he walked more than he struck out would help balance out many lineups. That he only hit 9 HR and drove in 57 splitting time at third and first means the Rays will be looking for RBI at other positions. As games get tighter in the playoffs perhaps his high ball in play rate will lend itself to winning baseball more than the high power high strike out approach of much of the rest of MLB.
No Cubans on Playoff Roster
Seattle Mariners vs Toronto Blue Jays
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. -OF- Sancti Spiritus
Gurriel continues to show diverse athletic flashes and miss extensive time with injuries. The Jays young hitters underachieved as a group and Gurriel technically mirrors this. His .291 average and 83 strikes outs in 121 games ere both solid numbers but his power dropped from 21 home runs to just 5 at an age you would project power development. Gurriel is currently on the 10 day injury list which could be longer than the Jay have. He is nursing a hamstring issue and 10 days may be generous.
Roenis Elias -P- Guantanamo
Elias hasn’t appeared in a Mariner’s uniform since June and only logged 7.2 innings when called on. The 33 year old was in his third go round with the Mariners so he must be good in the clubhouse. Elias honestly feels like the type of arm that would play up and should explore opportunities in Korea in the offseason.
National League Wild Card Round
No Cubans on Roster (Honourable Mention Nick Castellanos of Cuban descent)
No Cubans on Roster (Honourable Mention Nolan Arenado of Cuban descent)
No Cubans on Roster
Adrian Morejon -P- La Habana
The young hurler returned from Tommy John surgery in 2022. Penciled in to compete for a rotation spot before surgery and the acquisitions of Yu Darvish and Blake Snell he was solid in 34 innings out of the bullpen. He currently looks to be on the outside of the Friar’s playoff bullpen alignment but represents a nice depth piece. He could represent a solid trade piece in the offseason but is still young enough to push for a full-time role if San Diego makes changes in their rotation or bullpen.
American League Teams with First Round Byes
Yordan Alvarez -OF- Las Tunas
Alvarez was otherworldly in last years American League Championship Series but unfortunately tumbled back to earth in the World Series. Early on he showed no ill effects of this entering 2022. He is likely the best Cuban hitter on the planet right now but injury concerns always abound. He played 134 games down from 144 the year before but was dangerous when in the lineup. In 467 at bats he launched 37 home runs and had an impressive .405 OBP. He is likely the most important bat in a Houston lineup that hardly resembles the 2017 World Series Champions but still competes as one of the best in baseball.
Aledmys Diaz -IF- Villa Clara
Diaz is one of the more versatile an steady utility pieces in baseball. He missed extensive time, only appearing in 95 games. When he did play though he played every position but catcher and CF and hit a solid 12 home runs in 301 at bats. When healthy he might be the best utility player in the game.
Yuli Gurriel -IF- Sancti Spiritus
The positive is Yuli hit a solid 40 doubles and finished the last week strong. The negative is he regressed massively in just about every other offensive category. He became the oldest first time batting champion as his .319 average led the American League in 2021. Similar to Yordan Alvarez he faded in last year’s World Series, but perhaps showed the ill effects of this in 2022. He is also 14 years older than Alvarez however. He has been here before and is still hard to strike out. A playoff bounce back would be nice for the Astors, who are likely favoured to take the American League but not a necessity.
Aroldis Chapman -P- Holguin
Chapman’s season may best be encapsulated by a trip to the IL with an infected tattoo. He lost his closer’s role and the Yankees have debated even carrying him on the playoff roster. As of this writing his pedigree and the Yankees investment might be too much for them to leave him off, but how they use him will be worth watching and may be completely situational. Chapman is a free agent entering the winter and his days in pinstripes appear to be winding down.
Nestor Cortes -P- Villa Clara
The only player in this article without Cuban National Series experience and arguably the best Cuban pitcher in the game right now. Nasty Nestor definitely channels the National Series style keeping hitters off balance with different deliveries and funky mechanics. His 0.92 whip and sparkling 2.44 ERA in 158 innings play well beyond the National Series and many people think he is the actual Yankees ace. The Bronx Bombers pursuit of championship 28 likely only gets as far at Cortes, Gerrit Cole and Luis Severino take them. Can Nestor’s fairy tale rise from cast away to burgeoning Ace continue in the playoffs.
National League Teams with First Round Byes
Miguel Vargas -IF- La Habana
Vargas is the son of Cuban legend Lazaro Vargas and is a player to watch in the future. If the Dodgers carry him on the playoff roster it may indicate how they see his stock for the future. The youngster from Havana was called up to Industriales at just 14 and made his MLB debut at just 22 this year, all to say he has been on an advanced schedule. This schedule could also be blocked by the Dodgers overall depth and title aspirations. His Minor League numbers at least suggest he is ready for a higher league.
Guillermo Heredia -OF- Matanzas
Heredia returned to Atlanta on a year deal after being a 4th outfielder, defensive replacement and pinch runner on last years Championship squad. He only appeared in 73 games but his fundamental skill set is perfect for a veteran near the end of a playoff bench.
Raisel Igelsias -P- La Isla de Juventud
78 strike outs to 14 walks with a 2.47 ERA. Iglesias was solid with Anaheim and fabulous once he joined Atlanta. For the second straight year the Braves may have made the trade of the deadline acquiring a Cuban baller who needed a change of scenery. Iglesias only had 1 save for Atlanta but did finish 7 games and could be used to close out games or represents a potential super set up man for high leverage spots in the 7th or 8th inning.