World Baseball Classic Team Preview: Cuba

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Tournament history: 13-7. Team Cuba reached the 2006 championship game at Petco Park, but lost 10-6 to Japan. In 2009, Team Cuba didn’t advance beyond the second round, as they were shut out twice by Japan in games started by Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hisashi Iwakuma. In 2013, it was Team Netherlands who twice beat Team Cuba, keeping them from getting out of the second round once again.

Manager: Carlos Marti just guided Alazenes de Granma in the recent Caribbean World Series, and takes over the WBC squad from Victor Mesa.

ROSTER

Pitchers: Freddy Alvarez, Vladimir Banos, Lazaro Blanco, Noelvis Entenza, Jose Angel Garcia, Vladimir Garcia, Miguel Lahera, Leandro Martinez, Raidel Martinez, Livan Moinelo, Alain Sanchez, Yosvani Torres, Yoanni Yera

Catchers: Yosvani Alarcon, Frank Morejon, Osvaldo Vazquez

Infielders: Guillermo Aviles, Alexander Ayala, Carlos Benitez, Jeferson Delgado,  Yurisbel Garcial, Yordan Manduley, William Saavedra

Outfielders: Frederich Cepeda, Yoelkis Cespedes, Aldredo Despaigne, Victor Mesa, Roel Santos

Projected lineup

  • CF Roel Santos
  • SS Alexander Ayala
  • LF Alfredo Despaigne
  • DH Frederich Cepeda
  • 1B William Saavedra
  • 3B Yurisbel Garcial
  • 2B Carlos Benitez
  • C Frank Morejon
  • RF Yoelkis Cespedes

The rundown: Aroldis Chapman, Yoenis Cesdepes, Jose Abreu, Yulieski Gurriel and Yasmany Tomas are part of the talent drain from this roster. In addition, pitcher Freddy Alvarez, a 2013 WBC team member, is out with an injury. The best of what’s left likely is Alfredo Despaigne, a former Cuban league MVP now playing in Japan. Team Cuba currently is touring Asia and playing against other WBC squads, and the results haven’t been great. They lost two games to South Korea, 6-1 and 7-6, and split two with Chinese Taipei (Taiwan).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Outfielder Despaigne, 29, arguably the best hitter on Cuba’s roster, has played in Japan since 2014 — the first three seasons with the Chiba Lotte Marines, and now for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.

Starting pitchers Vladimir Banos, 34, and Lazaro Blanco, 31, were part of the Alazanes de Granma team that represented Cuba in the recent Caribbean Series in Culiacan, Mexico, and will be in the WBC rotation.

Outfielder Yoelkis Cespedes is the 19-year-old half-brother of Yoenis. He started in right field for the Alezenes de Granma team that represented Cuba in the recent Caribbean Series.

Outfielder Frederich Cepeda, 36, is in his fourth WBC, and has played for the Yomiuri Giants in Japan since 2014 after a long career in Cuba.

Outfielder Victor Mesa Jr., 20, is the son of the longtime Cuban star outfielder and manager.

Prediction: This is a Cuban team short on big-league-caliber talent, and there is a chance of a first-round exit, as Australia is capable of advancing out of the pool along with host Japan.