Kicking Rocks: Defecting to Cuba

The Yasiel Puig hype is out of control. After a hot spring, he landed on everyone’s fantasy radar and now here we are, four games into his major league career and already we are shipping his cleats off to Cooperstown and engraving the plaque. No one is screaming “small sample size” and no one is referring back to the throngs of ballplayers who made a big splash to open their careers yet did nothing to follow it up. Instead, we’re being inundated with comparisons to already well-established superstars, insane statistical projections and lists of Cuban-born players who have found success in Major League Baseball. In fact, the amount of Cuban history that I have seen, heard and read about in the past week is overwhelming. So much so that I have actually decided to try out a brand new strategy for my fantasy team. I have decided to become a fantasy racist.

In truth, I have tried this strategy once before, but not because the media has me champing at the bit for the next Cuban player to defect. Back in the late ’90’s, in an attempt to silence my girlfriend at the time, I employed an all-Latino strategy. She was of Puerto Rican descent and I often spent hours at family dinners defending my obsession with baseball and the fantasy game to her and her sisters as complaints were made that I paid more attention to “my little hobby” than I did to her. When I sidled up to her grandmother, discussed my new team strategy and shared in stories of some of the great Hispanic ballplayers both past and present, the matriarch of the family finally spoke up in my defense and the weekly browbeating finally ceased.

Obviously a player’s skill set and statistics were of primary importance, but if they weren’t of Latino descent, then they had no place on my roster. It was goodbye David Cone and Will Clark and hello to Vladimir Guerrero and Pedro Martinez. After a number of offseason trades and some savvy drafting, my team was ready to compete. The fantasy team “Sweet Plantain” was born and 1999 was celebrated with a sound beating of my competition and the seemingly elusive championship was finally mine.

So, in the spirit of the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic, I believe that now is the time to employ this strategy once again. In fact, with the massive influx of international talent in Major League Baseball, we can take this strategy one step further and get more country-specific. With the array of countries we see participating in the WBC and other international baseball tournaments, it’s possible to build your team from just one area. You can put together an all-Venezuelan team. You can put together a fantasy team made up solely of players from the Dominican Republic. We’re not quite ready to to assemble an all-Japanese team, but damn, are we getting close.

So allow me to present to you the newest sensation in fantasy baseball — Viva Cuba! With Puig at the center of my team, there is no reason to think that this strategy can’t work, right? We already know that we can pair him in the outfield with fellow countrymen Yoenis Cespedes and Dayan Viciedo, so let’s take a look at how the rest of the team would line up.

I present to you The Flying Cohibas.

C Yasmani Grandal
C Brayan Pena
1B Kendrys Morales
2B Adeiny Hechavarria
3B Jose Iglesias
SS Alexi Ramirez
MI Yunel Escobar
CI Yonder Alonso
UT Yuniesky Betancourt
OF Yasiel Puig
OF Yoenis Cespedes
OF Dayan Viciedo
OF Leonys Martin
OF Juan Miranda
SP Jose Fernandez
SP Livan Hernandez
SP Jose Contreras
P Yunesky Maya
P Yoslan Herrera
P Raul Valdes
RP Aroldis Chapman
RP Francisley Bueno
RP Eddy Rodriguez

That’s not a bad group of ballplayers, especially if you assume a league of 15 or more teams. The pitching could certainly use some work, but with several of these guys being shuttled back and forth to the minors, I’m sure that my ERA and WHIP would sit in the top half. With the Biogenesis crap going on, I may lose Grandal for an extended period of time, but the catcher position is a throw-away for many, right? I’ll also have to lobby to the commissioner that Hechavarria’s eight games at second base last season should be enough to qualify and then have to dig crazy, deep to find some sort of documentation that Miranda will be used in the outfield. But other than that, every position is thoroughly locked down. I may run into some depth issues should I get hit with a run of injuries, but I’ve already contracted a company to perform a genealogical study to find me a list of anyone in MLB with a family connection to Cuba.

So raise the flag of your favorite country and celebrate their heritage with a fantasy homage. If you don’t already own Puig, it might be tough to assemble a team from Cuba as the hype machine is in full force and has every owner believing that he’s Hall of Fame-bound already. But there’s plenty of others to go around. Jurickson Profar is Dutch, Anthony Rizzo is Italian and you can always “buy American” and stick with Trout and Bryce Harper. I’d mention that Mike Moustakas is Greek, but sorry….based on his current performance, that country is not a recommended strategy at this time.




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Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site, RotobuzzGuy.com, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at rotobuzzguy@gmail.com


17 Responses to “Kicking Rocks: Defecting to Cuba”

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  1. Metsox says:

    I bought Greek precisely for the reasons outlined above. Big mistake. BIG mistake.

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  2. Pelotero says:

    STRAW SOX presents, Major Leaguers of Cuban heritage to choose from:
    Robert Andino, Nolan Arenado, J.P. Arencibia, Bronson Arroyo, Alex Avila, Robert Coello, Matt Dominguez, Gio Gonzalez, Eric Hosmer, Raul Ibañez, Jon Jay, J.D. Martinez, Chris Perez, Paco Rodriguez, Sean Rodriguez, Gaby Sanchez, Danny Valencia.

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  3. Fish says:

    Well, as far as fantasy racism goes, I can say that I never trust an Australian baseball player (other than Graeme Lloyd). Has served me well.

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  4. jim says:

    Imagine if Cuba became a regular country we could do business with. Maybe the MLB would consider letting a franchise setup shop there. the Havana Machissimos or something like that. Get rid of the marlins and give cuba a shot.

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    • Big Daddy V says:

      There actually used to be a AAA team in Havana back in the 50s.

      The fan base would definitely be there, the question would be whether they could support a major-league salary. I expect they would not be able to charge nearly as much for tickets as a U.S. team would.

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    • Howard Bender says:

      I was just hoping to get some rational thought to counter some of this Puig hype and every broadcasters sudden infatuation with Cuban baseball, but this is a much better thing to discuss actually. Salaries would definitely be an issue, but if the Cuban government would ever get on board with this, I would love to see it happen.

      Thanks Jim

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    • Giovani says:

      Never happen until the diehard conservative people of Cuban heritage in Florida die out and release their stranglehold on Florida politics, and by extension on national policy on this issue.

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  5. Cuck city says:

    Y do all of their names start with Y?

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    • yeah says:

      Something to do with Soviet influence is something I’ve heard, or maybe I dreamed that.

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    • jrogers says:

      I was noticing that too; interesting that not only are there eight different “Y” names, but none are repeated. Though Yunesky and Yuniesky are pretty close.

      Add Yadier Molina and Yovani Gallardo to start on an all-unique Y-name team.

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    • FeslenR says:

      well, it might be something like how there’s so many “Johns” and the like in our culture.

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