Will Alfredo Despaigne be the next Cuban superstar to make the jump to Major League Baseball? It is a legitimate question, as arguably 3 out of the 4 top players that were on the island have defected recently in pursuit of obtaining a Major League Baseball contract. Those names include both infield brothers Yulieski and Lourdes Gourriel, and infielder Jose Miguel Fernandez. That leaves Alfredo Despaigne as the best player in many scout’s eyes still in Cuba, as well as the best player in the world not in Major League Baseball. Currently Despaigne will be playing out the final year of his 2-year contract he signed with the Chibba Lotte Marines of the Japanese Baseball League, with permission from the Cuban Government.
Despaigne at the age of 29 could be just entering his prime years, which can be considered ridiculous considering the bat and power he brings with him. At just 5’9 and 209 lbs, Despaigne’s power is widely recognized throughout the world. He was invited to participate in this year’s Caribbean Series Home Run Derby to battle the likes of Vladimir Guerrero, and a host of MLB sluggers who had unfortunately pulled out due to MLBPA restrictions. Those sluggers included David Ortiz, Miguel Cabrera, and Robinson Cano. Despaigne has also been a fixture on the Cuban National Team for years with Yulieski Gourriel, and is known for breaking Yoenis Cespedes home run record back in Cuba.
Despaigne was surrounded by a strange passport controversy while he was playing in the Mexican League a couple of years ago for using a fake Dominican Republic passport. Ultimately Despaigne was sent back to Cuba and banned for life from the Mexican League. Due to the Mexican League being an associate to Minor League Baseball, many people figured Despaigne lost his chance at playing in Major League Baseball. However Major League Baseball does not abide by the league’s suspensions, which in turn led to Despaigne still having an opportunity to play in the Major’s one day.
Despaigne more than likely won’t be in the Major’s until he’s played out his final season with the Marines of the Japanese League. However looking at the offensive potential he could bring to Major League Baseball it is enticing, considering the power impact Jose Abreu brought over to the White Sox. Between the Japanese League, The Mexican League, and The Cuban National Series, Despaigne has an insane career line of .341/.439/.632. In his career he has 280 home runs and 925 RBI’s. Despaigne also seems to be a somewhat disciplined hitter at the plate with more career walks than strikeouts back in Cuba. However those numbers are reversed while facing better opposition in Japan. It will be interesting to see how his plate discipline would translate when facing top-tier competition in the Major’s. Despaigne could also play a solid corner outfield spot in the Majors defensively. Any MLB GM would love to add a weapon such as Despaigne to their roster. Next offseason, Despaigne would be one of the top free agents available if he were to come over to America. I haven’t heard whether he would be inclined to do so but it’s an intriguing possibility nonetheless. It would be interesting to see the amount of money that Despaigne would command on the market, and he could use the contract that Yulieski Gourriel signs as a comparison to his worth in the Majors. Those contract numbers would be similar considering that Despaigne would be entering the Majors at the same age as Gourriel.
I hope next season we are able to see Despaigne in a Major League Baseball uniform and putting his tremendous skills to the test against the best in the world. We’ve seen Despaigne perform at a high level in the last two World Baseball Classic’s, and I selfishly would rather see him playing Major League Baseball next season, than another WBC appearance. Come on over Alfredo, Major League Baseball is awaiting your arrival!