Dan's Dugout: What Latino Stars Will Shine This Summer? • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: What Latino Stars Will Shine This Summer?

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NEW YORK — With the diplomatic door to Cuba open wide, the 2015 baseball pennant races will be shaped by the performance of Latino stars.

More than a handful of Cuban imports should make an immediate impact, along with returning players from other Caribbean countries.

With one eye on the alphabet, here’s a look ahead:

Cuban native Jose Abreu was 2014 AL Rookie of the Year

Cuban native Jose Abreu was 2014 AL Rookie of the Year

Jose Abreu (Cuba) — Had he not spent three weeks on the disabled list, the 2014 AL Rookie of the Year might have led the majors in home runs. The sky’s the limit for the 28-year-old White Sox DH.

Jose Altuve (Venezuela) — Houston’s 5’7″ second baseman led the American League in hits, steals, and average last year and figures to torture enemy pitchers again.

Henderson Alvarez (Venezuela) — Not yet 25, he’s already pitched a no-hitter and won a dozen games in his only full season. The Marlins are expecting big things, especially since Jose Fernandez is not quite ready.

Elvis Andrus (Venezuela) — Elvis definitely left the building last year; Texas is counting on its fleet shortstop to bounce back.

Jose Bautista (Dominican) — This 34-year-old Toronto power plant has two home run crowns on his resume and could hit more than the 35 he collected last year.

Carlos Beltran (Puerto Rico) — A switch-hitter who’s past his prime, he’s seen his home run totals decline three years in a row, thanks to aching knees and advancing age (38 next month).

Carlos Beltran needs his knees to hold up Image Credit: Daniel Budasoff

Carlos Beltran needs his knees to hold up
Image Credit: Daniel Budasoff

Adrian Beltre (Dominican) — Like Beltran, his power numbers have dropped three straight times but his Gold Glove and .324 average mean he’s still vital to the success of the Texas Rangers.

Asdrubal Cabrera (Venezuela) — With his power stroke apparently gone, Cabrera has bounced around, with Tampa Bay his latest port o’ call.

Miguel Cabrera (Venezuela) — At age 32, this two-time American League MVP and Triple Crown winner still does a solid job anchoring the Tiger lineup. He’s just 10 home runs short of 400 lifetime.

Melky Cabrera (Dominican) — A player who never lived up to his potential, Melky brings his switch-hitting skills to the revamped Chicago White Sox this spring.

Robinson Cano hopes to hit more home runs at home

Robinson Cano hopes to hit more home runs at home

Robinson Cano (Dominican) — Safeco Field short-circuited Cano’s power but he still hit .314 in his first Seattle season.

Rusney Castillo (Cuba) — A little righthanded hitter with big-time potential, Castillo collected two home runs in a short-lived stint with the Bosox last summer. If healthy, he figures to man one of Boston’s outfield spots.

Starlin Castro (Dominican) — Unless he returns to his 2011 form, when he led the league in hits, Castro could become trade bait on a Cubs team overloaded with shortstops.

Francisco Cervelli (Venezuela) — After hitting .301 in limited action with the 2014 Yankees, he gets his first crack at daily duty as Russell Martin’s heir with Pittsburgh.

Yoenis Cespedes (Cuba) — A righthanded slugger who was traded twice last year, Cespedes adds power to a Detroit lineup anchored by two other Latinos, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez.

Bartolo Colon (Dominican) — Critics who questioned the wisdom of signing the portly pitcher to a two-year deal could be right: the 41-year-old righthander has been awful this spring while competing for the last spot in the Mets’ rotation.

Nelson Cruz (Dominican) — He’ll turn 35 in July and play half his games in Safeco Field, a graveyard for hitters, but the Mariners were quick to sign the only man to reach 40 homers in the majors last year.

Nelson Cruz led the majors with 40 homers in 2014 Obsssports photo

Nelson Cruz led the majors with 40 homers in 2014
(Obsssports photo)

Johnny Cueto (Dominican) — If not for Clayton Kershaw, the Cincinnati fireballer would have won last year’s Cy Young with his 20-9 record and league-high 242 strikeouts.

Edwin Encarnacion (Dominican) — A slugger who’s topped 30 home runs three straight times for Toronto, he’s at the top of his game at age 32.

Yunel Escobar (Cuba) — The multi-talented but enigmatic infielder could shift from short to second if Washington hangs onto prospective free agent Ian Desmond.

Marco Estrada (Mexico) — Toronto added this righty just in time since he’ll take the spot vacated by the injured Marcus Stroman. He’s shown flashes of brilliance in a career that dates back to 2008.

Jeurys Familia (Dominican) — This Mets set-up man was superb in his first full season.

Jose Fernandez (Cuba) — The Marlins are anxious to get the 2013 NL strikeout king back at the top of their rotation with his surgically-repaired elbow.

Wilmer Flores (Venezuela) — An offense-oriented shortstop, he’ll play everyday for the Mets because he’s better than Ruben Tejada. But nobody will ever mistake him for Andrelton Simmons.

Yovani Gallardo (Mexico) — After posting five straight seasons with double-digit wins for Milwaukee, this righty slipped a bit last summer and found himself traded to Texas. With Yu Darvish out, he just might be the ace of the staff.

Carlos Gomez (Dominican) — Still just 29, the Milwaukee All-Star could become baseball’s next 30/30 guy if he can keep a lid on his temper.

Carlos Gonzalez (Venezuela) — A 29-year-old former batting king who has trouble avoiding the disabled list, CarGo normally thrives in Denver’s alpine air.

Miguel Gonzalez (Mexico) — Baltimore expects big things from this trim righthanded starter, who has kept a tidy ERA during his three seasons in the American League.

King Felix is a perennial Cy Young Award candidate

King Felix is a perennial Cy Young Award candidate

Felix Hernandez (Venezuela) — A perennial Cy Young Award contender, he has led the AL in ERA twice and wins, innings, and winning percentage once each. King Felix won’t even turn 29 until after the season opens.

Kelvin Herrera (Dominican) — Part of Kansas City’s terrific and terrifying bullpen troika, he posted a microscopic 1.41 earned run average last summer. ‘Nuff said.

Jose Iglesias (Cuba) — A slick-fielding shortstop who trades power for contact, he’d be a huge plus if he proves he can resume his usual form after an injury-riddled campaign.

Omar Infante (Venezuela) — His ability to play everywhere, make contact, and provide occasional pop keeps him in the big leagues — and often in the postseason — at age 33.

Ubaldo Jimenez (Dominican) — Hey, didn’t you used to be Ubaldo Jimenez? He’s won in double digits four times but showed no sign of that success in his first Baltimore season last summer.

Juan Lagares (Dominican) — A spectacular centerfielder who surprised the Mets with a .281 average last year, his glove makes up for his lack of power.

Starling Marte (Dominican) — He can run, hit for average, and add a dozen homers but the 26-year-old Marte may get even better as he gains experience.

Victor Martinez (Venezuela) — Detroit’s 36-year-old DH, in search of his first World Series, delivered a deluge of power last year with a .335 average, 32 homers, and 103 RBI.

Jenrry Mejia (Dominican) — Bobby Parnell’s misfortune opened the door for this journeyman reliever, whose career started in 2008. With six wins, 28 saves, and more strikeouts than innings pitched, he became a solid closer.

Yadier Molina (Puerto Rico) — An improving hitter, the NL’s best catcher has led the Cardinals to four World Series in

Yadier Molina has no competition as the NL's best catcher

Yadier Molina has no competition as the NL’s best catcher

his 11-year career. Runners fear his arm.

Miguel Montero (Venezuela) — The 31-year-old catcher should produce more power if the prevailing winds at Wrigley Field cooperate. Why Arizona traded him remains a mystery.

Kendrys Morales (Cuba) — The power-starved Kansas City Royals like this newly-acquired, switch-hitting slugger, who’s produced 110 homers in eight seasons.

Dioner Navarro (Venezuela) — Unhappy that the Blue Jays gave Russell Martin a lavish contract, he’s asked to be traded to a team where he can play every day.

David Ortiz (Dominican) — Though he turns 40 in November, Big Papi shows no signs of letting up. If he repeats his 2014 numbers (35 homers), he’ll crack the 500 plateau.

Marcell Ozuna (Dominican) — Miami made maximum mileage out of his first full season (23 homers in 153 games).

Angel Pagan (Puerto Rico) — A switch-hitting centerfielder who can run, Pagan returns to the Giants after a season interrupted by injuries.

Jhonny Peralta (Dominican) — He delivered 21 homers, exactly what the Cardinals expected, in his first St. Louis summer. So what if his mother couldn’t spell?

Wily Peralta (Dominican) — Outside of Milwaukee, nobody knows this righty won 17 games last season. Do we hear 20?

Salvador Perez (Venezuela) — A solid backstop whose power numbers have improved three years in a row, he’s got a bright future in Kansas City.

Michael Pineda (Dominican) — Phenomenal in 13 games with the Yankees last year, he needs to stay healthy if he’s ever going to prove his potential. Age (26) is on his side.

Gregory Polanco (Dominican) — A big lefthanded outfielder who runs well, he’s certain to play more often for the 2015 Pirates.

Martin Prado (Venezuela) — A .291 lifetime hitter who plays everything but the bass fiddle, Prado is the perfect No. 2 hitter in a vastly-improved Miami lineup.

Yasiel Puig needs to tone down his act

Yasiel Puig needs to tone down his act

Yasiel Puig (Cuba) — At 24, this slugging Cuban defector already has two seasons under his belt. Only his showboating bursts can tarnish his star.

Albert Pujols (Dominican) — Though he hasn’t hit .300 since 2010, this 35-year-old National League transplant has Hall of Fame stats with a .317 average and 520 home runs. The Angels are counting on him to top 100 RBI again.

Alexei Ramirez (White Sox) — He’s hit at least 15 home runs five times and stolen a high of 30 bases. Throw in his solid glove and Chicago is happy with its shortstop.

Aramis Ramirez (Dominican) — After two injury-riddled campaigns, the Brewers are betting that their 36-year-old third baseman will contribute at least two-dozen homers this season.

Hanley Ramirez (Dominican) — Returning to Fenway Park will help this former batting king but playing caroms off the Green Monster might not; he’s spent his career at shortstop and third base.

Wilson Ramos (Venezuela) — Two stints on the DL hurt the Washington backstop last year but he shows surprising power when healthy.

Jose Reyes (Dominican) — Toronto hopes this 31-year-old switch-hitter remains a disruptive force at the top of the order. He’s led his league in triples and stolen bases three times each.

Jose Reyes hopes to stay healthy for the 2015 Jays

Jose Reyes hopes to stay healthy for the 2015 Jays

Fernando Rodney (Dominican) — He may be 38 but he’s coming off consecutive 48-save seasons. Seattle’s title bid rests on his right arm.

Francisco Rodriguez (Venezuela) — K-Rod finally found his former form last summer, saving more than 40 games for the first time since his record 62-save season of 2008.

Carlos Ruiz (Panama) — After surviving a winter of trade rumors, the 36-year-old catcher is watching the winds of change transform the aging Phils into a younger, faster club. His experience should help.

Danny Salazar (Dominican) — If Cleveland plans to make any noise in the AL Central, it needs this 25-year-old righthander to live up to his advance billings. He’s starting his first full season in the majors.

Anibal Sanchez (Venezuela) — He pitched a no-hitter in 2006 and won an ERA title in 2013 but why hasn’t this Tiger starter ever won more than 14 games in a season?

The Panda has come to Fenway

The Panda has come to Fenway

Pablo Sandoval (Venezuela) — A nimble third baseman despite his girth, the switch-hitting Sandoval left his heart in San Francisco but took a new direction with Boston. Will the Kung Fu Panda dolls follow?

Carlos Santana (Dominican) — Converting from catcher to third base slowed Santana at the start of last year but he rebounded to tie his career peak of 27 home runs. At 29, the Cleveland slugger is at the top of his game.

Danny Santana (Dominican) — Capable at both shortstop and center field, Santana is looking forward to his first full season after hitting .319 in 101 games for the 2014 Twins.

Ervin Santana (Dominican) — A 32-year-old innings eater, he brings his right arm across league lines to Minnesota, where he could become the ace of a bad team.

Jean Segura (Dominican) — A return to 2013 form by the Milwaukee shortstop would make him an instant contender for the National League Comeback of the Year Award.

Alfredo Simon (Dominican) — Traded from Cincinnati to Detroit after a career-best 15-10 campaign, he’ll help ease the sting of Max Scherzer’s departure to Washington via free agency.

Jorge Soler (Cuba) — After giving the Cubs five homers in his first 89 at-bats, this kid has a bright future.

Julio Teheran (Colombia) — The ace of the Atlanta staff will need better run support to post a winning record.

Atlanta ace Julio Teheran needs more support to win

Atlanta ace Julio Teheran needs more support to win

Ruben Tejada (Panama) — Demoted from shortstop to utility infielder, Tejada must hit to hold his job.

Yasmany Tomas (Cuba) — While Arizona decides whether he’d be better at third base or the outfield, this Havana native hopes he’ll justify the team’s huge investment.

Juan Uribe (Dominican) — After hitting .311 and surviving two stints on the DL last year, he’ll probably see more playing time at third base for the Dodgers.

Yordano Ventura (Dominican) — In his first full year, he won 14 games in the regular season for the Royals and another in the World Series. Not yet 24, he has a bright future ahead.

Dayan Viciedo (Cuba) — Toronto took a flyer on this slugging outfielder, who should thrive at the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre.

Elsewhere in baseball:

Shields facing right

Did James Shields reject a better offer from the Giants?

Insiders say San Francisco offered James Shields more money than San Diego but the pitcher picked the latter because he lives there . . .

Red Sox rookie receiver Blake Swihart could bring Boston Cole Hamels if they’d be willing to trade him . . .

Can’t figure why Tampa Bay gave Kevin Cash a five-year deal worth $1 million per season despite his total lack of experience as a major-league manager . . .

Barring a late-spring swap, the Mets will be minus any lefthanded arm in their bullpen following the diagnosis that idled Josh Edgin with Tommy John surgery . . .

Maybe he’s got a magic Wandy (Rodriguez) but something is working for the veteran, oft-injured lefty as he bids for one of two open spots in the Atlanta rotation . . .

Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant is slugging his way toward early-favorite status as 2015 National League Rookie of the Year . . .

Matt Kemp may help the Padres with his bat but is sure to be a detriment in the field (which is why the Dodgers dumped him and gladly paid most of his contract) . . .

The more Dan Uggla plays, the more likely it is he will be a big player for Washington — maybe even pushing Yunel

Dan Uggla's bat has been alive for Washington this spring

Dan Uggla’s bat has been alive for Washington this spring

Escobar back to short and pending free agent Ian Desmond to another club via trade . . .

Eric Young, Jr. will be Atlanta’s starting centerfielder in the absence of under-performing Melvin Upton, Jr.

 

 

 

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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