The newest Cuban export to Major League Baseball, infielder Alexander Guerrero, says that the talent pool remaining in the Serie Nacional back home is very thin.
“Now that people like Yasiel [Puig] and José Dariel [Abreu] are gone,” the Dodgers’ recent signee told Fox News Latino, “there are only five or six top-level ballplayers left.” After mentioning slugger Alfredo Despaigne he added, “There aren’t many others.”
Guerrero, 26, was a Cuban-league all-star for Las Tunas, a city in the southern part of the island. His best season was 2009-10, when he hit .343 with 19 home runs and 87 RBI.
After some negotiations over the summer that fizzled when it turned out that Guerrero’s agent hadn’t been certified by the Players Association, the Cuban signed with top agent Scott Boras, who negotiated a 4-year, $28 million deal for Guerrero. When he joins the Los Angeles Dodgers at spring training next year, the infielder will be among the two dozen or so ballplayers of Cuban origin in the ranks of the MLB.
Although Guerrero primarily played shortstop in Cuba, the Dodgers are expected to play him at second base. “It won’t be a problem,” he said. “I’ve played a lot at second.”
When he last played with Puig it was as opponents in the Serie Nacional, and he’s looking forward to having the right fielder on his side this time. “He’s a tremendous player and a great guy.”
After Guerrero was left off the national team roster for the World Baseball Classic, he got onto a boat bound for Haiti in January with his older brother, Michael. Not Miguel, Michael. Just as it isn’t Alejandro. Why did his mother, Clarisbel, give them both English names? Guerrero laughed, saying, “No idea. You’d have to ask her that.”
Clarisbel stayed behind, but she’s still very much a part of her son’s life. “I communicate with her every day via e-mail,” Guerrero said.
Although he now maintains a residence in Haiti – until his U.S. visa comes through, that is – Guerrero recently joined Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican League. “The level of play here is higher than in Cuba,” he said. “The players, the facilities – it’s all much better.”
Just wait till he gets to L.A.
Bill Vourvoulias (@bvourvoulias) is an editor at Fox News Latino.