Cuban Defectors Revisited

2011 was the “Year of the Cuban Defector” as Yoesnis Cespedes made news with his out-of-this-world Youtube video. Cespedes like another countryman, Jorge Soler, defected in 2011, but there was another player who left the Cuban national team while they were at the 2010 World University Baseball Championship in Taiwan: Leonys Martin.
He didn’t have a workout video that featured a Star Wars-like intro, Jay-Z and overuse of slow motion, but he did post solid numbers in Cuba and was the youngest player on the 2009 World Baseball Classic Cuba squad. Martin went from making $40 a week to signing a five-year deal with the Texas Rangers worth $15.5M with a $5M signing bonus in 2011. He was given a cup of coffee in the MLB late 2011 (eight ABs), but only played in 24 games in 2012 where he struggled: .174/.235/.370.

Meanwhile, Cespedes signed a four-year deal for $36M on February 13, 2012 with the Oakland Athletics. The 2012 season included a bevy of highlight plays from Cespedes as he .292/.356/.505 with 23 homers, five triples and 16 stolen bases. He helped the A’s claim the AL West title and finished second in ROY voting. Cespedes split his time between CF (48 games), LF (56) and DH (26). The scouting report on Cespedes has him projected as a corner outfielder with a below average hit tool and above average power.

Though the fanfare did not follow him, Martin was labeled an above-average defender, hitter and his ceiling is an All-Star centerfielder. This season Martin has flashed all of those things as he has hit .286/.336/.438 with four triples and eight stolen bases. Cespedes has regressed slightly this year with a slash line of .228/.301/.456, but his power (nine homers) has helped maintained an above average OPS+ (103).

The season is still young and both players still have a couple years on their contracts remaining, but Martin could be the valued signing when it is all said and done. He is lining up to be the best everyday centerfielder for the Rangers since Gary Matthews, Jr. Compared to Cespedes, Martin is younger, cheaper and can play a premium position on a ballclub. No pomp and circumstance needed for this guy, just an opportunity to play day in and day out.     

Eddie Middlebrook is the co-host of “Chin Music” and VP of Media for ShutDowninning. He can be reached at or on Twitter @emiddlebrook
Eddie Middlebrook
Eddie Middlebrook is Senior Writer for @ballparkbanter9 and @shutdowninning. Formerly with @wfaasports and @FoxSportsSW. @IBWAA member. Eddie can be found on Twitter @emiddlebrook.

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