Cuba Announces Definitive Roster for 2023 WBC

By Reynaldo Cruz

Marked by controversies because of the political influence at the time of calling MLB players, namely the exclusion of OF/1B Yasmany Tomás, the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB for its Spanish acronyms) released the names of the 30 players for the 2023 World Baseball Classic. Ten out of the 12 major leaguers who appeared in the preliminary roster have been included in the definitive Team Cuba for the competition in question.

Yoan López ultimately declined to participate in the tournament, citing, according to the FCB itself, reasons “linked to his signing with the Yomiuri Giants”, while Lázaro Armenteros was ultimately scratched from the roster for undisclosed reasons.

For the first time in many decades, the FCB or its predecessors decide not to bring three catchers to the roster, and leave it at two, although Ariel Martínez, who played for the Chunichi Dragons in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball in 2022, can play behind the plate despite being listed as a first baseman (he also played in left field for the Dragons).

The team shows some versatility, as some outfielder Yadir Drake can play first, and infielder Yurisbel Gracial can play in the outfield. Yet, it is catching where the main problems reside. Lorenzo Quintana (the highest-ranked catcher in terms of league) did not have very solid defensive year in 2022, nabbing only seven out of 40 attempts to steal in the minors, for a paltry 17.5%. At the same time, an overweight Alfredo Despaigne, a recently injured Yoenis Céspedes, and a still likely to be blocked by the White Sox Luis Robert (all of whom will likely figure in the starting line up) also raise questions and concern.

Since manager Armando Johnson has not laid eyes on the major leaguers, we still need to see what line up he comes up with.

Cuba starts play on March 8, in Taichung, facing host Chinese Taipei, Netherlands, Italy and Panama.

This is the roster.

Catchers (2): Andrys Pérez and Lorenzo Quintana

Infielders (8): Ariel Martínez, Bárbaro Erisbel Arruebarruena, Dayan García, Luis Vicente Mateo, Yadil Mujica Díaz, Yurisbel Gracial, Yoan Moncada, and Andy Ibáñez.

Outfielders (6): Yoelkis Guibert, Roel Santos, Yadir Drake, Alfredo Despaigne, Yoenis Céspedes, and Luis Robert.

Pitchers (14): Yoennis Yera, Liván Moinelo, Carlos Juan Viera, Raidel Martínez, Yariel Rodríguez, Frank Abel Álvarez, Naykel Cruz, José Ramón Rodríguez, Yeudis Reyes, Onelki García, Ronald Bolaños, Luis Miguel Romero, Elián Leyva, and Roenis Elías.

Management: Armando Johnson (Manager), Germán Mesa (Bench Coach), Rafael Muñoz (Third Base Coach), Armando Ferrer (First Base Coach), Pedro Luis Lazo (Pitching Coach), José Elósegui (Pitching Coach), Humberto Guevara (Physical Trainer), and Orestes Kindelán (Hitting Coach).

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