By Juan Páez
It is always good and exciting to look into the future, and when the present is interesting enough for the Cuban contingent in the Major Leagues. We in Swing Completo have five predictions or projections of what could happen within the next five years regarding Cuban-born players and the numbers that are records today.
We will go through the list, one by one:
1. Aroldis Chapman to the Top 5 in saves
Up to this date, Aroldis Chapman has 306 career saves, a figure that places him 27th of all time. However, it seems that the Cuban southpaw will have little trouble climbing up the ladder. For instance, to be placed in the 20th spot in history, the Holguín-born will only need 19 saves, something that he might accomplish this very season.
But looking further ahead, the Cuban Missile (age 34) could place in the Top 5 of all time if he saves, on average, 30 games per season the upcoming five years. If he collects 150 saves between 2022 and 2026, he shall end his career among the best five closers of all time, along with men like Mariano Rivera (652), Trevor Hoffman (601), Lee Smith (478) and Francisco Rodríguez (437).
2. At least an MVP for Luis Robert
Yes, in Swing Completo we go ALL IN. We are not the only ones who think that Luis Robert has enough talent to eventually become an American League Most Valuable Player. The outfielder is only 24 and he has barely started to show the best of his tools.
“La Pantera” has an exquisite combination of power, offensive consistency, speed in the basepaths and great defensive prowess, a remarkable package that might lead the ChiSox for the next decade. If he reaches his full potential, he could dominate baseball for a fair amount of years, and, as a consequence, carry an MVP award home.
3. A farewell to some greats
Every day, circumstances and hostile conditions of the big-league market for players nearing the age of 40. It seems a reality that within the next we might bid farewell to two Cuban legends: Yulieski Gurriel and José Abreu. Gurriel would be playing the 2006 campaign at 42, while Abreu will turn 39 during that very season, although he is more likely to extend his career.
What remains to be seen is how long two of Cuba’s greatest hitters of recent times can remain active. In the twilight of their careers by then, they would only have to enjoy the game and improve their service sheets in The Show.
4. RECORD of Cuban presence
No MLB season has seen 31 Cubans on stage. The absolute record, accomplished on several occasions, is 30 players from this country in the same season. But with so much talent in the Minors, it is sensible to think that within the next few years (sooner than later) that number will grow and we will see history.
As a matter of fact, 2022 is a good opportunity to break that historic mark, mainly with the possible arrivals of Yoelqui Céspedes, Pedro León and Miguel Antonio Vargas, along with many other youngsters who have been shining in the minors.
5. A Farewell to the 110-Million Deal
A mark that has gotten complicated to break has been the biggest contract in history for any Cuban in the majors: the $100-million contract signed by Yoenis Céspedes with the New York Mets in November 2016. Since that moment, nobody among Cubans has come close to such a huge deal.
Yet, within the next five years, players like Yordan Álvarez and Randy Arozarena will be receiving new contracts, apart from promising players like the younger Céspedes, who could receive huge extensions early in their careers. Time will tell.