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Two of Cuba’s top players reportedly defect to pursue MLB career

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Two of Cuba’s top baseball players are believed to have defected from Cuba to pursue a career in Major League Baseball.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr., 22, and Yulieski Gurriel, 31, who are brothers, defected from Cuba’s Ciego de Avila team following the Caribbean Series that concluded Sunday, according to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez — first reported by Miami’s El Nuevo Herald.

Lourdes is considered Cuba’s top prospect, while his brother Yulieski is considered the island nation’s top player. Both have repeatedly expressed a desire to legally leave the country with permission from the Cuban government with tensions easing between them and the United States.

Yulieski was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 1 player remaining in Cuba. As one of the nation’s most decorated players, he was an Olympian in 2004 and has represented Cuba in all three World Baseball Classic tournaments. He has been part of Cuban championship teams at the Pan American Games, Central American Games, World Baseball Championships, International Cup and Caribbean Series. He is considered major-league ready, and possibly could find a spot on a MLB roster this season. Playing mostly third base, he has been a career .333/.414/.577 hitter during his professional career.

Yulieski was recently allowed by the Cuban government to play in Nippon Professional Baseball batting .305/.349/.536 with 11 home runs in 62 games for the Yokohama Bay Stars.

Lourdes, the younger of the two brothers, could face more obstacles before finding himself on a major-league roster due to his age. Should he sign before his 23rd birthday, he would be subject to international bonus pools, limiting which teams could sign him. After Oct. 19, he would be free to sign with any club he chooses. During his short career thus far, Lourdes has batted .269/.355/.414 in 1036 Serie Nacional plate appearances. His numbers have steadily increased every year of his playing career.

The brothers come from a family of famous professional Cuban baseball players. Their oldest brother, Yunieski, 33, has won two MVP Awards in 16 seasons with Serie Nacional, and has spent the past two seasons playing for Quebec in the Canadian-American Association. The brothers’ father, Lourdes Gurriel Sr., played for the Cuban national team for 15 years, winning a gold medal, two batting titles and an MVP award. More recently, he was a national team manager.

While the MLB will eventually be getting two top talents in the majors with the players defecting, both players will need to establish residency in a new country then be declared a free agent by MLB before any clubs and officially attempt to sign them. There is no specific amount of time the process can take, as each case presents a difference situation.

Cuba comes to Baltimore, with something less than a full squad


In normal circumstances, the Cuban men’s national soccer team would not stand much chance of defeating the United States in the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals Saturday.
But there is never anything normal when Cuban athletes leave their country for competition. That’s because players often try to defect.
During the first 10 days of this regional tournament, four reportedly dropped out of sight. One player, Keilon Garcia, turned up a week later as a Univision in-studio analyst to discuss the Cubans’ final first-round match against Guatemala.
Asked Friday how many players would be available for the 5 p.m. game at M&T Bank Stadium, Coach Raul Gonzalez said through an interpreter: “We have 19 players — 18 is enough to play the game and the tournament.”
Pressed on the matter, he said that “the players we have now are the players we have. What you see is what’s here. For us, what is most important are the players that are here.”
When the team conducted a walk-through on the field Friday evening — most posed for photos in the purple-splashed downtown stadium — the player count appeared to be less than 19. But because Cuba was not practicing, some might have been receiving treatment or weren’t in standard team clothing.
Since 1999, about two dozen Cuban soccer players, from the senior and under-23 squads, have defected while on assignment in the United States or Canada.

Continue reading Cuba comes to Baltimore, with something less than a full squad

Cuba Confirms Defection of 2 Baseball Players During US Trip

yadielhernandez LuisYander

Yadiel Hernandez                                                             Luis Yander la O

Two Cuban baseball players have defected while in the United States for a series of games against U.S. collegians, the island’s official sports media confirmed.
Third baseman Luis Yander La O left the team in North Carolina, where the Cuban team has been playing tuneups ahead of the Pan American Games in Toronto, according to a Friday report by the sports website Jit — a phonetic renderingof “hit” in Spanish.
An earlier story from Jit said outfielder Yadiel Hernandez also defected. The website did not offer details.
The 25-year-old La O batted .329 in the Cuban league last season for Santiago. Hernandez is a 28-year-old who averaged .355 for Matanzas in 2014-15.
Defections have continued to hit Cuba’s national team despite a decision in late 2013 to raise athletes’ salaries and let them sign lucrative contracts to compete overseas during the offseason.
This year four Cubans have gone on contracts to Canada, and three to Japan.
Cuban baseballers can now seek to be released from their local clubs, with the national federation deciding whether they are needed for the national team.
Infielder Yoan Moncada was granted release last year, left the country and later agreed to a record $31.5 million signing bonus with the Boston Red Sox.   ABC News