Last Updated: January 25th, 2024 by Jake Cain
Cuban baseball players have made indelible marks on Major League Baseball. Throughout MLB history, they have earned numerous accolades, including MVP awards, Gold Gloves, and multiple All-Star appearances.
Outstanding statistics in batting, pitching, and fielding distinguish these players among their peers.
From the legacy of trailblazers who integrated into American baseball, to the more recent defectors who have sought new opportunities in the MLB, Cuban athletes have made a mark on the game.
We’ve sorted through Baseball Reference’s complete list of Cuban-born players and pulled out who we think are the best to ever play:
Tony Pérez, a Cuban-American who made a significant mark in MLB, is celebrated for his tenure with the Cincinnati Reds. His MLB career spanned from 1964 to 1986, during which he showcased exceptional skills as a first baseman and third baseman. Pérez was a crucial part of the Reds’ “Big Red Machine,” contributing to the team’s two World Series victories in 1975 and 1976.
Pérez’s career statistics are a testament to his prowess, amassing 379 home runs and achieving 1,652 runs batted in (RBIs). He was known for his clutch hitting and was a seven-time All-Star, reflecting his consistent performance and respect among peers. His legacy in MLB is solidified by his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000.
Throughout his career, Pérez received accolades that reflected his excellence on the field. Notably, his number, 24, was retired by the Cincinnati Reds, honoring his impact on the franchise. He also served as a coach and manager after his playing days, showing a continued commitment to baseball.
Luis Tiant is a former Cuban Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher, recognized for his exceptional skills on the mound. Born on November 23, 1940, Tiant’s 19-year career in the majors was marked by notable achievements including a remarkable comeback and dramatic family reunion. He is most renowned for his tenure with the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox.
Tiant’s statistics are indicative of his prowess; he amassed a career record of 229 wins and 172 losses, with an impressive career earned run average (ERA) of 3.30. He struck out 2,416 batters over his career, the most by any Cuban pitcher.
Tiant’s mastery on the field earned him three All-Star selections and two nods for the AL Comeback Player of the Year. His pitching technique was distinctive for its variety of arm angles and deliveries, making him a challenging opponent for batters. Regarded as one of the best Cuban pitchers to have played in MLB, Tiant’s legacy in baseball is celebrated among fans and historians alike.
Rafael Palmeiro was a Cuban-American baseball player who made a significant impact on Major League Baseball (MLB) through his career. He excelled as both a first baseman and a left fielder. His career achievements include being a four-time All-Star, winning the Gold Glove award three times, and achieving recognition as an MVP caliber player.
With a batting average of .288, Palmeiro was known for his consistent hitting ability. He amassed more than 3,000 hits and over 500 home runs during his time in the MLB. These statistics place him in an elite group alongside legends such as Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.
Palmeiro’s 20-year tenure in MLB with teams such as the Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers, and the Baltimore Orioles showcased his long-lasting athleticism and competitive edge. His time at Mississippi State University foreshadowed his future success, where he stood out as an All-American athlete. Despite his accomplishments, his career was not without controversy, marked by a positive test for steroids shortly after testifying before Congress.
Tony Oliva, a Cuban right fielder and designated hitter, epitomized hitting prowess during his tenure with the Minnesota Twins from 1962 to 1976.
Beginning his career as Rookie of the Year in 1964, Oliva led the American League (AL) in hits for five seasons. His batting proficiency earned him the AL batting title three times, with a remarkable average of .323 in his rookie season.
Oliva was an eight-time All-Star and secured the Gold Glove award in 1966, contributing not only with his bat but also with his defensive skills. Despite battling knee injuries, he amassed 1,917 hits and 220 home runs and maintained a .304 career batting average. His offensive contributions were critical in the Twins’ capture of the 1965 American League pennant.
Acknowledged for his consistent performance at the plate, Oliva became the first player to win two batting titles in his first two seasons. His adept hitting made him a revered figure in Major League Baseball and a proud representative of the Cuban heritage in the sport.
Tony became a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2022
Cristóbal Torriente, born on November 16, 1893, is recognized as one of the greatest Cuban baseball players in Negro League history. Considered comparable to the legendary Babe Ruth, Torriente was a formidable force as an outfielder, particularly renowned for his time with multiple teams from 1912 to 1932. His capability to hit with power to all fields made him a versatile and dangerous hitter.
Torriente’s proficiency at the plate was evident through his batting average. With a stocky and slightly bowlegged stature, his appearance belied an underlying agility and athletic prowess, allowing him to dominate in various aspects of the game. His strong, accurate arm made him a defensive asset in center field.
His career accomplishments were substantial, enough to earn him induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. This recognition underscores the impact he had on baseball history and acknowledges his exceptional talent on the diamond. Despite the lack of comprehensive statistical records from his era, Torriente’s reputation among historians and fans remains towering.
José Canseco is a notable figure in baseball history, recognized for his powerful hitting ability and dynamic presence on the field. Born in Havana, Cuba, on July 2, 1964, Canseco made his Major League Baseball (MLB) debut with the Oakland Athletics in 1985. Highly regarded for his offensive prowess, he was an integral part of the Athletics’ success during the late 1980s.
Canseco’s career accomplishments are highlighted by a remarkable combination of speed and power, a rare feat in the sport. His statistics reveal a formidable player:
- Home Runs: 462
- RBIs: 1,407
- Stolen Bases: 200
In 1988, he was awarded the American League (AL) Most Valuable Player (MVP), becoming the first player in MLB history to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in a single season. This 40-40 achievement underscored his unique skill set and helped cement his legacy in baseball lore.
Defensively, while Canseco was not known for his gold glove, his arm strength was formidable, contributing to his overall defensive capability in the outfield. Throughout his career, Canseco was a six-time All-Star, showcasing his appeal as both a player and a popular figure during baseball’s live-ball era. Despite controversies later in his career, Canseco’s impact on the game during his playing days remains undeniable.
Miguel Ángel Cuellar Santana, better known as Mike Cuellar, was a prominent figure in Major League Baseball (MLB), particularly recognized for his tenure with the Baltimore Orioles. Born on May 8, 1937, in Cuba, he began his MLB career in 1959 and went on to play 15 seasons before retiring in 1977. Cuellar was a left-handed pitcher renowned for his exceptional screwball.
- Cy Young Award: 1969
- All-Star: 4 times (1967, 1970, 1971, 1974)
- World Series: Champion in 1970
During his first three seasons with the Orioles, the team clinched the American League pennant each year. Cuellar’s consistent performance led him to become a four-time 20-game winner for the Orioles. He completed his career with a commendable 185 major-league victories.
Cuellar had a career earned run average (ERA) of 3.14 and struck out 1,632 batters over 2,808 innings pitched. His role was pivotal in securing the Orioles’ dominance in the late ’60s and early ’70s. He was known among his peers as one of the most superstitious players; his teammates respected his pre-game routines and avoided interference.
For more insights on Cuellar’s career and personal superstitions, review the Society for American Baseball Research’s tribute to Mike Cuellar. His legacy remains an integral part of the history of Cuban players within MLB, with Wikipedia’s Mike Cuellar page providing a comprehensive overview of his statistics and impact on the game.
Camilo Pascual was a prominent figure in Major League Baseball as a Cuban right-handed pitcher. Born on January 20, 1934, Pascual amassed a formidable career characterized by his sharp curveball and consistent performance. Throughout his 18-year tenure (1954-1971), he played for teams such as the Washington Senators, Minnesota Twins, Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Cleveland Indians.
During his time with the Senators and Twins, Pascual established himself as a top-tier strikeout artist, leading the American League in strikeouts for three consecutive years (1961-1963). His mastery on the mound earned him All-Star appearances in seven seasons, highlighting his status among the elite pitchers in the league. Pascual’s skill set extended beyond strikeouts, as evidenced by his remarkable completion of 36 shutouts over his MLB career.
A testament to his durability and skill, Pascual was celebrated for completing 132 games, a noteworthy achievement during the era in which he played. His career ERA of 3.63, coupled with 174 wins and 2,167 strikeouts, underscores the lasting impact he had on the game. Pascual’s legacy in baseball is marked not only by his individual accolades but also by his influential role in the rise of Cuban players in MLB.
Minnie Miñoso, nicknamed “The Cuban Comet,” was a trailblazing figure in Major League Baseball (MLB). Born in Cuba, he broke barriers as the first black player from Latin America in the MLB when he debuted with the Cleveland Indians in 1949. Miñoso was renowned for his versatility on the field, exceptional speed, and baserunning prowess.
During his career, Miñoso earned seven All-Star selections and three Gold Glove Awards, underlining his all-around skills. He primarily played for the Chicago White Sox, where he became a beloved figure and was fondly referred to as “Mr. White Sox.” His lifetime batting average was a solid .299, with 186 home runs and 1,023 RBIs.
Miñoso’s influence extended beyond statistics; he broke down racial barriers and helped pave the way for Afro-Latino players in the majors. After retiring, his legacy was acknowledged when he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, commemorating his impact on the game and his extraordinary contributions to baseball.
Dagoberto “Bert” Campaneris stood out during his time in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a versatile and talented shortstop. Born on March 9, 1942, in Pueblo Nuevo, Cuba, he made his mark primarily with the Kansas City/Oakland Athletics, becoming a pivotal member of their championship wins in the early 1970s. His career spanned 19 seasons, and his agility and speed made him one of the era’s most dynamic players.
He was notably a six-time All-Star and led the American League (AL) in stolen bases six times, reflecting his prowess on the base paths. Campaneris secured his place in Athletics history by holding the franchise records for career games played, at-bats, and hits—a testament to his enduring skill and consistency. His 648 career steals is best among Cuban-born players.
Given his broad skill set, Campaneris impacted games defensively as well. Besides his adept base running and batting, his defensive play at shortstop was integral to the Athletics’ success. His contributions throughout his career earned him a well-regarded status among the best Cuban players to grace the MLB.
José Abreu, a Cuban-born professional first baseman, stands out as one of the prominent figures in Major League Baseball (MLB), known for his consistent performance and power-hitting. Starting his MLB career with the Chicago White Sox after defecting from Cuba, Abreu quickly established himself with a Rookie of the Year award in 2014, further earning recognition as a three-time All-Star and Silver Slugger awardee.
- MVP Award: 2020 (AL)
- All-Star Appearances: 2014, 2018, 2019
- Gold Gloves: None
- Silver Sluggers: 2014, 2018, 2020
In his rookie year, he not only earned the AL Rookie of the Year title but also led the league in RBIs and slugged 36 home runs, showcasing his capacity for driving in runs and commanding power at the plate. Abreu’s consistency is further evidenced by his stats, maintaining a batting average well above .290 through several seasons, and displaying excellent on-base plus slugging (OPS), a testament to his offensive prowess.
Martín Dihigo was a versatile Cuban player recognized for his outstanding abilities in numerous baseball positions. Known as “The Immortal” and “The Maestro,” he was an exemplary two-way player who not only excelled as a pitcher but also played second base with remarkable skill, though his talent extended to all nine positions on the field.
During his tenure—from 1923 to 1945—Dihigo’s influence spread across the Negro Leagues and several Latin American Leagues, illustrating his international impact on the sport. His career numbers include an impressive batting average and he achieved the rare feat of winning both the batting and pitching titles in the Mexican League. Dihigo’s pitching prowess was further highlighted by his dominant win-loss record and numerous strikeouts.
Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1977 and recognized in various international halls, his honors underscore his significant legacy in baseball history. Dihigo’s achievements in the face of segregation highlight his extraordinary talent and fortitude, with his posthumous accolades serving as a testament to his standing among the greatest in baseball’s pantheon.
Tony Taylor was an esteemed Cuban second baseman in Major League Baseball (MLB), recognized for his remarkable 19-season career spanning from 1958 to 1976. His tenure in MLB included stints with the Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, and Detroit Tigers. Taylor was characterized by his versatility, having the capability to play multiple infield positions, including third base and first base.
He is most noted for his defense and his time with the Phillies, where he became a mainstay in their middle infield. With a career batting average of .261, Taylor racked up 2,007 hits, 234 doubles, and stole 234 bases, showcasing his aptitude both at bat and on the bases. His 1959 season with the Cubs stands out when he tied for second in the league with 23 stolen bases and improved his batting average to .280.
Throughout his career, Taylor was never conferred with MVP, Gold Glove, or All-Star accolades, but his contributions were integral to the teams he played for. His consistency and longevity in the sport underline his status as one of the distinguished Cuban players in MLB history.
Yoenis Céspedes, a Cuban-born outfielder, first entered Major League Baseball (MLB) with the Oakland Athletics in 2012. His prowess at the plate demonstrated power and precision, quickly earning him the nickname “La Potencia” for his impressive slugging ability. Céspedes’s arm strength was also a defensive highlight, making him a dual threat on the field.
During his tenure, Céspedes garnered several accolades. He was named an All-Star in 2014 and 2016, showcasing his elite talent among the league’s top performers. Notably, his flair for the dramatic shone through in the 2013 and 2014 Home Run Derbies, winning the title back-to-back, solidifying his reputation as a formidable power hitter.
Céspedes’s statistics reflect his impact; his career batting average stands at .273, with an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .824, underlying his offensive efficiency. Home runs and RBIs (runs batted in) also feature prominently in his statistical summary, with multiple seasons of over 20 home runs and driving in 80 or more runs, illustrating his role as a pivotal run producer.
Aroldis Chapman, a Cuban-born pitcher known for his lightning-fast fastball, has made a significant impact in Major League Baseball (MLB). His career began in Cuba before he defected to the United States, where he eventually signed with the Cincinnati Reds. Chapman’s fastball, which has been recorded at speeds exceeding 105 mph, intimidates batters and has helped him secure a reputation as one of the game’s top closers.
Throughout his tenure in the MLB, Chapman has played for several teams, including the New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs, where his performance has earned him multiple All-Star selections. A highlight of his career was helping lead the Cubs to a World Series championship in 2016, ending a 108-year drought for the franchise. His role in the victory solidified his status as a key player in critical moments.
His accolades include being named to the All-Star team multiple times and receiving the prestigious Delivery Man of the Year award. Chapman’s career statistics reflect his dominance on the mound, with a significant number of saves and a strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio that sets him apart from many of his peers. These achievements underscore his talent and contribution to the game, making him one of the best MLB players to hail from Cuba.
Leonardo Lazaro Cárdenas Alfonso, known as Leo Cárdenas, stands out as a notable Cuban shortstop in Major League Baseball (MLB). He began his MLB career in 1960, concluding an impressive run in 1975. His tenure with the Cincinnati Reds is particularly noteworthy, serving as their starting shortstop for seven seasons.
Throughout his career, Cárdenas was recognized for his defensive skills. He earned five All-Star appearances, testament to his prowess on the field. Additionally, Cárdenas received a well-deserved Gold Glove Award in 1965 for his exceptional defense.
Offensively, Cárdenas was known for his power-hitting abilities at shortstop. He tallied over 100 home runs, a remarkable achievement for middle infielders of his era. His consistent performance helped solidify his reputation as one of the best Cuban players in MLB history.
Liván Hernández, a right-handed pitcher hailing from Cuba, made a considerable impact in Major League Baseball (MLB). He started his professional career in 1996 with the Florida Marlins and quickly made headway, playing a pivotal role in their World Series victory the following year. His performance in the 1997 postseason earned him the World Series MVP award, a testament to his influence under pressure.
Hernández was known for his durability and rarely missed a start, reflected in him pitching 50,000 pitches over his career. His reputation was solidified by his selection for the All-Star games in 2004 and 2005. This commendable consistency contributed to his long-standing career spanning 17 years, during which he played for nine different teams.
His statistics further portray his proficiency: Hernández racked up 178 wins, and his knack for strikeouts was evident with a career total of 1,976. His ability to perform at critical moments, especially during the playoffs, sets him apart from many of his contemporaries. Such achievements have cemented Liván Hernández’s standing as one of the noteworthy Cuban players in MLB history.