Just a few years ago, the Astros couldn’t be counted as one of the teams with a history full of Cuban players. For example, they were far away from the White Sox, the Yankees, the Athletics, or the Twins. As a matter of fact, Houston didn’t have a Cuban-born ballplayer between 1979 and 2015. But in 2016, Yulieski Gurriel arrived, has continued to have success to this day, and the Astros have turned the wheel towards Cuban talent since.
Reaffirming their link with Cuba, the Astros signed three Cuban prospects in the international signing period, including advanced hitter Kenni Gómez (outfielder).
But let’s take a look back at history before Yuli.
Before Gurriel, there were only two Cubans who made a difference for the Astros at their times. Román Mejías began it all in 1962 playing only one season but ending up as Houston’s home-run leader that year (24 HR’s). Also, Mike Cuéllar spent four seasons as an Astro leaving with a 2.74 ERA after 88 starts between 1965 and 1968 — he was traded to the Orioles and won the Cy Young right after he departed from Houston (1969).
But since then, not much more. In general and according to Baseball-Reference, only eight Cuban players have worn the Astros uniform:
- Román Mejías
- Mike Cuéllar
- Marty Martínez
- Oscar Zamora
- Yuli Gurriel
- Cionel Pérez
- Yordan Álvarez
- Aledmys Díaz
Gurriel, Álvarez, and Díaz are a big reason why the Astros have fallen in love with Cuban talent. Yuli is among the best players of his age and just won the batting title plus the Gold Glove, Yordan is the big guy of the lineup and had a 30-homer, 100-RBI season in 2021, and Aledmys has helped the team a lot with his glove versatility and timely hitting filling in for injured regulars.
More players can join that group very soon. The Astros signed outfielder/shortstop Pedro León in the 2021 international period and he’s expected to be a fast riser through the farm system. Among others, there’s also first baseman Norel González, righty Franny Cobos, and also righty Julio César Robaina, who’s coming off a good year between Class A and High-Class A.
With players such as Yordan, León, and Gómez, the Astros will still have plenty of Cuban talent around for the upcoming years, even after Gurriel’s days as a ballplayer are over. Looking forward to seeing what those names can do for H-Town!