National League East Caribbean Players
Our National League East installment of our Caribbean-born baseball players series is here just in time for Opening Day! Play ball!
Starting this season in the Braves bullpen is right-hander Alexi Ogando, a native of San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. Entering his 6th year in the majors, Ogando is in his first year with Atlanta after spending 2015 with the Boston Red Sox, and 2010-14 with the Texas Rangers. He had his best year in 2011 while with the Rangers, posting a 13-8 record and earning a spot in the All-Star game and aside from 2014 has since consistently thrown a season average ERA in the 3.00-3.99 range.
Also starting the season in the Braves bullpen is another Dominican Republic native, this time from Yaguate, Jose Ramirez. Ramirez is a 26 year-old righthander that saw time on the mound last year for the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners. He spent most of his times in the minor leagues since his major league debut for the Yankees in on June 4, 2014, but has earned the MiLB.com Short Season Starting Pitcher of the Year award for the Gulf Coast League Yankees in 2009 and was a Florida State League Pitcher of the Week twice with Tampa in 2012.
Another thrower from Yaguate, Dominican Republic, Aroyds Vizcaino, is beginning his season for the Braves in the bullpen. In his fourth major league season, and second with the Braves, Vizcaino is coming off a 1.60 ERA year in 36 appearances for Atlanta, his career high. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012 while with the Chicago Cubs, Vizcaino has been on the uphill, even being top-20 in the National League in 2015 in saves. A pitcher with potential, he earned a Futures Game Selection with Mississippi, a part of MiLB’s Southern League in 2011, and was MiLB Pitcher of the Week twice, once with the Lynchburg Hillcats in 2011, and once with the Rome Braves in 2010.
Starting at shortstop for the Braves is Erick Aybar, from Bani, Dominican Republic. Entering his 11th year (first ten with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) in the league, and first with the Atlanta Braves, Aybar is a career .276 hitter, a 2014 AL All-Star, a 2011 AL Rawlings Gold Glove winner, and a 2011 AL Player of the Week. During Spring Training this year, Aybar played in 20 games and getting 17 hits on 61 at-bats, including one triple and 5 doubles.
Covering the hot corner for the Atlanta Braves is Adonis Garcia, a native of Ciego de Avila, Cuba. This is Garcia’s 2nd year in the major leagues after appearing in 58 games for the Braves in 2015 hitting .277 with 10 homeruns and 26 RBI's. Before landing with the Braves, Garcia was in the New York Yankees farm-system, earning 2014 MiLB Organization All-Star for the team.
Hanging out in left field for the start of the season is Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, native, Hector Olivera. Olivera spent his first year in the majors with the Braves last season, appearing in 24 games and hitting .253 with 2 homeruns and 11 RBI's. He was able to earn his spot this season after having an impressive Spring Training, hitting .393 in 22 games with 61 at-bats.
Playing at shortstop this year for the Miami Marlins is 26 year-old Adeiny Hechavarria, a native of Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. Hechavarria is entering his 5th year in the major league and his 4th with the Marlins. He is coming off a 2015 season where he batted .281, hit 5 home runs, 48 RBI's, and stole seven bases, as well as being top-10 in the National League in triple base hits. Hechavarria is looking to continue his trend of improving his batting average this year, and to help his team improve on their 3rd place NL East finish last year.
Starting this year in centerfield is a Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic native, Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna is entering his 4th year in the major leagues, all with Miami. A career .265 hitter, Ozuna has placed in the top-25 of multiple categories since his debut, including triple base hits, RBI’s, home runs, and slugging percentage.
New York Mets
Starting in the bullpen in his first year with the New York Mets is left-hander and Hato Mayor, Dominican Republic native, Antonio Bastardo. Bastardo is in his 8th year in the major leagues, spending six with the Philadelphia Phillies, and last year with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Last year with the Pirates he threw a 2.98 ERA in 66 games and 57.1 innings pitched.
Well-known for his hitting style is Mets’ right-handed hurler, Bartolo Colon. A native from Altamira, Dominican Republic, Colon is in his 19th year in the major leagues after signing with the Cleveland Indians in 1993, and has spent time with the Indians, Montreal Expos, Chicago White Sox, Anaheim and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics, and New York Mets. He won the AL Cy Young Award in 2005 while with the Angels, and was an AL All-Star with the Indians in 1998, the Angels in 2005, and the Athletics in 2013. Colon signed a one-year deal in the offseason with the Mets, most likely to chase his first World Series title after the Mets came close last year, losing to the Kansas City Royals.
Another Dominican Republic pitcher for the Mets is righthander and Santo Domingo native, Jeurys Familia. After a 43-save season that was 3rd in the NL in 2015, the Mets have made Familia their closer to start the 2016 season. Familia is in his 5th year in the major leagues, all with New York and has pitched a sub-2.50 ERA for half of his career.
Starting this year in the bullpen is Mets right-handed thrower and a Bonao, Dominican Republic native, Hansel Robles. Robles is in his second season in the majors, throwing 57 games for the Mets with a 3.67 ERA in 2015. He pitched 12 games during Spring Training and only giving up 12 hits.
Centerfielder and Granma, Cuba native, Yoenis Cespedes is in his 5th major league season and 2nd with the Mets. In his 4 seasons, Cespedes has been an AL All-Star in 2014, a Rawlings AL Gold Glove winner in 2015, a Home Run Derby Winner in 2013 and 2014, and AL Rookie of the Month in September, 2012. Cespedes has a .271 career batting average, as well as 106 home runs, 367 RBI’s, and 37 stolen bases.
Backup outfielder is a native of Guaymate, Dominican Republic, Alejandro De Aza. De Aza is in his 9th major league season and first with the New York Mets after spending 2015 with Baltimore, Boston, and San Francisco. He is also a consistent hitter, placing in the top-20 the past four years in triple base hits, the highest being 4th place in 2014.
Also in the outfield is Juan Lagares, a native of Constanza, Dominican Republic. Lagares is in his 4th year in the majors leagues, all with the New York Mets. He has made a lot out of his first few years, winning a Rawlings Gold Glove Award in 2014 and a Wilson Team Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2013.
Starting in the bullpen this year for the Philadelphia Phillies is right-handed thrower Dalier Hinojosa, a native of Isla de la Juventud, Cuba. This is his second season in the major leagues, after spending 19 games last year between the Boston Red Sox and the Phillies. Hinojosa has the possibility to capture the Phillies closer spot, as they haven’t named a closer for 2016 yet.
Hector Neris, a native of Villa Altagracia, Dominican Republic, is a right-handed thrower for the Phillies starting the year in the bullpen. Neris is in his 3rd season in the major leagues, all with the Phillies. Last year he pitched 32 games for Philadelphia, posting a 3.79 ERA in 40.1 innings pitched.
Starting at third base this year for the Phillies is 23 year-old Maikel Franco, a native of Azua, Dominican Republic. Franco is in his 3rd year in the major leagues, all with the Phillies. He earned NL Rookie of the Month in June of 2015 and hit .280, 14 home runs, and 50 RBI’s on the season. Franco is preparing for a breakout season after spending his offseason playing winter ball for the Gigantes del Ciabo in the Dominican Republic.