Currently enjoying the best season of his career, Sancti Spiritus 3B Yulieski Gourriel is on the verge of breaking the Cuban National Series home run record.
In 65 games this season Gourriel has hit 25 homers. Pro-rated, Gourriel is on pace to hit 34 home runs by season’s end. This would eclipse the single-season home run record of 34, held by Granma OF Alfredo Despaigne and set last season.
If Gourriel does end up as the home run leader, it would be the second time in his career that he led the league in HRs. Gourriel was the HR champ in 2005-2006 with 25.
In other Cuban baseball news, former Camagüey OF/1B Leslie Anderson has defected and is holding open workouts for MLB teams in one of my favourite places: Cancun, Mexico.
Anderson was the best hitter for Camagüey before he defected. He was originally a CF but moved to 1B when Loidel Chapelli retired. Leslie played RF for Cuba in both the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics. Anderson hits the ball to all fields. He has gap power with the ability to hit plenty of doubles but doesn’t project to hit more than 15-20 HR at the MLB level. He is a gold glove calibre 1B defensively but his power plays more in CF.
Leslie Anderson would be a great fit for a team looking for a leadoff hitter (Toronto!?!?). He works the count and in his Cuban career has 417 walks to 396 strikeouts. Stud! Last season Anderson was 5th in batting average, hitting at a .381 clip. For a left hander, he hits righties and lefties equally as well.
Speaking of the Toronto Blue Jays, they are said to be on recent Cuban defector José Julio Ruiz, who has been recently unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, making him a free agent.
The former Santiago de Cuba star Ruiz is a LF/1B who is entering his prime years as he is only 25 years old. In 52 games last season, Ruiz hit 305/.408/.467 before he disappeared and turned up in Miami. Unlike Anderson, Ruiz struggles against left-handed pitching, hitting only .214 against them last season. He also has some speed which is atypical for a first baseman.
2 seasons ago, José Julio Ruíz finished 23rd in average with 341. He hit 21 doubles and 11 HR driving 69 runs. He also walked 44 times and struck out 49. He finished first in AB with 429, 3rd in Runs with 83, first in hits with 126, 8th in total bases with 182. Despite being a first baseman, José Julio finished first in stolen bases with 32 and second in caught stealing with 9. José Julio also finished 10th in RBI with 69.
Here is some footage of him crushing the ball:[youtube dSZHJpso-Oc] [youtube v5rKztdvoK0]