When Jose Abreu burst onto the scene last season with a monster rookie season for the White Sox, it wasn’t as surprising as it once would’ve been.
Cuban-born sluggers have had immediate success in the big leagues in recent years, most notably Yoenes Cespedes and Yasiel Puig.
Abreu ran away with the Rookie of the Year award when he hit .317 with 36 homers and 107 RBI, which was also good enough to finish an impressive fourth in Most Valuable Player voting in the American League.
Cespedes, now a member of the Tigers, hit .292 with 23 homers, 83 RBI and 16 stolen bases as a rookie with the Oakland Athletics in 2012, while Puig hit .319 with 19 homers in 104 games with the Dodgers in 2013.
All three stars demonstrated their immense talent over the weekend.
Abreu belted his third home run of the season Saturday with a grand slam against the Tigers, while Cespedes smacked two home runs, including a grand slam, Sunday against the Sox and Puig went 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI in his return from an injury Saturday.
Chicago Magazine recently chronicled Abreu’s fascinating journey from Cuba.
None of these players would’ve had their opportunity if not for players such as Minnie Miñoso, who was the first black Cuban in the major leagues and first black player in White Sox history in 1951. Nicknamed “The Cuban Comet” and “Mr. White Sox,” Miñoso was a nine-time All-Star leftfielder.
His death in March hit Abreu hard.
Abreu has a chance to be the best Cuban slugger of all-time.
Here’s a look at some other star Cuban sluggers, not including cheaters Rafael Palmeiro and Jose Canseco.
The Hall-of-Famer was a seven-time National League All-Star and key member of the famed Cincinnati Reds’ “Big Red Machine” that won three World Series. He was a career .279 hitter and hit 379 home runs and had 1,652 RBI during his 23-year career.
Most likely would’ve been a Hall-of-Famer had knee injuries not plagued him during the prime of his career. He played his entire 15-year career with the Minnesota Twins and was an eight-time All-Star and won three American League batting titles and one Gold Glove award. Oliva, who was a career .304 hitter, fell one vote shy of Cooperstown in 2015 when he appeared on the Golden Era Committee election ballot.
The speedy shortstop was a key member of the Oakland Athletics dynasty that won three consecutive World Series from 1972 to 1974. He was a six-time American League All-Star and led the AL in stolen bases six times. He retired ranked seventh all-time in stolen bases with 649 and owns franchise records for games played (1,795) and hits (1,882).