The Cuban national team opened play at the World Baseball Classic on Tuesday against Japan with a roster that much of the globe knew nothing about.

That’s because Cuba decided not to allow any MLB players who defected from the island nation to participate, preventing the country from fielding a roster that would be viewed as a threat to win the entire tournament.

Here’s a look at the Cuban team that could have been.


1 Yunel Escobar 3B
2 Aledmys Diaz SS
3 Jose Abreu 1B
4 Yoenis Cespedes OF
5 Kendrys Morales (S) DH
6 Yasiel Puig OF
7 Yasmani Grandal (S) C
8 Jorge Soler OF
9 Yoan Moncada (S) 2B

Cuba’s lineup would have a nice blend of power and speed. Yunel Escobar and Aledmys Diaz have strong on-base skills at the top of the order, setting the table for Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes, and Kendrys Morales, who combined to hit 86 home runs in 2016. The power extends past the middle of the lineup with Yasiel Puig, Yasmani Grandal, Jorge Soler, and youngster Yoan Moncada, making the Cubans a threat to go deep at almost any point in the order.


Brayan Pena (S) C
Yonder Alonso (L) 1B
Jose Iglesias IF
Yulieski Gurriel IF
Leonys Martin (L) OF
Yasmany Tomas OF


Pitcher Role
Ariel Miranda (L) SP
Raisel Iglesias SP
Roenis Elias (L) SP
Odrisamer Despaigne SP
Gerardo Concepcion (L) RP
Onelki Garcia (L) RP
Dalier Hinojosa RP
Aroldis Chapman (L) CL

While MLB has benefited from a strong influx of Cuban position players, pitchers from the country haven’t achieved the same level of success.

Raisel Iglesias appears to be a budding star with the Reds and would be the ace of a staff that significantly drops off after the 27-year-old. The bullpen, which also features a number of fringe major leaguers, would be anchored by one of the best closers in baseball, Aroldis Chapman.

(Photos courtesy: Action images)