By Yusseff Díaz
Not many Cuban have played in the KBO and none who have residency on the island have ever graced a diamond in South Korea based on the simple fact that Havana and Seoul do not have established diplomatic ties.
I reached out to Korean baseball expert Jeeho Yoo to get an accurate read on how many Cubans have actually played in the Asian circuit and he told me that there have been six, but only five have have played in the league. Ozzie Canseco was let go by Lotte in spring Training due to misconduct in 2001.
Francisley Bueno was actually the first Cuban to play in Korea in 2010 with the Hanwha Eagles but was released after 9 games of which five were starts. The Havana native had a record of 1-3 and a dismal 9.10 ERA.
Yunesky Maya followed Bueno in 2015 and managed to throw a no-hitter with the Doosan Bears, the only one by a Caribbean islander in the league history. On April 9, 2015 the righty hurled a gem of a game against the Nexen Heroes, a 1-0 complete game victory in which he struck out eight and threw 136 pitches.
In 2018 Adonis Garcia was a high profile acquisition for the LG Twins after a trade with the Atlanta Braves and although he hit .339 in 50 games he wasn’t resigned after the season because his campaign was marred by injuries.
By far Jose Miguel Fernández has been the most successful Antillean in KBO. Last year the slugger hit .344 with 15 long balls and 88 runs batted in, he also set a record for hits by a foreigner with 197. Last year he topped his total by two and breaking his own mark. In his three seasons in the Korean circuit he bats a robust .340.
Odrisamer Despaigne debuted last year with the KT Wiz and his first start against the righty was brilliant, in six innings pitched he allowed four hits, one earned run and struck out eight in a no-decision. The talented right won 15 games in 2020 and lead the KBO in innings pitched.
Based on their recent history in the league expect to see more Cubans in Korea in the upcoming future.
Cubans in the KBO:
Yunesky Maya (Doosan)
José Miguel Fernández (Doosan)
Ariel Miranda (Doosan)
Odrisamer Despaigne (KT)
Francisley Bueno (Hanwha)
Adonis García (LG)
Ozzie Canseco (Lotte)