The best Cuban switch hitters in history

By Jesus Perez Vichot (Chuchi)

Most hitters are more effective against pitchers from the opposite hand than against pitchers from the same hand. But if they can hit from both sides of home plate, it makes it easier. Although there are always exceptions, some of those who can hit from both sides, end up hitting from one side because they feel more comfortable and produce more. Great switch hitters have passed through the best baseball in the world, such as Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose, Eddie Murray, Tim Raines, Lance Berkman, Chipper Jones, Frankie Frisch, among others well known.

But I want to refer exclusively to the best Cuban switch hitters of all time… and believe me, without being one of the countries that have more hitters with these characteristics, there is material to choose from and quality to spare.

Let’s start at the beginning. From the first years that baseball was played in Cuba, a switch hitter already stood out, considered the first with these characteristics. This is the versatile José María Teuma. He himself appeared from both sides of the plate for the first time in a game on January 21, 1882. Teuma played for the Fe and Habana teams for 6 seasons, in which he hit .225 on average. Also, he could play all 9 positions. Later, in Cuban professional baseball, two switch hitters appeared, but both stood out more with the glove than with the bat, I am referring to the infielders Willie Miranda and Chico Ruiz.

When the National Series arrived, more players emerged who could hit from both sides of the plate. Here we find names like Arturo Linares (14 series, 889 hits and .278 batting average «BA»), Tony González (9 series, 490 hits and .231 BA), Anselmo Hernández (9 series, 368 hits and .264 BA), Ubaldo Álvarez (9 series, 433 hits and .244 BA), Ángel Almanza (3 series, 80 hits and .192 BA), Roberto C. Ramírez (6 series, 343 hits and .305 BA). But there are four ambidextrous players who are the ones who have stood out the most in our domestic classics (among them there is one who remains active), they are:

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Luis Ulacia: The man from Camagüey has been one of the best first batters in the history of the National Baseball Series (SNB). In 21 seasons he compiled 2,183 hits, scored 1,147 runs, shot 281 doubles, 58 triples, 145 home runs, drove in 682 runs, stole 355 bases, batted .314 with an OBP of .379 and SLG of .433.

Kendrys Morales: He is the only one who distributed “sticks” to both hands the same in the SNB as in the MLB. In Cuba Kendrys only played 3 seasons, but they were enough to always be remembered as one of the great hitters that have been seen in SNB. In 677 times at bat that he accumulated in that span, he hit 49 doubles, 4 triples and 32 home runs. In addition, he drove in 141 runs, scored another 123, batted .350, his OBP was .467 and his SLG was .485.

Mario Vega: The Avilanian second baseman was very consistent in his game. He coincided with other greats in his position and this made it impossible for him to be more valued. However, his numbers in 21 SNB are very good, not only defensively, he also performed offensively. He finished his career with a .300 batting average, 1,696 hits, 267 doubles and a .348 OBP. It is worth mentioning his good tact, since he only fanned himself 408 times.

Frederich Cepeda: I have no doubt, in the history of the SNB, there has not been a switch hitter with more merits and better numbers than the Sancti Spiritus. Right now he is active. Before starting this season, his SNB statistics are: 23 series, 1,335 runs scored, 2,140 hits, 408 doubles, 54 triples, 328 home runs, 1,251 RBIs, .334 BA, .485 OBP, .569 SLG and 1,054 OPS. Cepeda’s pregnancy rate is from another galaxy, his discipline and patience in the batting cage have led him to receive 1,834 free passports.

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It is the turn of the ambidextrous West Indians who have played or play in MLB: Julio Rojo (7 seasons, 262 hits and .279 BA), Pedro Pagés (2 seasons, 46 hits and .225 BA). Here I must point out that both players mentioned played in the so-called Negro Leagues, but fortunately they already count in the Majors. Other Big leaguers born on the island: Willy Miranda (9 seasons, 423 hits and .221 BA), Pedro Ramos, did pitch, but also hit for both sides of the Home Plate (15 seasons, 109 hits and .155 BA), Chico Ruiz (8 seasons, 276 hits and .240 BA), Marty Martínez (7 seasons, 230 hits and .243 BA), Orestes Destrade (4 seasons, 184 hits and .241 BA), Brayan Peña (12 seasons, 468 hits and .259 BA), Adrián Nieto (1 season, 25 hits and .236 BA), Yasmani Grandal (active, 10 seasons, 777 hits and .240), Yoán Moncada (active, 6 seasons, 529 hits and .261 BA). But the two best to date, the Cubans who have excelled the most as switch hitters in MLB are:

Kendrys Morales: Hitter with a natural swing, with enormous power in his wrists. Kendrys could knock the ball out of the park with relative ease from both sides of the plate. From a young age he showed great credentials as a hitter. In 13 seasons in MLB he hit 213 home runs and drove in 740 homers. With an offensive line of .265/.327/.453. In my opinion, at the moment, Kendrys is our best ambidextrous exponent in the history of the Major Leagues.

Tito Fuentes: The standout second baseman spent 13 seasons in the Majors, compiling 1,491 hits and posting a .268/.307/.347 offensive line. My second place is for him, respecting the trajectory that some young ambidextrous Cubans have been having in the Big Show, such as the two representatives of the White Sox (Moncada and Grandal).

Summarizing my assessment among the best Cuban switch hitters of all time and taking into account the different times and leagues in which they played. Well, I have no choice but to share first place between two great legends of Cuban baseball: Kendrys Morales and Frederich Cepeda. They are the two of them, in my opinion, the best Cuban ambidextrous in history. Kendrys excelled in both leagues, he showed that his talent was not fragile. Cepeda has also made it clear that he is one of the greatest players to have passed through the National Series, he is still active and never tires of performing.

Some will say: Kendrys tried both parts, Cepeda did not. To a certain extent it is true, but this does not mean that the trajectory of the idol of Sancti Spíritus is minimized, not at all, the man is even a historic player in the World Baseball Classics. Both deserve all the recognition… and remember: That I expose my criteria, does not mean that I have the absolute truth, in this matter called baseball, nobody has it, not even the most erudite being on this planet.

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The best Cuban switch hitters in history