Top MLB Players From Cuba

Cuba has as rich a baseball history as any country in the Caribbean -- or in the world, for that matter. But Major League Baseball hasn't had as many Cuban-born players because of politics -- unlike other countries, players cannot leave the communist country to play big-league baseball.

A thaw in relations between the two countries of late, however, led to a March 2016 proposal that was submitted to the Treasury Department. This could provide a direct path for Cuban players to big-league baseball, as players would be allowed to sign directly with MLB teams. From a New York Times story:

Under the proposed plan, according to M.L.B.’s top lawyer, Dan Halem, an entity made up of Cuban entrepreneurs and officials from baseball and its players’ union would be created. A percentage of salaries paid to Cuban players would go to the new body, which would function like a nonprofit organization and support youth baseball, education and the improvement of sports facilities in Cuba.

Even with the ban in place, quite a few Cubans became strong players before Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, and a few escaped the island country after that as well.

Here is our look at the 10 best players in MLB history to come out of Cuba:

01
of 10

Luis Tiant
Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Position: Starting pitcher

Teams: Cleveland Indians (1964-69), Minnesota Twins (1970), Boston Red Sox (1971-78), New York Yankees (1979-80), Pittsburgh Pirates (1981), California Angels (1982)

Stats: 19 seasons, 229-172, 3.30 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 2,416 strikeouts

Born in Mariano in 1940, he had a wacky windup and lasted 19 years in the big leagues, winning 20 games or more four times and making three All-Star teams. He led the AL in ERA twice and pitched four consecutive shutouts for the Indians in 1968 when he was 21-9 with a 1.60 ERA. He was the starting pitcher in a game considered by many as the greatest in World Series history -- Game 6 in 1975 -- and is in the Red Sox Hall of Fame.

02
of 10

Tony Perez
George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Position: First baseman

Teams: Cincinnati Reds (1964-76, 1984-86), Montreal Expos (1977-79), Boston Red Sox (1980-82), Philadelphia Phillies (1983)

Stats: 23 seasons, .279, 379 HR, 1,652 RBI, .804 OPS

The lone Hall of Famer on this list, you can make an argument that he should be No. 1. Perez won two World Series as a player as the first baseman for the Big Red Machine and is in the top 30 all-time in RBI. Born in Ciego de Avila, Perez was a seven-time All-Star and the MVP of the 1967 game. His 2,777 games played ranks 25th in MLB history.

03
of 10

Tony Oliva
Herb Scharfman/Sports Imagery/Getty Images

Position: Outfielder

Teams: Minnesota Twins (1962-76)

Stats: 15 seasons, .304, 220 HR, 947 RBI, .830 OPS

Oliva was the 1964 AL Rookie of the Year and was the first player to win a batting title in his rookie season. Born in Pinar del Rio, Oliva was a popular member of the Twins for 15 seasons and was an eight-time All-Star. His career was cut short by bad knees, which might have kept him from Cooperstown, as he was a .304 lifetime hitter.

04
of 10

Mike Cuellar
Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Position: Starting pitcher

Teams: Cincinnati Reds (1959), St. Louis Cardinals (1964), Houston Astros (1965-68), Baltimore Orioles (1969-76), California Angels (1977)

Stats: 15 seasons, 185-130, 3.14 ERA, 1.20 WHIP

One of the top left-handed pitchers of his era, Cuellar won 20 or more games in a season four times and was part of a Baltimore Orioles rotation that had four 20-game winners. A native of Santa Clara, he shared the 1969 Cy Young Award and was a two-time World Series champion, first with the Cardinals and then with the Orioles. He was a four-time All-Star.

05
of 10

Dolf Luque
Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images

Position: Pitcher

Teams: Boston Braves (1914-15), Cincinnati Reds (1918-29), Brooklyn Robins (1930-31), New York Giants (1932-35)

Stats: 20 seasons, 194-179, 3.24 ERA, 1.29 WHIP

He's probably the player on this list you've never heard of, but Luque, a native of Havana, has the second-most wins of any Cuban pitcher. A fair-skinned, blue-eyed pitcher who played before the color barrier was broken, he threw a nasty curveball and went 27-8 with a 1.93 ERA in 1923. He also won 106 games in Cuba and died in 1957, before the revolution put Fidel Castro in power.

06
of 10

Minnie Minoso
Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images

Position: Left fielder

Teams: Cleveland Indians (1949, 1951, 1958-59), Chicago White Sox (1951-57, 1960-61, 1964, 1976, 1980), St. Louis Cardinals (1962), Washington Senators (1963)

Stats: 17 seasons, .298, 186 HR, 1,023 RBI, 205 SB, .848 OPS

Known mostly as the only modern-era player to play in five decades -- he had brief novelty stints with the 1976 White Sox at age 50 and played in two games at age 54 -- he was one of the top hitters in the American League throughout the 1950s. A seven-time All-Star, the Havana native batted .298 in his career, hit in double digits in home runs in every season from 1951-61 and drove in more than 100 runs four times.

07
of 10

Rafael Palmeiro
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Position: First baseman

Teams: Chicago Cubs (1986-88), Texas Rangers (1989-93, 1999-2003), Baltimore Orioles (1994-98, 2004-05)

Stats: 20 seasons, .288, 569 HR, 1,835 RBI, .885 OPS

He has the best offensive stats of anybody on this list, but there's a catch -- he tested positive for use of performance-enhancing drugs shortly after recording his 3,000th hit in 2005. Palmeiro is one of just five players to have 3,000 hits and 500 home runs in his career. A four-time All-Star, he was born in Havana in 1964 and his family escaped to Miami.

08
of 10

Camilo Pascual
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Position: Starting pitcher

Teams: Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins (1954-66), Washington Senators (1967-69), Cincinnati Reds (1969), Los Angeles Dodgers (1970), Cleveland Indians (1971)

Stats: 18 seasons, 174-170, 3.63 ERA, 1.29 WHIP

A seven-time All-Star, he was known for having a devastating curveball, one Ted Williams called the "most feared curveball in the American League." A native of Havana, Pascual won 20 games in back-to-back seasons for the 1962 and 1963 Twins, and led the league in complete games with 18 each season and topped the AL in strikeouts for three consecutive seasons (1961-63).

09
of 10

Bert Campaneris
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Position: Shortstop

Teams: Kansas City/Oakland Athletics (1964-76), Texas Rangers (1977-79), California Angels (1979-81), New York Yankees (1983)

Stats: 19 seasons, .259, 79 HR, 646 RBI, 649 SB, .653 OPS

"Campy" was one of the most versatile players of all-time, and once played all nine positions in a game, the first to ever do that in 1965. His 649 stolen bases are 14th all-time -- he led the AL six times -- and he made six All-Star teams. A native of Pueblo Nuevo, Campaneris also won three consecutive World Series titles with the A's from 1972-74.

10
of 10

Jose Canseco
Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images

Position: Outfielder

Teams: Oakland Athletics (1985-92, 1997), Texas Rangers (1992-94), Boston Red Sox (1995-96), Toronto Blue Jays (1998), Tampa Bay Devil Rays (1999-2000), New York Yankees (2000), Chicago White Sox (2001)

Stats: 17 seasons, .266, 462 HR, 1,407 RBI, 200 SB, .867 OPS

Like Palmeiro, Canseco is a Havana native who has the statistics of somebody who should be higher on this list, but he was the poster child for steroid use in baseball throughout his career and became the whistle-blower for performance-enhancing drugs in baseball in a best-selling book in 2005. On the field, he was a six-time All-Star, a two-time World Series champion with the A's in 1989 and the Yankees in 2000 and was the AL MVP in 1988, when he became the first player to ever compile 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases in a season.

Edited by Kevin Kleps on April 23, 2016.