Since relay pitcher Humberto Robinson made his debut in Major League Baseball, back in 1955, over 50 Panamanian ballplayers have played in the utmost league of the world. Two of them have written their names in history: Rod Carew, an excellent batter that won seven crowns and was included in the Hall of Fame in 1990, and Mariano Rivera, described as the best closer of all time in MLB, with 652 games saved. He will certainly be given a space in Cooperstown.
In 2017, the performance of the seven Panamanian baseball players that played in MLB can be described as discrete, since they did not stand out and not even one of them participated in the postseason. Randall Delgado, who would have had that opportunity with the Arizona Diamondbacks, suffered a lesion and was out of the lineup. Is this situation going to change in the 2018 season? PanamericanWorld proposes an approach to 10 Panamanian players we should followed in the upcoming season, both in major and minor leagues.
ALLEN CÓRDOBA (SAN DIEGO PADRES)
The 22-year-old player made his debut in MLB in 2017, with the San Diego Padres. His numbers were not outstanding, since he barely scored 42 hits in 100 games, 4 HRs and 17 RBIs, for .208. For this campaign, the Padres are expecting this versatile player to better his performance. He plays both left field and shortstop.
PAOLO ESPINO (MILWAUKEE BREWERS)
In 2017, after 11 years in minor league, this pitcher was taken up to MLB with the Milwaukee Brewers. He played six games with that team and was later bought by the Texas Rangers, where he played another six games. He finished with high effectiveness average 6.00 and will have to do his best during the spring training to get a roster position as relay.
JOHAN CAMARGO (ATLANTA BRAVES)
Camargo was the most outstanding Panamanian ballplayer in 2017 and is likely to have a great 2018. He played 82 games with the Atlanta Braves, shot 72 hits, 4 HRs and 27 RBIs, with an offensive average of .299. The Bravos executives certainly appreciate the fact that Camargo can defend all positions on the field.
RANDALL DELGADO (ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS)
A lesion in the flexor tendon put an end to Delgado’s season and he couldn’t play the playoff, but that franchise is counting on the 28-year-old pitcher for 2018, since he has won 28 games and lost 29 in seven MLB seasons, between Atlanta and Arizona. In 2017, the player worked in 62.2 innings, 25 ERAs and his effectiveness average was 3.59.
RUBÉN TEJADA (BALTIMORE ORIOLES)
This player, with eight years of experience in MLB, began the 2017 season with the Yankees, but he never made it to the main team and was transferred to the Baltimore Orioles in June. He played in 41 games there, as shortstop in most of them and batted for an average of .230, with five RBIs. The Orioles offered him a minor league contract for 2018 and, during the spring training, the Panamanian will fight for a position in the lineup as utility player.
CARLOS ‘CALICHO’ RUIZ
The 39-year-old veteran catcher does not want to retire and he’ll look for a team to play his thirteenth season in MLB. In 2017, Ruiz wore the Seattle Mariners uniform in 54 games, with an average of .216, three HRs and 11 RBIs. His best moments are undoubtedly in the past, but any team interested in having an experienced catcher could offer a contract to this man that, in 12 years in Major League, has caught balls from four no hit-no run and has participated in 1,089 games.
CHRISTIAN BETHANCOURT (SAN DIEGO PADRES)
In his fifth season in MLB, 26-year-old Bethancourt changed his usual catcher position and went up the mound. The transformation was not fruitful because the Panamanian’s pitches were hit, so he was sent to the minor league and later became a free agent. In the early 2018, the Milwaukee Brewers offered him a minor league contract with an invitation to the team’s training field. The executives are hoping this player to be productive in Major League, since he was described as one of the main prospects in the Atlanta Braves.
At the age of 21, pitcher Ariel Jurado is one of the main prospects in the Rangers. In 2015, he was the top winner within the Rangers’ minor league organizations and, two years later, with AA Frisco RoughRiders, he had 9 and 11, with an average of 4.59. Texas decided to buy his contract and he could climb in the franchise, up to Major League. The Los Angeles Angels are betting on another great Panamanian talent, Jaime Barria, 21 years old, to join the team in the 2018 season. Last year, Barria was the only Panamanian player in the Future Star Game, held at Miami’s Marlins Park.
Barria began the 2017 season in the Inland Empire Advanced A Class and finished the year in Triple-A Salt Lake. His average effectiveness in three teams was 2.80 in 141.2 performances. Los Angels identified him as their number one prospect and general manager Billy Eppler thinks that the Panamanian ballplayer could be included in the team’s opening lineup in the campaign. 23-year-old right pitcher Dario Agrazal is another Panamanian talent, who was already included by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the roster of 40 men for the upcoming season. Agrazal played most of the 2017 season in High A Class, Bradenton, where he won five games and lost three, with an effectiveness average of 2.91; he later opened Altoona AA, but had physical problems.
We’ll see if Agrazal’s physical recovery is complete and he can play in AAA on his way up to the big team.