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Home Run Derby: Cuba Natives Arozarena, Garcia, Robert Will Swing For Fences

 Matt Tallarini  |    Jul 9th, 2023 9:01pm EDT

Adolis Garcia of the Texas Rangers reacts after hitting a two-run home run during the sixth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on July 05, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images)

The 2023 Major League Baseball Home Run Derby will be Monday night in Seattle at T-Mobile Park, prior to the MLB All-Star Game Tuesday night. 

The Home Run Derby will start at 8 p.m. EDT on ESPN.

Monday Night Home Run Derby First Round Matchups  
(1) Luis Robert Jr. (CWS) vs. (8) Adley Rutschman (BAL)
(2) Pete Alonso (NYM) vs. (7) Julio Rodríguez (SEA)
(3) Mookie Betts (LAD) vs. (6) Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (TOR)
(4) Adolis García (TEX) vs. (5) Randy Arozarena (TB)

The 93rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will take place at 8 p.m. EDT on FOX. 

Six of the eight players participating in the Home Run Derby Monday night are international, and the other players have had international baseball experience. This year, 269 international players started off the 2023 Major League Baseball Season on the 40-man roster of 30 organizations. 

During the 2023 Major League Baseball Home Run Derby, three participating players who were born in Cuba will participate: Randy Arozarena, Adolis Garcia, and Luis Robert Jr. This is the most participants from the country since the Home Run Derby began in 1985. 

The last player from Cuba to win the Home Run Derby was Yoenis Cespedes in 2014. He was also the first to win the competition in 2013, and is the only international born player to win multiple Home Run Derbies. 

The last time multiple Cuban-born players participated in the Home Run Derby was in 2014 when Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig both participated.

Born in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Arozarena is in his fifth Major League season and fourth with the Tampa Bay Rays, and was selected to the first All-Star Game of his career. 

He’s climbed to Major League Baseball from his hometown team in Serie Nacional, the Vegueros de Pinar del Rio, for two winter league seasons from 2013 through 2015, playing in 93 games with 305 plate appearances, hitting .279 with 67 hits, 12 doubles, three home runs, 24 RBI, and 42 walks with a .809 OPS. Arozarena left Cuba for Mexico on a raft and landed on the shore of Isla Mujeres in the later part of 2015. 

After playing in the Merida winter league, the Liga Norte de Mexico, with the Toros de Tijuana of Liga Mexicana de Beisbol, and the Mayos de Navojoa of Liga ARCO Mexicana del Pacífico, Arozarena signed with the St. Louis Cardinals as an international free agent in July 2016 for $1.25 million. He made his Major League debut on August 14, 2019 for the St. Louis Cardinals and played in 19 games with 23 plate appearances batting .300 with six hits, one double, one home run, two RBI, two stolen bases, and walking two times. 

Arozarena was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays on January 9, 2020 in a deal that included Jose Martinez and the Cardinals’ Competitive Balance Round A draft pick in exchange for Matthew Libertore, Edgardo Rodriguez, and the Rays’ Competitive Balance Round B draft pick. 

Arozarena played in 23 games during the 2020 Major League season, and batted .281 in 76 plate appearances with 18 hits, two doubles, seven home runs, 11 RBI, four stolen bases, and six walks. 

During the 2020 playoffs, Arozarena helped the Rays reach their second World Series and won the ALCS Most Valuable Player Award, hitting four home runs in 28 at-bats over seven games with nine hits, one double, six RBI, and two walks, recording a 1.153 OPS. 

In 2021, Arozarena won the American League Rookie of the Year Award after hitting .274 in 141 games, recording 145 hits, 32 doubles, three triples, 20 home runs, 69 RBI, swiping 20 stolen bases, and walking 56 times. 

Last season, Arozarena played in 153 games and batted .263 with 154 hits, 41 doubles, three triples, 20 home runs, 32 stolen bases, 89 RBI, and 46 walks. 

This season, Arozarena has played in 87 games batting .276 with 86 hits, nine doubles, 16 home runs, 58 RBI, and 46 walks in 372 plate appearances.

Arozarena is the third Rays player to ever participate in the event and first since Carlos Pena in 2009. No Rays player has made it out of the first round of the event. 

Arozarena played for Mexico in the 2023 World Baseball Classic after receiving his citizenship in April of last year, and helped Mexico reach the semifinals, losing to World Champion Japan in Miami at loanDepot Park. 

In six games, Arozarena hit .450 in 20 at-bats, scoring eight runs, recording nine hits, six doubles, one home run, nine RBI, and six walks to help Mexico medal for the first time at the World Baseball Classic, and was selected to the 2023 World Baseball Classic All-Tournament Team. 

Arozarena will battle out against his countrymen Adolis Garica in the first round of the Home Run Derby Monday night in Seattle along with aiming to be the second Cuban player to ever win the event.

Born in Ciego de Avila, Cuba, Adolis Garcia was selected to his second All-Star Game this season. In 88 games, he’s batting .264 with 90 hits, 20 doubles, 23 home runs, 73 RBI, and walking 35 times along with suiting up for his first time participating in the Home Run Derby contest. 

Garcia left Cuba on April 20, 2016, after playing from 2011-16 for his hometown team, Tigres de Ciego de Avila in the Serie Nacional. 

He then went to Japan and played in the Yomiuri Giants organization during the 2016 season for their minor league team in the Japanese Eastern League, appearing in 28 games with 117 plate appearances and batting .234 with 26 hits, six doubles, four home runs, 12 RBI, and walking six times along with having a cup of coffee with the upper Giants team with just seven games as well with four at-bats and no hits to show for before he explored his options to play professionally in the United States. 

Garcia was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in February of 2017 and started out in Double-A Springfield to begin the 2017 regular season.Garcia made his Major League debut on August 6, 2018 with St. Louis. Heplayed in 21 games with the Cardinals, making 17 plate appearances nad recording two hits, one RBI, and striking out seven times. 

In Garcia’s first All-Star season in 2021, he played in 149 games, batting .243 with 622 plate appearances recording 141 hits, 26 doubles, 31 home runs, 90 RBI, swiping 16 stolen bases and drawing 32 walks. Last season, Garcia played in 156 games with 657 plate appearances batting .250 recording 151 hits, 34 doubles, five triples, 27 home runs, 101 RBI, and walking 40 times. 

Garcia is batting .248 lifetime with 81 career home runs and 265 RBI. 

The last Texas Rangers player to win the Home Run Derby was Juan Gonzalez during the 1993 competition.

Born in Guantanamo, Cuba, Luis Robert Jr. is appearing in his first Major League All-Star Game. Now in his fourth season with the Chicago White Sox, Robert is batting .271 this season in 87 games with 332 plate appearances, with 90 hits, 22 doubles, 26 home runs, 50 RBI, and 21 walks with a .904 OPS. 

During the 2023 World Baseball Classic, Robert helped Cuba reach the semifinals in Miami at loanDepot Park, where Cuba lost to the United States 14-2. Robert played in six games in the World Baseball Classic, and in 27 at-bats, he batted .259 with seven hits, one double, and four RBI. 

Robert and his Chicago White Sox teammate, Yoan Moncada, were two of the first players to currently be active on a Major League Baseball roster and play for Cuba in any international senior tournament event since the U.S. trade embargo began in 1960. 

Before playing in the United States, Robert played in the Serie Nacional from 2013-16 with Tigres de Ciego de Avila, where he played in 193 games with 715 plate appearances, recording 189 hits, 25 doubles, six triples, 18 home runs, 82 RBI, and 81 walks while batting .314. 

Robert left Cuba in November 2016 and was unable to sign with a Major League Baseball organization until May 20, 2017, after being declared a free agent the month prior. 

On May 27, 2017 Robert signed a $26 million contract at 19 years old with the Chicago White Sox and reported to their Dominican Summer League complex, where he played in 28 games, batting .310 with 114 plate appearances recording 26 hits, eight doubles, three home runs, swiping 12 stolen bases, 14 RBI, and 22 walks. 

Robert has been in the White Sox organization for seven seasons and made his Major League debut July 24, 2020. He later re-signed for six years and $50 million on January 2, 2020. 

In his rookie season, Robert played in 56 games with 225 plate appearances, recording 47 hits, eight doubles, 11 home runs, 31 RBI, swiping nine bases, and walking 20 times while batting .233 and finishing second in the balloting for the American League Rookie of the Year Award and winning a Gold Glove. 

During the 2021 regular season, Robert suffered a complete tear of his right hip flexor after hitting .316 during the first 25 games of the year. Robert came back from the injured list on August 9, 2021 and finished the season with 296 plate appearances, hitting .338 and recording 93 hits, 22 doubles, 13 home runs, swiping six stolen bases, 43 RBI, and 14 walks. 

Last season, Robert played in 98 games with 401 plate appearances, hitting .284 with 108 hits, 18 doubles, 12 home runs, 56 RBI, 11 stolen bases, and 17 walks. 

Robert is the first Chicago White Sox player to participate in the Home Run Derby since Todd Frazier in 2016. The last time a White Sox player won the Home Run Derby in 1995, when Frank Thomas won the crown.