Dairon Blanco of the Kansas City Royals celebrates his home run in the fourth inning against the New York Yankees at Kauffman Stadium on October 01, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
By Julian Guilarte
World Baseball Network
Cuban outfielder Darion Blanco signed with the Estrellas Orientales and will play in Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana for the 2023-24 regular season.
Pelota Cubana USA reporter Yusseff Diaz reported the news on October 5. This deal became official after Leones del Ponce’s claim against Blanco was rejected and will not have a chance to play in Puerto Rico for this upcoming winter league season.
The Estrellas Orientales social media pages released the information on Blanco being on the active roster on Tuesday. The Estrellas Orientales play in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. They were established in 1910 and have won three LIDOM championships, most recently in 2019.
Blanco played for the Leones del Ponce last winter in Puerto Rico’s Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente. He set a record with 25 stolen bases last winter. In 47 games, he hit one home run and drove in 18 runs with an OPS of .706.
Blanco also reinforced Tigres del Licey in LIDOM last winter and helped them win the league championship, which punched their ticket to the Caribbean Series. Blanco hit .667 in the finals. He didn’t go with them to the Caribbean Series last season.
Blanco played four seasons in Cuba with Ganaderos de Camagüey and the Alazanes de Granma in the Serie Nacional when it was a winter league. He played from 2012-15 and had seven home runs, 79 RBI, 52 stolen bases, and an OPS of .779. Blanco defected from Cuba in 2016 and signed with the Oakland Athletics prior to the 2018 season.
Blanco played in 2018 with the Athletics’ High-A affiliate, the Stockton Ports. In 82 games he had one home run, 37 RBI, 22 SB, and an OPS of .748. In 2019 he began the season with the Athletics double-A affiliate the Midland RockHounds. In 78 games he had seven home runs, 44 RBI, 27 stolen bases, and an OPS of .811.
He was traded to the Kansas City Royals for left-handed pitcher Jake Diekman on July 27, 2019. Blanco played 32 games with the Royals organization in Double-A for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals in 2019. He had five RBI and six stolen bases. Blanco did not play in 2020 when the minor league season was called off due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
In 2021, he played with the Naturals again and had nine home runs, 32 stolen bases, and an OPS of .814 in 79 games. He got called up to the Royals Triple-A affiliate, the Omaha Storm Chasers, on August 17, 2021, and had five home runs, 15 RBI, and nine stolen bases in 38 games.
In 2022, he played 107 games with the Storm Chasers and got called up to play five games with the Royals. He went two-for-seven with two RBI and a stolen base with the Royals.
In 2023, he got a longer look with the Royals, playing 69 games. He had three home runs, 18 RBI, and 24 stolen bases with an OPS of .755 in 124 at-bats. In 49 games with the Storm Chasers, he stole 47 bases giving him a total of 71 steals in 2023. He also hit three home runs with the Storm Chasers and had a .347 batting average and .895 OPS.
“Blanco is a premier base stealer and he will be in the mix to win an outfield job with the Royals next season,” Diaz, of Pelota Cubana USA, said.
Blanco joins Yasiel Puig in San Pedro de Macoris, and the Estrellas Orientales could potentially form an all-Cuban outfield if they sign Roel Santos, who is also on their radar. Blanco will make his debut with Estrellas on November 4.