Yankee Stadium in New York, New York. (Photo by New York Yankees/Getty Images)
By Julian Guilarte
World Baseball Network
The New York Yankees signed Cuban-American utilityman JC Escarra to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training on January 12.
Escarra’s agent, Lisette Carnet of Leona Sports Agency, announced the news on her X account.
“I know what to expect being in the minors, and playing internationally has made me more mature as a hitter. I feel like I’m more of a complete hitter now and I could use what I learned in the minors with the Yankees,” Escarra said.
Escarra played 13 games for the Algodoneros de Guasave in the Liga ARCO Mexicana del Pacífico this winter. Escarra had one home run and six RBI for Guasave, and also played in Puerto Rico with Leones de Ponce in Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente this winter.
Escarra had one home run and 15 RBI in 38 games with Leones de Ponce, and has played catcher, first base, third base, and the corner outfield this winter. He was named an All-Star in LBPRC on January 14.
“Playing internationally with a lot of guys, former big leaguers and guys at higher levels really helped my case. Everyone saw me do really well everywhere I went and it got me a lot of interest and opportunities for deals with MLB clubs,” Escarra told World Baseball Network via WhatsApp.
Escarra’s father was born in Cuba and went straight to Yonkers, N.Y., once he left Cuba.
“My dad was a Yankees fan and I’ve been a fan since I was small so that’s something that’s drawn me to the Yankees,” Escarra said.
Escarra’s favorite Yankee growing up was fellow left-handed hitter first baseman Tino Martinez. Escarra remembers the impact he had on the Yankees.
“The Yankees have a great history. My parents came here for a reason for the opportunity to come to this country and there’s no better opportunity than playing baseball at the highest level,” Escarra said. “I’m going to do it for all of the Cubans, my family, and everything that we’ve been through.”
Escarra made his debut with Leones De Ponce last winter. He played 47 games and had two home runs, 25 RBI, with an OPS of .748. This earned him his first All-Star appearance in the LBPRC.
Escarra is now playing as a reinforcement with Gigantes de Carolina in the LBPRC best-of-nine championship series.
Gigantes de Carolina lost 4-2 in game three of the final LBPRC series against Criollos de Caguas on January 14 and are down two games to one. Escarra hit an RBI double on January 14 and has a batting average of .375 in the series with three walks.
The winner will represent Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Series at loanDepot Park in Miami on February 1.
Escarra, 28, was born in Hialeah, Fla., and was drafted by the New York Mets in the 32nd round out of Mater Academy Charter in the 2013 MLB Draft, but decided to go to school at Florida International University. In 2017, he was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 15th round.
In 2018, he started the season with the Orioles Low-A affiliate, the Aberdeen IronBirds and hit six home runs with an OPS of .934 in 51 games.
The next year, he played 127 games with the Orioles High-A affiliate, the Frederick Keys, and hit 13 home runs in 442 at bats and had an OPS of .690 for the year.
In 2021, he started his season with the Orioles Double-A affiliate, the Bowie Baysox, where he played 58 games before getting called up to their Triple-A affiliate, the Norfolk Tides.
He combined to hit eight home runs in 95 games in 2021 and was designated for assignment by the Orioles on March 19, 2022.
In 2022, Escarra played Independent baseball in the American Association League with the Kansas City Monarchs. He had 12 home runs, 35 RBI, a batting average of .291, and an OPS of .926 in 70 games with the Monarchs.
In 2023, Escarra played in the Atlantic League with the Gastonia Honey Hunters from April 28 to June 16, hitting 15 home runs, 41 RBI, and an OPS of 1.131. He won Player of the Month in May, hitting eight home runs and driving in 31 runs.
Escarra then went to the Liga Mexicana de Beisbol in the summer of 2023, playing 21 games each with the Toros de Tijuana and the Algodoneros de Unión Laguna. He led the Mexican League with seven home runs in the playoffs.
“Everywhere that I’ve been through, there’s been someone there to help me out,” Escarra said. “My journey is different from other people because I had to go through the minors getting released. Playing in many Independent baseball leagues, winter leagues, and internationally [in]Mexico.”
Escarra is on the preliminary roster as a catcher for FEPCUBE for the 2024 Intercontinental Series which will be held in Barranquilla, Colombia, from Jan. 25 to Feb. 1 at Estadio Edgar Renteria.
Escarra will play in the Caribbean Series if the Gigantes de Carolina wins the final LBPRC series. He wants the opportunity to go back home and play at loanDepot Park in Miami.
Escarra will enter Yankees Spring Training as a catcher, but will also be willing to play other positions.
“I’m going into big league camp ready to make the MLB team,” Escarra said. “In games that I don’t catch, I can play corner infield or corner outfield. It comes easy to me because I’m very flexible and very athletic.”