Alfredo Despaigne of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks hits a grand slam to make it 11-2 in the 7th inning during the game two of the Japan Series against Yomiuri Giants at Kyocera Dome Osaka on November 22, 2020 in Osaka, Japan. Despaigne has returned to the SoftBank Hawks after starting the season in Cuba’s Serie Nacional with Alazanes de Granma. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
By Conor Liguori
World Baseball Network
Nineteen-year professional baseball veteran Alfredo Despaigne of Cuba has signed with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan. Despaigne will earn around $1.5 million in 2023 for the SoftBank Hawks, according to CubanBaseballDigest.com.
Despaigne, who will turn 37 this month, is best known for his power with the bat. In nine seasons in NPB with the Chiba Lotte Marines and Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, he has hit 184 home runs. In 12 years in the Serie Nacional, the primary professional baseball league in Cuba, he has hit 239 homers. Despaigne holds a career batting average of .308 and a .972 OPS across all levels and leagues.
Despaigne played in his fifth World Baseball Classic with Cuba this March, and was their primary designated hitter. Since he made his debut with Cuba in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, he has hit seven home runs, a WBC record. Despaigne didn’t hit any home runs in 2023 for Cuba, but hit three each in the 2013 and 2017 World Baseball Classics.
Despaigne returns to the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks after starting the 2023 season with Alazanes de Granma in the Serie Nacional. He hit .333 with five home runs and 16 RBI this spring up until signing with Fukuoka.
Despaigne’s best season with the SoftBank Hawks came in 2017, his first year with the team. In 136 games, the designated hitter and outfielder hit 35 home runs and had 103 runs batted in. He hit 36 home runs in 519 plate appearances in 2019 with the SoftBank Hawks, a career high. Despaigne will look to add upon an already impressive resume that includes being a four-time Nippon Series champion and a three-time Nippon Professional Baseball All-Star.
The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks are in third in the Pacific League of Nippon Professional Baseball with a win-loss record of 24-20, just 2.5 games back of the Chiba Lotte Marines for first place.