World Baseball Network’s Top Ten Mexican Baseball Players of All-Time

Matthew Tallarini
Chief Correspondent
World Baseball Network

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Mexico has a breath-taking history of baseball, dating to the end of the 19th century – or perhaps even further. The Liga Mexican De Beisbol (LMB) league was founded on June 28, 1925 and now has 18 teams scattered around the country.  

The Liga “Arco” Mexicana del Pacifico (LAMP), founded in 1945, is s winter-league and part of a two-stage season, where eight teams go into the playoff field and the winner goes to the Caribbean Series. 

Mexico made its first appearance in the 1971 Serie Del Caribe at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Mexico’s first Major Leaguer was Mel Almeda, an outfielder who made his debut with the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 8, 1933. The country of Mexico had 13 players play at the Major League Level in the 2022 season. In the history of Major League Baseball, 145 Mexican players have stepped onto a big league diamond.  

World Baseball Network created this top ten list of Mexican-born players.  

10.  Vincente Romo – MLB: Los Angeles (N.L.), 1968, 1982; Cleveland, 1968–69; Boston, 1969–70; Chicago  (A.L.), 1971–72; San Diego, 1973–74. MCL: Tigres de Aguascalientes, 1962. LMB: Tigres Del Mexico, 1963-64, 1966; Cafeteros de Cordoba, 1975-78; Azules de Coatzacoalcos, 1980, 1982; Mexico City Tigers, 1983; Diablos Rojos del Mexico, 1984. 

Selected from the Rule 5 Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers prior to his Major league debut on April 11, 1968, Vincente Romo became a master mind pitcher during his early years in the Mexican Leagues. During his Major League career, Romo went 32-33, but while playing in Mexico, he was 111-62. Romo would be inducted into the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992. 

9.  Joakim Soria – LMB: Diablos Rojos del Mexico, 2005-06; LMP: Yaqui De Obregon, 2005-07. MLB: Kansas City, 2007–11, 2016-17; Texas, 2013–14; Detroit, 2014–15; Pittsburgh, 2015; Chicago (A.L.), 2018; Milwaukee, 2018; Oakland, 2019–20; Arizona, 2021; Toronto , 2021.

Soria has shined in Mexico, playing for Diablos Rojos del Mexico and Yaquis De Obregon during the Winter League season, throwing a perfect game against Naranjeros de Hermosillo on Dec. 9, 2006.  Shortly before the 2006-07 winter league season, Soria was picked in the Rule 5 Draft by the Kansas City Royals, and a few months later, he made his major league debut on April 4, 2007.  With 229 saves in his major league career and being a two-time All-Star, Soria holds a lifetime ERA of 3.11 with a 36-45 win-loss record and 831 strikeouts. 

8.  Esteban Loaiza – MLB: Pittsburgh, 1995–98; Texas, 1998–2000; Toronto, 2000–02; Chicago (A.L.), 2003–04, 2008; New York (A.L.) 2004; Washington, 2005; Oakland; 2006–07; Los Angeles Dodgers, 2007–08. LMP: Venados De Mazatlan, 2009-10; Aguilas De Mexicali, 2011-12. LMB: Diablos Rojos del Mexico, 2013; Delfines de Ciudad del Carmen, 2013. 

Loaiza was signed as undrafted free agent out of high school in California by the Pittsburgh Pirates on March 21, 1991. He worked his way through their minor league system for a few years and made his Major League debut on April 29, 1995. During Loaiza’s career, he was a two-time All-Star and led the American League in strikeouts in 2003. Loaiza’s win loss record was 126-114 with an ERA of 4.65 and 1,382 strikeouts.  

7.  Bobby “Beto” Avila – LMB: Angeles de Puebla, 1943-47; Mexico City Tigers, 1960. MLB: Cleveland, 1949–58; Baltimore, 1959; Boston, 1959; Milwaukee, 1959. 

Beto Avila grew up in Veracruz, Mexico and began his professional baseball career for the Puebla in 1943. Avila went on to have a solid career in the Major Leagues.  He was a three-time all-star and the 1954 A.L. Batting Champion. Avila was inducted into the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971. His lifetime batting average in the majors was .281, with 80 home runs and 467 RBI. 

6.  Hector Espino – MCL: Tuneros de San Luis, 1960-61. LMP: Naranjeros de Hermosillo, 1960-84. LMB:  Sultanes de Monterrey, 1962-63, 1964-70, 1982-84; Diablos Rojos del Mexico, 1975; Cardenales de Tabasco, 1975; Alijadores de Tampico, 1976-78; Saraperos de Saltillo, 1980; Diablos Blancos de Union Laguna, 1980; Aceros De Moncolva, 1980, 1984. 

Espino is considered the “Babe Ruth” of Mexican baseball, and has the most home runs ever at 484 in the Minor Leagues, when the Mexican League is considered to be Class AAA.  Espino won 13 batting crowns in the winter leagues for Hermosillo and had six home run titles and six MVP Awards. In 1976, he led Mexico to its first Caribbean Series title. Espino would be a consistent .300 hitter both in LMP and LMB during the course of his career, and is the only player in LMP history to ever finish with a batting average above .300. Espino was inducted into the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988. 

5. Teodoro Higuera – LMB: Indios de Ciudad Juarez, 1980, 1982-83; Sultanes de Monterrey, 1999. MLB: Milwaukee, 1985–91, 1993–94.

As a prospect, Higuera was a diamond in the rough coming out of Mexico. In his last year playing in Mexico, he went 17-8 with a 2.03 ERA before having his contract purchased in late 1983 by the Milwaukee Brewers. During the 1986 season, Higuera won 20 games and was selected to the All-Star Game.  He was 94-64 with a career ERA of 3.61 and 1,081 strikeouts. Higuera was inducted into the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011.  

4.  Yovani Gallardo – MLB: Milwaukee Brewers, 2007–14; Texas, 2015; Baltimore, 2016; Seattle, 2017; Cincinnati, 2018; Texas, 2018.

After being accepted to Texas Christian University on a baseball scholarship, Gallardo instead decided to sign after being selected by Milwaukee in the second round of the 2004 Major League Amateur Draft.  Gallardo made his Major League debut on June 18, 2007.  Gallardo has the second-most strikeouts among Mexican pitchers in the history of Major League Baseball with 1,584, trailing only Fernando Valenzuela. He went 121-101 in his career and was selected as an All-Star in 2010 and Silver Slugger Award Winner the same year. Gallardo played in two World Baseball Classics in 2013 and 2017 with Mexico.  

3. Adrian Gonzalez – LMP: Venados De Mazatlán, 2005-07. LMB: Mariachis de Guadalajara, 2021. MLB: Texas, 2004–05; San Diego, 2006–10; Boston, 2011–12; Los Angeles, 2012–17; New York (N.L.), 2018. 

Gonzalez, the first overall pick during the 2000 MLB Amateur Draft, has played in four World Baseball Classics for Mexico. He made his Major League debut on April 18, 2004. The five-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove Award winner also led the majors in RBI in 2014. Gonzalez’s lifetime average is .287, and he’s knocked 2,050 career hits and 317 Home runs. Gonzalez represented Mexico at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics during his final season. 

2. Vinny Castilla – LMB: Saraperos De Saltillo, 1987, 1988-89; Acereros De Monclova, 1988. LMP: Naranjeros de Hermosillo, 2006-11. MLB: Atlanta, 1991–92, 2002-03; Colorado, 1993–99, 2006; Tampa Bay, 2000–01; Houston, 2001; Colorado, 2004; Washington, 2005; San Diego, 2006.

The Atlanta Braves bought Castilla’s contract from the Saraperos de Saltillo of the Mexican League in 1990.  Castilla has hit the most home runs of any Mexican player in the Major Leagues with 320. Castilla has a lifetime batting average of .296 with 1,105 RBI, two All-Star selections, and three Silver Slugger Awards. Castilla was inducted into the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame in 2020.  

1.Fernando Valenzuela – MCL: Guanajuato Tuzos, 1978; Angeles de Puebla, 1979. LMB: Leones De Yucatan, 1979. LMP: Mayos de Navajoa, 1977; Aguilas de Mexicali, 2006-08. MLB: Los Angeles (N.L.), 1980–90; California, 1991; Baltimore, 1993; Philadelphia, 1994; San Diego, 1995–97; St. Louis, 1997.

Mike Brito, the late scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers, was a big believer of how Valenzuela’s mechanics would stack up at the major league level. During Valenzuela’s major league career, he was a six-time All-Star, a World Series Champion in 1981, as well as the N.L. Cy Young Award Winner and N.L. Rookie of the Year in 1981.  He was 173-153 in the majors, with a 3.54 ERA and 2,074 strikeouts. Valenzuela led the National League in wins in 1986 and was the major league strikeout leader in 1981. Valenzuela was inducted into the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014.