Cuban League Statistical Leaders Contain Surprises

Several surprising names currently stand atop the individual statistical leader board as the Cuban League begins the second installment of its three-part season, and this can only mean a somewhat more difficult time for league officials in selecting a national team roster come mid-February. Slugging outfielder Yoelvis Fiss (Ciego de Avila) may well be a darkhorse selection when it comes to narrowing the field of WBC outfield candidates, and veteran catcher Rolando Merino (Santiago) is enjoying a second straight late-career stellar campaign as the league’s current home run pacesetter. Merino (pictured below) was a controversial backup receiver on last summer’s Beijing Olympic squad, after earning recognition as the post-season MVP of National Series #47 (many in Cuba argued that Yosvany Pereza should have been chosen over Merino). Other noteworthy performances are currently being turned in by national team mainstay Yulieski Gourriel (batting leader at .400-plus and seemingly en route to his first league hitting crown), Las Tunas righthander Yoelkis Cruz (the league’s workhorse hurler with 52.1 innings thrown), and Yunieski Maya and Luis Miguel Rodriguez (a pair of former national team hurlers who pace the circuit in pitching victories).

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Current league leaders after the first weekend of play in National Series #48 Etapa 2 (approximately 25 games per team) are the following:

Batting

BA — Yulieski Gourriel (Sancti Spiritus) .419

Hits — Yoelvis Fiss (Ciego de Avila) 43

HR — Rolando Merino (Santiago de Cuba) 9

3b — Roman Hernandez (Matanzas) 4

2b — Rudy Reyes (Industriales) 11

SLU — Yulieski Gourriel (Sancti Spiritus) .742

Runs — Yoelvis Fiss (Ciego de Avila) 28

RBI — Yoelvis Fiss (Ciego de Avila) 27

BB — Ernesto Molinet (Habana Province) 27

SB — Leonys Martin (Villa Clara) 6

Pitching

Innings — Yoelkis Cruz (Las Tunas) and Aroldis Chapman (Holguin) 52.1

Wins — Luis Miguel Rodriguez (Holguin) and Yunieski Maya (Pinar del Rio) 5

Losses — Yanier Gonzalez (Granma) 5

ERA — Wilber Perez (Isla de la Juventud) 0.93

Biggests surprises to date are perhaps the absence of Santiago slugger Alexei Bell (31 homers and 111 RBI last winter) from the leader board, as well as the rather remarkably low number posted by stolen base leader Leonys Martin. Last year’s stolen base champ, Jose Julio Ruiz (Santiago), pilfered 32 bases, almost three times the pace being set by this season’s leader.

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