Latin American Players in the MLB

How Did It All Start? Latin American Players Setting Standards for MLB Teams

Latin American players have a long time became major players in Major League Baseball. In most of the clubs of both the American League and National League, at least one player from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, Colombia, or Venezuela is included in the roster.

Of the 300 players named on opening day rosters for the 2020 regular season, 192 were from the USA, which equates to 64%. The remaining 36% come from across the world, from all continents, with North America, South America, Asia, and Europe having representatives. But, not all are represented the same. It’s the Latin American nations that stand out.

The country with the second-largest number of players currently in MLB - and also with the largest number of players of Latin American countries - is the Dominican Republic with 35, which equates to 11.6% of 2020 opening day lineups. In close third is Venezuela with 31 players or just over 10%. That’s not the end of the countries from Latin America with representatives in double figures. Puerto Rico and Cuba had 12 and 11 players respectively.

Of course, Latin American nations are not the only baseball-playing nations with representatives in MLB, the following research courtesy of Betway, shows the breakdown: Canada with 4, and Japan and South Korea with 2 apiece are represented. When we said that 36% of MLB players in total came from across the world, we really meant that. There are several countries located outside baseball’s traditional heartlands also having players on opening-day rosters. These are Colombia (3), Curacao (4), Aruba (1), Netherlands (1), Germany (1), and Honduras (1).

Separating these 15 countries that feature on opening day rosters to others, there are a further seven currently having representatives in wider 40-man rosters: Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Taiwan, Australia, and Lithuania.

But, do you know who were the pioneers of Latin Americans in the strongest baseball league in the world?  The first Latino player to perform in Major League Baseball was Colombian Luis Castro, who played for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1902.

In 1911, the Cubans Rafael Almeida and Armando Marsans reached the ‘best baseball in the world’ - becoming the first from that Caribbean island in the professional sports in the United States - where they wore the jersey of the Cincinnati Reds.

The Venezuelan who became the first from his country to participate in a Major League Baseball team was Alejandro ‘Patón’ Carrasquel, who made his debut in 1939, defending the colors of the Washington Senators. Oswaldo Virgil was the first Dominican when he received a contract from the New York Giants in 1956, while Hiram Bithorn represented Puerto Rico first.

For its part, Mexico had Mel Almada as the first ‘Aztec’ to wear the jersey of a Major League Baseball club. He did it with the Boston Red Sox, while the first Panamanians to play in North American Professional Baseball were Hector López and Humberto Robinson in 1955. A former performed with Kansas City, while latter did it with Milwaukee.

Some of them are included in the list of international milestones in MLB. For instance, in 1951, Chico Carrasquel became the first Latin-born player to start an All-Star Game. As for other important milestones of Latin American players, five years later, Luis Aparicio was the first overseas player to be named Rookie of the Year.

Latin American players continued to highlight the league into the 1960s: Zoilo Versalles was named first foreign American League MVP (1965), while Mike Cuellar won the American League Cy Young Award (1969) as the first player from abroad to do so.

They were followed by Roberto Clemente, who became the first Latino and also the first overseas player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1973. Two years prior to receiving such recognition, Clemente was awarded the first foreign MVP of the World Series. The latest recognition of a Latino player in MLB, which was also a first of a kind for an international player, was of Carlos Correa. He was the No.1 draft selection in 2012.