Joe Kehoskie, an agent who has helped 15 Cuban players defect to the major leagues, says that people who expected to see wholesale defections of Cuban players at the World Baseball Classic were being unrealistic.
What's more, the team that lost 10-6 to Japan on Monday night in the championship final was not as good as it could have been -- something to keep in mind for 2009.
"That was a solid team, but not the best they could have sent over," Kehoskie said in a telephone interview from Miami. "That was, I guess, a Moneyball team -- lots of guys in their late 20s and 30s with okay power who get on base. They had a lot of loyalists . . . but the pool of players is much deeper than what they brought over."
Kehoskie, who did not attend the Cubans' first two rounds of games in San Juan, Puerto Rico, because of the heavy security around the team, said that 21-year-old second baseman Yulieski Gourriel was the only Cuban position player who would be considered a major-league prospect. But he said that Gourriel, whose father is a manager in Cuba, is a loyalist and a low risk for defection.
"Nobody should have expected to see five Cubans leap over a fence and run to freedom after the third out of the game," Kehoskie said. "If anything happens as a result of this, it will be later in the year, once these guys get home to Cuba and they have that first power outage."
Kehoskie said the best player left behind was a 19-year-old outfielder named Yoennis Cespedes. While 26-year-old right-hander Maikel Folch Vera, whom Kehoskie considers one of their best pitching prospects, made the trip, his only appearance was limited to one-third of an inning.