Yuniesky Betancourt

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Yuniesky Betancourt
Yuniesky Betancourt on July 27, 2009(2).jpg
Betancourt with the Kansas City Royals in 2009
Born: (1982-01-31) January 31, 1982 (age 37)
Santa Clara, Cuba
Batted: Right Threw: Right
Professional debut
MLB: July 28, 2005, for the Seattle Mariners
NPB: March 28, 2014, for the Orix Buffaloes
Last appearance
MLB: September 29, 2013, for the Milwaukee Brewers
NPB: May 14, 2014, for the Orix Buffaloes
MLB statistics
Batting average.261
Home runs80
Runs batted in457
NPB statistics
Batting average.141
Home runs0
Runs batted in4

Yuniesky Betancourt Pérez (born January 31, 1982) is a Cuban professional baseball shortstop. Betancourt has played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Mariners, and Kansas City Royals, he played in the Cuban National Series for Villa Clara before he defected from Cuba. In 2019, he became the first former MLB player to return to the Cuban national baseball system after defecting from the country.

Cuban leagues[edit]

His early career was spent in the Cuban leagues, including Villa Clara of the Serie Nacional, he was considered the fastest second baseman in the Cuban leagues and the star of the Villa Clara team. In the finals against the Industriales in 2002, he got a hit in nearly every at bat, though the Industriales won, 4 games to 0, he left Cuba on a speedboat in December 2003 [1] and ended up in Mexico, where he played for a while before signing with Seattle Mariners scouts Bob Engle and Patrick Guerrero on January 26, 2005.[2] He made his major league debut on July 28, 2005.

Professional career[edit]

Seattle Mariners (2005–09)[edit]

Betancourt playing for the Seattle Mariners in 2007.

Betancourt's initial calling card had been his fielding. In his first few seasons, he had been considered one of the best fielders in the game, combining excellent range, quickness, soft hands, hand-eye coordination, and a strong, accurate throwing arm, he was named one of the top fielders in baseball in a 2006 online fan's poll.[3] In 2007, he made many good fielding plays;[4] however, he suffered through spells of throwing wildness that season. Bad throws accounted for most of his 18 errors in the first half of 2007, almost as many as his 2006 total of 20, he turned things around and made only 5 errors in the second half of 2007. His defense suffered in 2008, with several fielding metrics calling him one of the worst shortstops in baseball.[5][6]

Betancourt has been a hitter with some gap power who rarely strikes out or walks, he has been criticized for his lack of plate discipline and inability to bunt.[7][8] In 2006, he walked only 3.0% of the time, the second-worst percentage in Major League Baseball.[9] However, he only struck out 9.7% of the time, one of the top 20 percentages.[10]

Betancourt was among the league leaders in batting with runners in scoring position and game-winning RBI in 2007. In a late season game in 2007, former Mariner Mike Blowers referred to Betancourt as being "unreal" when batting with runners on in close late games-a result at odds with his career statistics, he hit his first grand slam in a 7–6 win against the Chicago White Sox on August 11, 2007.

In 2008, he again walked only 3.0% of the time, the worst percentage in Major League Baseball.[11] His strikeout rate dropped to 7.5%.[12] He also saw the fewest pitches per plate appearance of all major leaguers, 3.15.[13]

Kansas City Royals (2009–10)[edit]

On July 10, 2009, he was acquired by the Kansas City Royals along with a portion of his salary for Minor League pitchers Derrick Saito and Dan Cortes.[14]

In 2009, he had the lowest on-base percentage of any starter in the major leagues, at .274,[15] and the lowest slugging percentage in the American League with .351.

In 2010, he hit an opening day home run off Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander,[16] and went on to finish the season with a career-high 16 home runs. Many of his other statistics, including his batting average, on-base percentage, and fielding percentage, increased slightly from his 2009 numbers.[17]

Betancourt during Brewers Spring Training in 2011

Milwaukee Brewers (2011)[edit]

On December 19, 2010, Betancourt was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers along with teammate Zack Greinke and US$2,000,000, reportedly to offset the buyout of Betancourt's club option in 2012, for Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Jeremy Jeffress, and Jake Odorizzi.[18]

In 2011, he batted .252 with a .271 on-base percentage, and led the NL in sacrifice flies, with 10.[19] He saw the fewest pitches per plate appearance of all major league ballplayers with 512 or more plate appearances, at 3.16.[20]

Betancourt hit his first career postseason home run on October 9, 2011 in a 9–6 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in game one of the NLCS.

Despite having the lowest on-base-percentage of any qualifying shortstop in baseball, he started a majority of the games for the Brewers. Against the Padres on May 9, 2011, Betancourt had one of the most acrobatic double plays of the season, as he turned a ball hit up the middle into a running, behind-the-back toss to Rickie Weeks as they turned the double play. Nevertheless, he posted below average defensive marks by a number of advanced metrics.[21]

Return to Kansas City (2012)[edit]

On December 20, 2011, Betancourt signed a one-year deal to return to Kansas City worth $2 million,[22] he was released by the Royals on August 14, becoming a free agent.[23] He had played in 57 games, starting 51, with a .228 average and .256 OBP.

Philadelphia Phillies (2013)[edit]

On January 28, 2013, Betancourt signed a minor league deal with the Philadelphia Phillies with an invitation to spring training.[24] On March 24, 2013 the Phillies released Betancourt.[25]

Return to Milwaukee (2013)[edit]

On March 26, 2013, pending a physical, Betancourt signed a 1-year deal to return to the Milwaukee Brewers.[26] In the first few weeks of the season he was the MLB leader in HR, he played 137 games with .212 AVG, .240 OBP, and .355 SLG. His AVG and OBP were the worst of his career, and his SLG was well below his career average of .388.

Orix Buffaloes[edit]

On January 28, 2014 Betancourt signed a 1-year deal with the Orix Buffaloes of Nippon Professional Baseball.[27][28] On July 22, 2014 he was released from the Orix Buffaloes with an injury.

Mexican League[edit]

On April 21, 2015, Betancourt signed with the Toros de Tijuana of the Mexican Baseball League, he was released on April 29, 2015. On April 10, 2017, Betancourt signed with the Leones de Yucatán. On March 11, 2018, Betancourt was traded to the Guerreros de Oaxaca.[citation needed]

Return to Cuba[edit]

In late March of 2019, it was reported that Betancourt had successfully repatriated and joined the Santa Clara team in the Villa Clara Provincial League, he thus became the first Cuban ex-MLB player to return to the Cuban national baseball system.[29] Betancourt is expected to rejoin Villa Clara for the 2019–20 Cuban National Series, as he has previously stated a desire to finish his career playing for his hometown team.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bishop, Greg (March 15, 2007). "Mariners' Betancourt can't leave journey from Cuba behind". Seattle Times. Retrieved April 13, 2009.
  2. ^ "DAVID AARDSMA (53)" (PDF). Retrieved August 5, 2012.
  3. ^ "The 2006 Scouting Report by the Fans for the Fans". Tom Tango.
  4. ^ "Shortstop ATG". Joe Posnanski.
  5. ^ "2008 Shortstops Fielding Statistics".
  6. ^ "2008 Plus/Minus Leaders". The Fielding Bible. Archived from the original on March 31, 2009.
  7. ^ "Memorable Moments". The Seattle Times.
  8. ^ "Betancourt bunting on his own". The Seattle Times.
  9. ^ "Advanced stats". fangraphs. Retrieved June 27, 2007.
  10. ^ "Advanced stats". fangraphs. Retrieved April 13, 2009.
  11. ^ "Advanced stats". fangraphs. Retrieved April 13, 2009.
  12. ^ "Advanced stats". fangraphs. Retrieved April 13, 2009.
  13. ^ "2008 Major League Baseball Pitches Batting". Retrieved August 5, 2012.
  14. ^ Baker, Geoff (July 10, 2009). "Mariners trade Yuniesky Betancourt to Royals". The Seattle Times.
  15. ^ "Player Batting Stats – 2009". Retrieved October 3, 2011.
  16. ^ "Tigers Use Six-Run 7th to Beat Greinke, Royals 8–4". ABC News/AP.
  17. ^ "Yuniesky Betancourt » Statistics » Batting". Retrieved October 3, 2011.
  18. ^ McCalvy, Adam (December 19, 2010). "Brewers add Greinke in deal with Royals". Retrieved December 19, 2010.
  19. ^ "Yuniesky Betancourt Statistics and History". Retrieved October 3, 2011.
  20. ^ "2012 Regular Season MLB Baseball Batting Statistics and League Leaders - Major League Baseball - ESPN". Retrieved August 5, 2012.
  21. ^
  22. ^ Royals Press Release (December 20, 2011). "Royals sign utility infielder Yuniesky Betancourt to a one-year deal".
  23. ^ "Royals cut Betancourt, call up Abreu from minors". Retrieved January 24, 2013.
  24. ^ "Todd Zolecki on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  25. ^ "Phillies release Yuniesky Betancourt, keep Freddy Galvis, Kevin Frandsen". Philadelphia Phillies. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  26. ^ Stark, Jyson (March 26, 2013). "Yuniesky Betancourt joins Brewers". Retrieved January 29, 2014.
  27. ^ Todd, Jeff (January 28, 2014). "Yuniesky Betancourt To Sign With Orix Buffaloes". MLB Trade Rumors. Retrieved January 29, 2014.
  28. ^ "Yuniesky Betancourt off to Japan". Associated Press. January 29, 2014. Retrieved January 29, 2014.
  29. ^ Rosendo, Norland (March 29, 2019). "Regresa Yuniesky Riquimbili Betancourt al béisbol en Cuba tras nueve años en Grandes Ligas" (in Spanish). Retrieved April 1, 2019.
  30. ^ "El mítico Riquimbili Betancourt regresa a Cuba y juega en la Serie Provincial de Villa Clara" (in Spanish). April 1, 2019. Retrieved April 1, 2019.

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