Will We Ever See Livan Moinelo in MLB?

Livan Moinelo is a soon to be 22 year old, small Cuban lefty who took Japan’s NPB somewhat by storm in 2017.  He had impressed mightily pitching in Cuba’s team in the Independent-A Can-Am League in 2016, and after a strong 2016-2017 winter campaign in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, the Cuban government allowed him to sign with the SoftBank Hawks in May 2017.

Moinelo is indeed small.  Baseball Reference lists him as 6’0″ and 139 lbs.  NPB’s website lists him as a more plausible 5’10” and 152 lbs.  For whatever reason, left-handed pitchers can get away with being small, while small size is held against righties.  Moinelo is small even by NPB standards, but there are a lot more small pitchers there than in MLB.

Moinelo was promoted to the Hawks’ major league team in June and given a 20 million yen ($179,000) salary.  He rewarded the Hawks with a 2.52 ERA, 15 holds and a pitching line of 35.2 IP, 21 hits, one HR and 14 BB allowed and 36 Ks.  The Hawks were NPB’s best team in 2017 NPB regular season and then won the Japan Series convincingly.

By pitching in Japan, Moinelo may never have a reason to defect in order to play in MLB.  $179,000 isn’t MLB money, but it’s still a tremendous amount of money for a 21 year old Cuban to be making.  I don’t know what kind of cut the Cuban government takes from the players it allows to play in Japan — I would bet it is substantial but leaves the players with enough so that they don’t defect.  A 50-50 split, maybe?

Alfredo Despaigne played in his fourth NPB season in 2017 and earned a cool 400 million yen ($3.6 million).  Despaigne will probably receive a 500 million yen contract for 2018, as he also plays for the Japan Series champion Hawks and led NPB Pacific League this past season with 35 home runs.

Moinelo should at least double his 2017 salary in 2018, and once he puts in the years and if he establishes himself as a top NPB closer, he can also reasonably expect to make a 500 million yen salary one day.  That may be reason enough for him to stay in NPB indefinitely.

Explore posts in the same categories: Baseball Abroad, Independent-A Leagues, Minor Leagues, NPB

One Comment on “Will We Ever See Livan Moinelo in MLB?”

  1. Burly Says:

    Livan Moinelo’s age 22 season isn’t going as well as his age 21 season. He has an ugly 5.08 ERA this year, but still has 46Ks in 33.2 NPB innings pitched. He hasn’t been able to throw enough strikes this year, which is a lot better than obvious arm problems, particularly when you are talking about a small leftie like Moinelo.. So far in 2018, it just looks like growing pains, and he could reasonable prove too good for NPB as soon as the end of the 2020 or 2021 seasons.

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