Valenzuela, A-Gon, headline top 10 list of MLB players from Mexico
Mexico has a long and proud history when it comes to baseball. Notable accomplishments include Angel Macías’ perfect game in the 1957 Little League World Series and Team Mexico’s win over the United States in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. The passion for baseball south of the border is fueled by some of Mexico’s notable exports.
As the Dodgers and Padres face off in the Mexico Series in Monterrey, panel of experts at ESPN Mexico compiled a list of the top 10 Mexican ballplayers who have achieved success in the majors:
1. Fernando Valenzuela (1980-97)
Mexico cannot yet boast of having a Hall of Famer, but Fernando “El Toro” Valenzuela continues to elicit conversation. From his debut season with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1981 to 1986, he was the best left-hander in baseball. He sparked “Fernandomania” across the country and particularly in Los Angeles, converting many with Mexican roots into Dodgers fans.
Valenzuela won the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards along with a World Series ring in 1981 and was a six-time All-Star. He was left off the postseason roster when the Dodgers won it all again in 1988.
He is the all-time leader among Mexican pitchers in wins (173) and threw a no-hitter in 1990, his final season with the Dodgers. He played in the majors until 1997, also wearing the uniforms of the Baltimore Orioles, St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres.
2. Beto Ávila (1949-59)
Roberto Francisco Ávila González, known as Bobby in the U.S. and Beto in Mexico, played with the Cleveland Indians for 10 of his 11 major league seasons starting in 1949.
The second and sometimes third baseman was a three-time All-Star, and earned an American League batting crown in 1954 with a .341 average. The Veracruz native played in the 1954 World Series.
3. Aurelio Rodríguez (1967-83)
Aurelio Rodríguez, a native of Sonora, was recognized more for his defensive skills than his performance at the plate. A third baseman for most of his career, he played nine seasons for the Detroit Tigers during the 1970s and was known for his outstanding abilities with the glove. Rodriguez won the 1976 AL Gold Glove while playing with Detroit.
He had a lifetime .237 batting average with 124 home runs.
4. Adrián González (2004-present)
Born in San Diego but raised in Tijuana, Mexico, Adrián ‘El Titán’ González is one of the most versatile Mexican players to step on a major league diamond. He is second to Vinny Castilla among Mexican players in home runs (314) but leads all of his countrymen in runs batted in (1,193).
As his four Gold Gloves show, A-Gon is a defensive standout at first base. His production at the plate earned him two Silver Slugger Awards — one in each league.
The No. 1 overall selection of the Florida Marlins in the 2000 draft is a five-time All-Star but has not been able to win a World Series ring. He signed the most lucrative contract for a Mexican player when in 2011 he joined the Boston Red Sox in a seven-year, $154 million deal. He has played for five teams since 2004, including the Dodgers from 2012 to 2017. He currently is with the New York Mets.
5. Vinny Castilla (1991-2006)
Oaxaca native Vinny Castilla had a memorable Opening Day in 1999, going 4-for-5 in front of fans in Monterrey. But his MLB career extends beyond that, as he was the first Mexican ballplayer to reach 1,000 RBIs and collect 300 home runs.
Castilla’s best moments came as a member of the Colorado Rockies’ “Blake Street Bombers,” but he also had a solid offensive performance in his second stint with the Atlanta Braves, with whom he broke into the majors in 1991.
The three-time All-Star finished his career with 320 home runs, 1,105 RBIs and a .276 batting average. His 17 postseason games include five home runs, 12 RBIs and a .350 average. Castilla played for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Houston Astros, Washington Nationals and Padres.
6. Jorge Orta (1972-87)
Mazatlán’s Jorge Orta holds the major league mark for stolen bases (79, one more than Ávila) among players from Mexico. He topped 80 RBIs just twice in his career, while with the Chicago White Sox in 1975 and 1977. He was an All-Star in 1975 and again in 1980, his first season with the Indians.
Orta was the baserunner who was controversially called safe by umpire Don Denkinger on a play at first base in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series. The call allowed the Kansas City Royals to overcome a 1-0 ninth-inning deficit to the Cardinals and ultimately clinch the Series in seven games.
In 16 seasons, Orta compiled 130 home runs, 745 RBIs and a .278 average.
7. Esteban Loaiza (1995-2008)
Esteban Loaiza, the second-winningest Mexican pitcher with 126 victories, won 21 games with a 2.90 ERA in 34 starts with the White Sox in 2003 — the first of his two consecutive All-Star seasons.
The native of Tijuana finished with a 4.65 career ERA and 1,382 strikeouts; the latter ranks him fourth among Mexican hurlers.
8. Joakim Soria (2007-present)
Known as “The Monclova Whip,” Joakim Soria was among the majors’ most dominant closers during a period in which he reached 40 saves twice in three seasons (2008 and 2010) for the Royals.
Soria began his professional career with Mexico City’s Diablos Rojos and the Ciudad Obregón Yaquis before making his way up north.
One of three active players on this list, Soria continues to add to his saves total with the White Sox — his 208 through April were tops all-time among Mexican relievers.
9. Teodoro Higuera (1985-94)
Teodoro Higuera was a serious Rookie of the Year candidate in 1985 with a 15-8 record and 3.90 ERA.
The lefty from Los Mochis followed that up by winning 20 games with a 2.79 ERA in 34 starts and his only All-Star invite in 1986. During that season, he also accomplished career highs in complete games (15) and shutouts (four). However, injuries would halt what appeared to be a promising career early on.
“Teddy,” as he was called in Milwaukee, finished with 94 wins, a 3.61 ERA and 1,081 strikeouts for the Brewers, the only major league franchise that he played for.
10. Roberto Osuna (2015-present)
In only three full seasons in the majors, the Toronto Blue Jays’ Roberto Osunahas managed to claim the second spot on the list of Mexican pitchers with the most saves.
Osuna broke through in 2015 with Toronto, where he has become a mainstay and one of the best closers in the game.
In April, the 23-year-old from Juan Jose Rios, Mexico, became the youngest pitcher in history to reach 100 career saves. Osuna earned his first All-Star invite in 2017, a season in which he finished with 39 saves.