The island of Puerto Rico, located in the Caribbean, has the fourth-most active players from Latin American jurisdiction in the MLB. The incorporated U.S. territory is part of a chain of islands that have seen over 200 players involved in the major leagues since 1942.
Players who were either born or naturalized in Puerto Rico were initially allowed to sign with MLB outfits as free agents and were typically handed minor-league contracts ahead of their debut in the majors. In 1989, however, the league decided to include the nation on its list of jurisdictions within the U.S., making it mandatory for first-year players to have their names included in the draft so they could get a contract. That saw a reduction of eligible players as it limited the number selected by teams and eventually led to the island’s secretary of Recreation and Sports asking the league to assist in setting up specialized schools so that more players could be produced.
The proposal was not approved by the league but there are currently a number of active Puerto Ricans in the MLB right now and this list names some of the most popular.
A catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, Molina has spent his entire 18-year-career with the team, having come into the league way back in 2004. The nine-time Rawlings Golden Glove winner, also a winner of six Fielding Bible Awards, is widely considered to be one of the greatest defensive catchers of all time.
The Puerto Rican veteran ranks second all-time among catchers with 130 Defensive Runs Saved and is first among active catchers with 845 assists, 40.21 percent of runners caught stealing, and 55 pickoffs. He has made over 2,000 runs as a hitter, as well as 150 home and 900 runs batted in RBIs while batting over 300 in five campaigns.
Molina, who’s won the World Series on two occasions, has played for St. Louis in 12 playoff outings and four National League pennant winners. He has played for his country in four World Baseball Classic and has two silver medals to show for it.
The 10-time All-Star can also boast four platinum Glove Awards and a Silver Slugger Award. He has been selected to the All-WBC Tournament team and was a member of the 2018 All-Star Series in Japan.
Jose De Leon
Jose De Leon is a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox currently assigned to the Worcester Red Sox. The 29-year-old was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2013 after completing three years at Southern University, where he played college baseball. The Dodgers, now vying for another World Series win but not the leading favorite per the MLB lines, had him debut for the Arizona League Dodgers before he was promoted to the Ogden Raptors.
His contract was bought by the Dodgers and he was promoted to the Majors in 2016 after bouncing around a number of Minor League teams and would make his debut as the starting pitcher for the team on September 4 of that year, playing the San Diego Padres and allowing four runs in six innings en route to a win. His nine strikeouts – without walks – were the second-most by a Dodgers pitcher in a debut. He was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in 2017 and was again traded to the Cincinnati Reds two years later. The Reds released De Leon in July this year and he agreed to a Minor League deal with the Red Sox in August.
The Toronto Blue Jays pitcher came into pro baseball via the Minnesota Twins, who drafted him in the first round in 2012. He came in as the 32nd pick of the draft and made his professional debut for the Gulf Coast Twins that year before getting promoted to the Elizabethton Twins of the Rookie-level Appalachian League in August.
Berrios made his way to the majors in April of 2016 and was called up on multiple occasions during the season. He was traded to Toronto in exchange for Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson in July of this year, having made it to the All-Star Game both in 2018 and 2019.
The Houston Astros catcher has been around since 2011, having played for the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Angels, Kansas City Royals and Chicago Cubs in the MLB. Maldonado debuted for the Brewers 10 years ago but was selected in the 27th round of the 2004 draft.
The player was awarded both a Colden Glove and Fielding Bible award in 2017. Known for his throwing arm, he foiled 19 of 48 base-stealing attempts this season, which was good enough for the fourth-best caught-stealing percentage in the MLB.