Alfredo Despaigne set the single-season home run record in Cuba's Serie Nacional with 32 homers in 2008-09, only to have it broken last year when Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Abreu each hit 33 home runs.
It may not take long for Despaigne to reclaim his crown.
The Granma outfielder hit his 20th home run of the season today, the latest in a recent homer binge that included two home runs in a game on Sunday and one on Wednesday, and all in just 46 games. Granma has played 47 games of its 90-game schedule so far, so even with some second-half regression there's a good chance that Despaigne could become Cuba's newest single-season home run king.
Despaigne, 25, is now hitting .358/.479/.756 with 26 strikeouts and 35 walks (including 11 intentional walks), leading the league in slugging and ranking seventh in OBP entering today's game. Of course, this is nothing new for Despaigne, who already has two Serie Nacional MVPs after winning the award in back-to-back years in 2008-09 and 2009-10 and being named an all-star last season.
A thickly-built righthanded hitter listed at 5-foot-9, Despaigne has been a standout on several Cuban national teams at international tournaments, including the 2008 Olympics where he homered off Stephen Strasburg, the 2009 World Baseball Classic (though he struggled during that tournament) and most recently at the World Cup in October in Panama.
And, since some folks have already asked: No, there is no way of knowing for certain if or when any Cuban player might try to leave to play in the majors, though some teams believe Despaigne won't leave. For now, he's simply a force in Cuba.