Yuniesky Betancourt

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Yuniesky Betancourt : biography

January 31, 1982 –

Yuniesky Betancourt Pérez (born January 31, 1982) is a Cuban professional baseball player. A shortstop, he plays for the Milwaukee Brewers of Major League Baseball (MLB). Betancourt has played in MLB for the Brewers, Seattle Mariners, and Kansas City Royals. He played in the Cuban National Series for Villa Clara before he defected from Cuba.

Professional career

Seattle Mariners (2005–09)

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 online fan’s poll. In 2007, he made many good fielding plays; however, he suffered through spells of throwing wildness that season. Bad throws accounted for most of his 18 errors in the first half of , almost as many as his total of 20. He turned things around and made only 5 errors in the second half of 2007. His defense suffered in , with several fielding metrics calling him one of the worst shortstops in baseball.

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. In 2006, he walked only 3.0% of the time, the second-worst percentage in Major League Baseball. However, he only struck out 9.7% of the time, one of the top 20 percentages.

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. His strikeout rate dropped to 7.5%. He also saw the fewest pitches per plate appearance of all major leaguers, 3.15.

Kansas City Royals (2009–10)

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.

In 2009, he had the lowest on base percentage of any starter in the major leagues, at .274, 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, 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.

Milwaukee Brewers (2011)

On December 19, 2010, Betancourt was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers along with teammate Zack Greinke and USD$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.

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

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.

Betancourt had probably his best year with the Brewers. He got to the playoffs for the first time in his career, and was a big part of the Brewers’ playoff run that year. Despite having the lowest on-base-percentage of any qualifying shortstop in baseball, he started a majority of the games for the Brewers. In the playoffs he was the team’s best hitter, hitting .310 with a home run and 6 RBIs. Earlier in the regular season, in July, he pulled together one of the hottest hitting streaks in Brewers history as he managed to hit .299 that month. Against the Padres on May 9, 2011, Betancourt had one of the most acrobatic double plays of the season, as he turned what should have been a base hit up the middle into a running, behind-the-back toss to Rickie Weeks as they turned the double play.

Return to Kansas City (2012)

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

Philadelphia Phillies

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

Return to Milwaukee (2013)

On March 26, 2013, pending a physical, Betancourt signed a 1 year deal to return to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Cuban leagues

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 , 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 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. He made his major league debut on July 28, .