Caribbean Series begins Monday with balanced field

Clubs from Dominican, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Cuba to compete for title

Caribbean Series begins Monday with balanced field

Some of the biggest names in baseball will converge on the field at Estadio Quisqueya in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, next week.

The 2016 Caribbean Series tournament will be played in honor of Hall of Fame pitcher Juan Marichal and include its first home run derby, which is expected to be a star-studded event. Seattle's Robinson Cano, Boston's David Ortiz, Detroit's Miguel Cabrera, former Major Leaguer Vladimir Guerrero and Cuban slugger Alfredo Despaigne are slated to participate, pending club approval.

Marichal will throw out the ceremonial first pitch Monday to begin the seven-day tournament. The home run derby is scheduled for Wednesday night in between games.

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"When you think about all that he has done for baseball and the Dominican Republic, we wanted to dedicate this great event to Mr. Marichal," Caribbean Confederation commissioner Juan Francisco Puello Herrera said from the Dominican Republic. "He has brought so much pride to the country on so many levels. Every host country has the option to dedicate the tournament, and Marichal was an excellent choice to represent the Dominican Republic."

This year's Caribbean Series will pit Winter League champions Leones de Escogido from the Dominican Republic, Mexico's Venados de Mazatlan,Cangrejeros de Santurce from Puerto Rico, and Venezuela's Tigres de Aragua against each other, beginning on Monday afternoon.

Ciego de Avila, the Serie Nacional champion, will represent Cuba as a special guest.

A team from the Dominican Republic has won the Caribbean Series title 19 times. Puerto Rico has the second-most championships, with 14. Cuba has won eight times, including the 2014 title, Mexico has won eight, and Venezuela has seven Caribbean Series championships.

"This might be the most balanced field we have seen in years," Puello Herrera said. "The Dominicans have a long history of success, the Puerto Ricans are good, and the Venezuelans always bring a strong team. Mexico has been really good lately, and the Cubans come with players with lots of international experience. Each country should feel good about their chances."

The history of the Caribbean Series in Latin America traces back to the union of the leagues in Cuba, Panama, Puerto Rico and Venezuela -- then called the Baseball Organization -- and the formation of the Caribbean Federation in 1948. After Cuba hosted in '49, Puerto Rico played host in '50, Venezuela in '51 and Panama in '52.

The initial design of the series was 12 games, with each team squaring off against each other twice. Cuba won the title seven times from 1949-60. Puerto Rico won four times during that span, and Panama won its first and only Caribbean Series title in '50.

In 1959, communist leader Fidel Castro took over Cuba and ended the country's participation in the event after '60. The Caribbean Series disappeared for 10 years until a revival in '70 that included the Dominican Republic and Mexico, along with the removal of Panama from the tournament.

A new format extended the double round-robin format an extra day in 2013, with a championship game played between the teams with the two best records. The latest format pits each team against each other once, followed by two semifinals and a championship game.

Each country is also allowed to add players from their league to their roster as reinforcements.

"The fans can expect one of the best Caribbean Series in years, based on the talent coming," Puello Herrera said. "The quality will be here."

Mexico: Venados de Mazatlan

Overall, Mexico has won eight Caribbean Series titles since it began participating in the annual tournament in 1970, and it has experienced success in recent years. A team from Mexico won the Caribbean Series championship in 2013 (Yaquis de Obregon) and '14 (Naranjeros de Hermosillo). Obregon also won the title in '11.

Mazatlan won its first and only Caribbean Series title in 2005 in Mazatlan with a team that included Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. This year's roster could include Steven Hensley, Mike Jacobs and Justin Greene.

Cuba: Ciego de Avila

In 2014, Cuba's Villa Clara became the first team from the island to participate in the Caribbean Series since 1960, and it was eliminated in four games. Last year, the Pinar del Rio squad arrived with a new approach, and it was reinforced with some of the island's top players. The strategy paid off. Cuba won the title by defeating Mexico's Tomateros de Culiacan in the championship game.

This year's Ciego de Avila roster will include stars like Yulieski Gourriel, Lourdes Gourriel Jr. and Despaigne.

Dominican Republic: Leones de Escogido

Escogido is the most recent team from the Dominican Republic to win a Caribbean Series title, taking home the championship in 2010 and '12.

The Dominican Republic has won the title 13 times since 1990. Former Major Leaguer Moise Alou is the general manager of the Escogido team, and his roster is expected to feature players like Jimmy Paredes, Carlos Peguero, Fernando Rodney and Rafael Soriano.

Overall, Escogido has won four Caribbean Series titles.

Puerto Rico: Cangrejeros de Santurce

A team from Puerto Rico has won the Caribbean Series 14 times, but the island has not taken home the title since Santurce won in 2000.

The roster for Santurce -- the winner of five Caribbean Series titles -- in the Dominican Republic could feature Javier Baez, Reymond Fuentes and Christian Vazquez.

Venezuela: Tigres de Aragua

The Tigres won the Caribbean Series in 2009 in Mexicali, Mexico, marking the most recent time a team from the country captured the title. Overall, Venezuela has won seven Caribbean Series championships.

This year's roster could feature players such as Carlos Sanchez, Eduardo Escobar and Vidal Nuno. Former Major Leaguer Carlos Guillen is Aragua's team president.

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.