Lázaro Junco

From BR Bullpen

Lázaro Junco Nenínger

  • Bats Right
  • Height 6' 0", Weight 190 lb.

Lázaro Junco won more home run titles than any other Cuban player of the 20th Century but rarely ever played for the Cuban national team.

Junco hit six triples for the Citricultores in the 1980-1981 Serie Nacional to lead the league. In 1981-1982, he won his first home run title, tying Reynaldo Fernández for the lead with 17. He also tied Reynaldo Fernández for the lead with 16 doubles and led in RBI (51). In the Series Selectivas that year, he won two legs of the Triple Crown with Matanzas, leading with 19 homers and 45 RBI. He was 0 for 1 in the 1982 Central American and Caribbean Games, in which Cuba won a Silver Medal.

Lázaro led the 1982-1983 Serie Nacional in home runs (15), RBI (38, tied with Alejo O'Reilly) and times hit by pitch (9). He won his only Serie Nacional MVP award. In 1983-1984, he homered 20 times to tie Luis Casanova for the league lead. He hit .375/.432/.700 in the 1984 Amateur World Series, won by Cuba. He easily outperformed the USA's Barry Bonds, a fellow flyhawk. He tied for 7th in the event with three home runs while splitting right field with Casanova and DH with Pedro Medina.

Junco led the 1984-1985 Serie Nacional with 24 circuit clouts and 72 RBI. The home run total broke the 12-year-old record of Armando Capiró. Reynaldo Fernández and Orestes Kindelán snapped his Serie Nacional home run title streak at four by clubbing 18 and 17 in 1985-1986 and 1986-1987 respectively, but Junco won out in 1987-1988, breaking his own home run record by swatting 25.

The right-handed slugger went yard 20 times for the Henequeneros in 1988-1989, tying Lázaro Madera for the lead in the western division; Kindelán hit 24 out in the eastern division. In 1989-1990, the 31-year-old led the west with 16 homers and 51 RBI but Ermidelio Urrutia hit more homers in the east.

In 1990-1991, the veteran outfielder swatted 17 circuit clouts, one more than Urrutia to take his 8th home run title. He took his only trip outside Cuba with the national team for the 1991 Intercontinental Cup. He produced at a .333/.370/.524 rate with 9 RBI in 11 games for the Gold Medalists but struggled in the field, with two errors in left. He tied 7 others for fourth in the event with two home runs. During the Gold Medal game, he was 2 for 5 out of the cleanup spot against Hiroshi Shintani as Cuba edged Japan, 5-4, in ten innings. It was his last stint with the national team.

He had his second run of four consecutive home run titles end in 1991-1992 when Romelio Martínez emerged as the leader. When the Matanzas club formed in 1992-1993, Junco set a new home run record in Cuba for the third time, lashing out with 27 long balls. That record stood for ten years before Joan Carlos Pedroso topped it.

Junco hit 21 home runs in 1993-1994 for his 10th and last home run crown; he also tied Jorge Salfrán for the most strikeouts with 49. In 1995-1996, he became the first player in Cuban annals with 400 career home runs, finishing with 405 before being forced into early retirement alongside dozens of other players as Cuba went to a youth movement on the diamond.

Through 2008-2009, Junco is still second in Cuban history in home runs (Kindelán having wrapped up with 489), was tied with Michel Enriquez for 7th in slugging (.551, 4th among retirees behind Omar Linares, Kindelán and Casanova), 6th in RBI (1,180, between Linares and Victor Mesa and 4th in strikeouts (1,007). He had a career average of .284 and OBP of .360, being a decent contact hitter but not a stellar one. He had also scored 1,018 runs. His fielding percentage was very low for an outfielder, at .939, the biggest negative in the power king's game.