Michel Enríquez Tamayo
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 9", Weight 190 lb.
Michel Enríquez has been one of the top hitters in Cuba in the first decade of the 21st Century and a star in several international tournaments. He replaced legendary Omar Linares as the Cuban national team third baseman.
Enríquez was the All-Star shortstop in the 1996 World Junior Championship and 1997 World Junior Championship to help them win Gold both years; in the latter event, he hit .381, slugged .810 and drilled three home runs. That winter, he made his debut in the Cuban Serie Nacional for Isla de la Juventud.
In the 1998-1999 Serie Nacional, the youngster set the Cuban leagues' all-time record with 152 hits and set aluminum bat era marks in runs (81) and doubles (35). He won the MVP award. He made his Cuban national team debut in the 1999 Intercontinental Cup, he hit .300/.326/.400 with 10 RBI in nine games as Cuba's primary DH. He tied Akinori Iwamura for second in the event in RBI, two behind Dave Nilsson. Mike Moyle beat him out for the All-Star honors at DH. In the Gold Medal game, he led off and went 1 for 5 with a double in a 4-3 loss to the Australian national team. In the 1999 Pan American Games, he was 1 for 3 in limited action.
Enríquez was left off of Cuba's roster for the 2000 Olympics, with some speculating fear of defection and others opining that it was due to Michel's youth (still just 21 years old) and lack of experience in international tournaments relative to some of the other available options. He hit .353/.451/.595 in the 2000-2001 Serie Nacional.
He rejoined the national team for the 2001 Baseball World Cup hit .357/.400/.393 as Cuba's third sacker. Akihiro Higashide beat him out for the All-Star slot at third base. Hitting third in the Gold Medal game, he went 1 for 5 with a RBI in a 5-3 win over Team USA.
Enríquez led the 2001-2002 Serie Nacional with 29 doubles. He was third in the league in average, behind Osmani Urrutia and Noris Concepcion, thanks to a .386/.483/.626 line. He had his first excellent international tourney in the 2002 Intercontinental Cup, batting .457/.535/.743 with 7 walks and 12 runs in 10 games while fielding perfectly at third base. He was second in the Cup in average behind Carlos Muñoz and led with 16 hits. He was named to the All-Star team at third. In the 2002-2003 Serie Nacional]], he hit .405/.500/.616 but was limited to 50 games.
Enríquez hit .424 in the 2003 Olympic qualifiers to get Cuba a spot in the Athens Olympics. He led the 2003 Super Liga with 32 hits. In the 2003 Baseball World Cup, Michel produced at a .424/.447/.515 rate with 11 runs and 10 RBI in nine games. He was third in average behind Jamel Boutagra and Brent Sachs and tied Yulieski Gourriel for third in hits behind Audes de Leon and Olmedo Saenz. He was 1 for 4 with a double and a run in the 6-3 win in the Gold Medal game. He made the Cup All-Star team at the hot corner.
Enríquez led the 2003-2004 Serie Nacional with 12 intentional walks. His .385 average was third behind Urrutia and Yoandry Urgellés. He had a .517 OBP and slugged .558. As Cuba's third baseman in the 2004 Olympics, the young star batted .263/.282/.421 with two home runs. He tied Kenji Johjima, Norihiro Nakamura, Frederich Cepeda and 7 others for 5th in home runs, trailing Yurendell de Caster, Kosuke Fukudome, Brett Roneberg and Yoshinobu Takahashi. Hitting second in the Gold Medal game, he was 1 for 5 in a 6-2 win over the Aussies.
In the 2004-2005 Serie Nacional, he led with 30 doubles while hitting .339/.408/.530 in an "off-year". He was superb in the 2005 Baseball World Cup, he hit .500/.558/.739 with 11 runs and an amazing 20 RBI in 11 games while moving to DH as Yulieski Gourriel was shifted from second to third base. He easily led the 2005 Cup in average and hits and was one ahead of Gourriel in RBI. He was 2 for 3 with a walk and a double in the 3-0 Gold Medal game win over the South Korean national team.
Enríquez hit a whopping .447/.559/.690 in the 2005-2006 Serie Nacional, 12 points behind Héctor Olivera Sr.'s Castro-era record for batting average in any Cuban league. It broke Urrutia's run of five consecutive batting championships. In the 2006 COPABE qualifiers for the 2008 Beijing Games, he hit .429/.512/.600 with 7 walks and 10 runs in 9 games. He tied Giorvis Duvergel for 6th in average in the tournament.
In the 2006 World Baseball Classic, he hit a disappointing .194/.258/.359 as Cuba's least effective starting position player. He was the only Cuban player hitless in the 10-6 loss in the finale against the Japanese national team, going 0 for 5. He was retired twice by both Daisuke Matsuzaka and Shunsuke Watanabe. Coming up in the 9th with one out, one on and the 4-run deficit against Akinori Otsuka, he took two balls before striking out.
In the 2006 Central American and Caribbean Games, Michel hit .321/.394/.393 for the Gold Medal winners.
He batted .286/.325/.514 with 10 runs in 9 games in the 2006 Intercontinental Cup. He tied Chung-Shou Yang and Gourriel for the most runs in the round-robin phase (9). He went 0 for 5 in the 6-3 win over the Dutch national team in 11 innings in the Gold Medal game. He made the Cup All-Star team at third base.
Off-field troubles, on-field success
In the 2006-2007 Serie Nacional, Enríquez began strong, hitting .368/.478/.506 by late March and fighting Urrutia for the batting title. He then derailed his career by attacking an umpire in an off-field assault and was suspended for a year in one of the most severe penalties in Cuban baseball history not connected to game-fixing or attempts to defect.
Through 2006-2007, his career batting line was .363/.455/.536.
Enríquez returned to action a little bit earlier than anticipated due to a reduction in the suspension due to good behavior and batted .407/.549/.693 in his 41 games in 2007-2008. Just as in 2006-2007, the suspended Enríquez lost a good chance at a batting title as his average was higher than 2007-2008 leader Yoandy Garlobo.
Enríquez has not played an international event since 2006 but was on Cuba's roster for the 2008 Olympics and served as their starting third baseman. He hit .286/.375/.543 with 3 doubles, 2 homers, 8 runs and 8 RBI in 9 games for the Silver Medal winners. His solo homer off of Hyun-jin Ryu in the Gold Medal game was one of Cuba's 2 runs in a 3-2 loss. Prior to the Medal round, Michel was third in the Olympics with 7 RBI (trailing Alfredo Despaigne and Dae-ho Lee) and tied with Chih-Sheng Lin, Nate Schierholtz and Brian Barden for third with 6 runs (trailing Frederich Cepeda and Alexei Bell).
Enríquez batted .304/.429/.435 as a 3B and DH for Cuba in the 2009 World Baseball Classic but the team failed to make the finals for the first time in a major global event since the 1951 Amateur World Series. Michel drove in five runs in six games.
Enríquez hit .401/.545/.652 in 2008-2009. He led the league in average (.002 over Yulieski Gourriel) for the second time, led in OBP and was 5th in slugging. He also led in doubles (37, five ahead of anyone else) and walks (89, 5 ahead of runner-up Cepeda) and was 9th in total bases (195).
During the 2009 Baseball World Cup, Enríquez had his wrist injured by a pitch from Taiwan's Wang-Yi Lin on September 23. The injury was still hampering him when Cuba's baseball season kicked off and he did not play in a game until late November, 15 games into the campaign. He returned to hit .315/.461/.485 in 2009-2010, finishing only among the leaders in intentional walks (17, behind José Dariel Abreu and Yosvani Peraza).