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Wil Cordero

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Wilfredo Cordero Nieva

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[edit] Biographical Information

Wil Cordero was a highly-touted shortstop prospect when he made his Major League debut at age 20 for the Montreal Expos in 1992. He had been signed at age 16 by scouts Pepito Centeno and Cucho Rodriguez as soon as he had completed the minimal high school attendance requirement in Puerto Rico and had hit very well in the minors in spite of always being one of the youngest players in each league he played in. Spike Owen was the Expos' regular shortstop when Cordero first came up, but he was allowed to leave via free agency to open the job for the youngster at the start of the 1993 season. Cordero was a pre-season favorite to win the 1993 National League Rookie of the Year Award, but ended up 7th in the voting after hitting only .248 although with decent power. He had a great season in 1994, setting a team record for most home runs in a season by a shortstop with 15; the record had been previously held by Hubie Brooks. He made the All-Star team for the only time in his career that year as he hit .294 with a solid 119 OPS+. His performance was a key reason for the Expos posting the best record in baseball before the 1994 strike brought the season to an untimely end, and he seemed to be on his way to stardom at that point.

In 1995, Cordero became the first shortstop since Tim Foli in 1976 to lead the Expos in hits. However, he committed 17 errors in 105 games as a shortstop and drove manager Felipe Alou to distraction with his miscues on routine ground balls. With regular left fielder Moises Alou lost for the last month of the season with a shoulder injury and young Mark Grudzielanek ready to take over at short, Cordero was switched to the outfield for the last month of the season. But this reduced his value significantly, as he went from a good-hitting shortstop with defensive issues to a mediocre-hitting corner outfielder.

Cordero was traded to the Boston Red Sox before the 1996 season and moved to second base. An injury limited him to 59 games that first season in Boston. Playing as the Sox's regular left fielder in 1997, he collected 5 hits in a game against the New York Yankees on May 22nd, in the middle of a 10-game hitting streak that lasted from May 20th to May 30th. He set personal highs with 160 hits, 16 home runs and 72 RBI that season, but was still a below-average hitter for the position. He was released a few days before the end of the year when charges of domestic violence were laid against him. Considered a pariah for a while, he managed to find another job in 1998 as a first baseman for the Chicago White Sox, splitting time with rookie Greg Norton.

He did well in limited playing time with the Cleveland Indians in 1999, managing a .500 slugging percentage as an OF/DH. He signed a big free agent contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2000 in a move that was widely criticized given Cordero's inconsistent performance, lack of a defensive position, and troubled personal history; he countered some of the negative publicity by donating $100,000 to the Roberto Clemente Foundation. However, the Pirates soon realized that the signing had been a mistake, and sent Cordero back to Cleveland in a deal at the trading deadline.

Cordero did not hit much in his second stint in Cleveland and was released early in the 2002 season. He was picked up by the Montreal Expos to shore up a weak bench and proved useful as a pinch hitter and right-handed platoon partner for LF Troy O'Leary, hitting .273 with a 109 OPS+. He did even better in 2003 when he nudged Jeff Liefer out of a job as the Expos' first baseman and ended up as the team's regular. He hit 27 doubles and 16 home runs while driving in 71 runs, providing decent production for the cash-strapped Expos who unexpectedly found themselves in the NL Wild Card race. He turned this rebirth into a free agent contract with the Florida Marlins, but his 2004 season was limited to 27 games by injuries. The Expos, who had by then become the Washington Nationals, signed him again for 2005, but he only hit .118 in 51 at-bats and was done as a major league player.

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