In Cuba, he is known as "El Inmenso Despaigne" (the Immense Despaigne) and "El Caballo de los Caballos" (The Stallion of the Stallions).
Despaigne has been one of the brightest stars in Cuban baseball. He set the Cuban single-season home run record, then reclaimed it after having seen it broken by another player. He also holds the record for most home runs in a Baseball World Cup. He set a record for MVP awards in the Cuban Serie Nacional with four and has also starred in Mexico and Japan.
In the 2004 World Junior Championship, Despaigne hit cleanup for the Cuban team that won Gold. He batted .263/.400/.526 with 8 runs in six games and tied for the tourney lead with one home run (7 players each hit one in the event). He scored the most runs in the competition, beating out the likes of Justin Upton.
Despaigne debuted in the Cuban leagues in the 2004-2005 Serie Nacional. During the 2006-2007 Serie Nacional, he hit .321/~.394/.539 with 16 homers, 60 runs and 66 RBI for Granma. Despite his small size, the 20-year-old phenom tied Juan Carlos Linares for fifth in the league in homers, four behind leader Alexei Ramírez. He was 5th in total bases (182), tied teammate Yohenis Cespedes for 4th in RBI (six behind leader Jose Julio Ruiz and fifth in slugging, ranking ahead of the much more famous (at that point) Yulieski Gourriel.
Despaigne joined the Cuban national team for the 2007 World Port Tournament, replacing Giorvis Duvergel in center field. He hit .448/.419/.828 to lead the tournament in average and slugging as Cuba won the tournament; teammate Yosvani Peraza was named MVP. In the 2007 Baseball World Cup, Despaigne batted .250/.333/.375 and had three outfield assists in eight games. He was at the center of a conflict in the game with Venezuela when he was plunked by former major leaguer Beiker Graterol. Despaigne started off the Cup 3 for 19 but went 5 for his final 13, including a 3-for-5 game against the Bronze Medalists from Japan in the quarterfinals. In the Gold Medal game, he drove in 2 of Cuba's 3 runs in a loss to the US, singling home Yoandry Urgellés and Eduardo Paret against Brian Duensing. It was his only hit in the game, but he also came up with a big defensive play, throwing out Delwyn Young at home.
Despaigne set a new Cuban Serie Nacional record in 2007-2008, with 58 extra base hits. He hit .364/.474/.714 and finished among the league leaders in runs (78), tied for 5th in hits (117), led in doubles (33), was 4th in home runs (24), 2nd in total bases (232, trailing MVP Alexei Bell), tied for 4th in steals (14 in 20 tries), was 7th in average, second in slugging (.005 behind Bell) and tied for 5th in times hit by pitch (15). He joined Bell and Urgellés on the Serie Nacional All-Star outfield.
Despaigne was Cuba's DH in the 2008 Olympics and hit .382/.400/.765 with 3 home runs and 12 RBI in 9 games. He drove in 3 of Cuba's 4 runs in their win over the Japanese national team. He delivered a 2-run homer off of Chris Reitsma in Cuba's one-run victory over Team Canada. He broke a 2-2 tie in the 8th against the USA with a solo shot against Jeremy Cummings. He was 3 for 5 with 3 RBI against the Dutch national team. Alfredo homered off of Stephen Strasburg in Cuba's 10-2 rout of the USA in the semifinals. Cuba went on to win Silver. In the preliminary rounds, Despaigne tied for 5th in slugging (.667, even with Bryan Engelhardt), led with 11 RBI (one ahead of runner-up Dae-ho Lee) and tied for second with two homers (even with Engelhardt, Chih-Sheng Lin, Nick Weglarz and Mike Saunders), one behind Dae-ho Lee.
Despaigne was a disappointment as Cuba's right fielder in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, hitting .235/.316/.412 with 1 run and 2 RBI in five games; the lone production came on a 2-run homer off Barry Armitage of South Africa. Cuba failed to make the top four for the first time ever in a major baseball competition and failed to make the finals for the first time in a global event since the 1951 Amateur World Series. Despaigne was Cuba's only starting outfielder left off the All-Tournament team as Yohenis Céspedes and Frederich Cepeda were picked.
Despaigne homered in six straight games in the 2008-2009 Serie Nacional, catching fire right after the WBC ended. This tied the Cuban record. On the final day of the season, May 3, Alfredo hit his 32nd homer of the campaign, breaking Alexei Bell's one-year-old record. His home run mark only lasted two years before Yoennis Céspedes and José Dariel Abreu broke it. For the season, Despaigne hit .375/~.473/.681 with 97 RBI and 73 runs. Despaigne tied Giorvis Duvergel for 8th in hits (123), tied Isaac Martínez for 8th in doubles (25), led in total bases (248, 15 ahead of Gourriel), was 4th in steals (16), led in RBI (7 ahead of Gourriel), was 6th in average and led in slugging (.046 over Gourriel). He made the All-Star outfield alongside Céspedes and Giorvis Duvergel and was named league MVP, easily outpolling Gourriel.
He was absolutely dominating in the 2009 Baseball World Cup. He hit .436/.500/1.109. He hit 11 home runs, a new Baseball World Cup record. Interestingly, Justin Smoak had broken Antonio Muñoz's 31-year-old World Cup home run record of 8 earlier in the event, but Despaigne tie Smoak when he took Ming-Chin Lee deep on September 23. Two days later, he homered off Chris Begg to pass Smoak. In the Gold Medal game, he starred as Cuba's cleanup man and right fielder, going 3 for 5 with 2 runs and a homer off Brad Lincoln, but it wasn't enough in a 10-5 loss. In the 9th inning, he came up with two outs and the bases loaded but was retired by Nate Field. He joined Miguel Abreu and Jon Weber as the Cup All-Star outfielders. He was second in the Cup in runs (one behind Rene Tosoni) and 4th in RBI (behind Rene Reyes, Smoak and Terry Tiffee) while leading in slugging and home runs.
Alfredo remained one of Cuba's biggest stars in 2009-2010, hitting .404/.489/.814. He led the league in average, doubles (37), home runs (31) and total bases (258, 22 ahead of runner-up Gourriel). Gourriel robbed him of a Triple Crown as he had 105 RBI to Despaigne's 97. He was 3rd in hits (128), 8th in runs (79) and second in slugging, .008 behind José Dariel Abreu. He was named an All-Star outfielder alongside Alexei Bell and Cepeda and also took home MVP honors, with 20 of 22 first-place votes, beating out Gourriel 63 points to 37. Despaigne became the third repeat MVP in Cuban Serie Nacional history, following Wilfredo Sánchez (1969-1970) and Gourriel (2005-2006).
In the 2010 World University Championship, he was unstoppable, going 13 for 24 with 3 doubles, 4 homers, 3 walks, 12 runs ans 12 RBI in 6 games. He tied Céspedes for second in the event in runs (2 behind Leonys Martin), led in hits, was second in average (behind Abreu), tied for second in doubles, tied Abreu and Céspedes for the home run lead, tied Abreu for second in RBI (2 behind Céspedes), led in total bases and was second to Abreu in slugging. He provided all of Cuba's offense in their 4-3 Gold Medal Game win over the USA, hitting a solo homer off Noe Ramirez in the 8th and a 3-run blast off Nick Ramirez to win it in the 10th. Despaigne was named tournament MVP for his efforts.
During the 2010 Pan American Games Qualifying Tournament, Despaigne hit a more human .283/.340/.565 with 3 home runs and 8 RBI in 11 games as Cuba finished second and won a spot in the 2011 Pan American Games. He tied Mike Trout for second in the event in homers, two behind co-leaders Jamie Romak and Gabriel Martinez. Despaigne's big hit came in the semifinals. With Cuba tied 2-2 in the bottom of the 9th against Venezuela, Despaigne came up with the bases loaded and one out against Carlos Mori; Venezuelan skipper Luis Sojo had Cepeda intentionally walked to get Despaigne. Alfredo made the move backfire with a game-winning single to score Héctor Olivera Jr.
Despaigne hit .474/.476/.895 in the 2010 Intercontinental Cup as Cuba won Gold. Entering the final day's games, he was second in the event in slugging (behind Olivera), 4th in average (between Bell and Che-Hsuan Lin), 1st in RBI (9), 6th in OBP (between Bell and Jae-hwan Kim), tied for 7th in total bases (17) and tied for second in home runs (2, even with Takahiro Iwamoto, Curt Smith and Duvergel, one behind Kim). In the Gold Medal game 4-1 win over the Netherlands, he surprisingly did not start, entering as Cuba's third left fielder late in the game, replacing Céspedes (who had in turn replaced Urgellés).
As a DH and corner outfielder in 2010-2011, he hit .356/.439/.693 with 27 homers, 56 runs and 74 RBI in 67 games as Cuba switched to a more offense-friendly baseball and Despaigne missed a month while serving on a government-sponsored mission to the World Youth Congress. He still was third in slugging behind Abreu and Cepeda, tied Alexander Malleta for 6th in home runs and missed the top 10 in average by .001. He outslugged teammate Céspedes, who was busy setting the home run record along with Abreu. He was named the All-Star right fielder, joining Céspedes and Cepeda in the outfield.
In the 2011 Baseball World Cup, he was Cuba's cleanup hitter and left fielder. He did well (.325/.396/.500) but it was a far from his performance in the 2009 World Cup. This time, he did not finish among the leaders in any department. In the Gold Medal game, his sacrifice fly to score Cepeda against Rob Cordemans was Cuba's only run in a 2-1 upset loss to the Dutch. In the 9th, Despaigne flew out against Juan Carlos Sulbaran to lead off the frame. He was 0 for 3 on the day.
Next came the 2011 Pan American Games. Despaigne batted .292/.292/.625 with 2 home runs, 6 runs and 7 RBI in five games. In the Bronze Medal game, the left fielder's 2-run shot off Walter Silva in the first started Cuba's 6-0 romp over host Mexico. He had as many homers in the event as the entire Gold Medal-winning Canadian squad and drove in more runs than the whole Panamanian national team. He tied Brett Carroll for second in the Games in homers (one behind Abreu), was third in runs (behind Carroll and Jordy Mercer) and was 4th in RBI (trailing Tommy Mendonca, Abreu and Carroll).
Despaigne surged again in 2011-2012. On April 3, he went deep off Ian Rendón for his 34th home run of the season, reclaiming his home run record from Abreu and Céspedes (who had defected in the off-season and had just hit his first MLB home run). Abreu later caught up to him with 35. On the season's final day, Despaigne took sole possession of both the record and the home run title, with an inside-the-park home run off Alesky Perera (his only inside-the-park job off the season). Despaigne finished the 2011-2012 campaign with a .326/.479/.695 batting line with 87 runs, 105 RBI, 36 homers and 91 walks in 95 games. He led the league in homers (one over Abreu), plate appearances (447), RBI (6 over Abreu), total bases (239, 3 more than Abreu) and walks (91, 1 more than Malleta). He was second in intentional walks (27, 6 behind Abreu) and slugging (a whopping 142 points behind Abreu) and third in runs (behind Guillermo Heredia Jr. and Ramón Tamayo). He won his third MVP, tying legends Wilfredo Sánchez and Omar Linares for the most since the Revolution (Martin Dihigo had won four before the Revolution).
In 2012-2013, he hit .345/.505/.669 with 43 walks in 43 games in the first half for Granma then moved to Pinar del Rio in the second half under Cuba's new format where the 8 worst teams dissolved at the break. He batted .423/.545/.626 in 36 games for his new club to finish the year at .382/.523/.649 with 71 walks and 17 homers in 79 games. He won the batting title, tied Peraza for third in home runs, ranked third in walks (behind Cepeda and Stayler Hernández), led in OBP (.018 ahead of Cepeda) and led in slugging (32 points more than Abreu). He joined Dayron Varona and Cepeda as the All-Star outfielders but did not get the MVP, which went to pitcher Ismel Jiménez.
He kept up the hot hitting in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, producing at a .389/.522/.944 clip with three homers, five runs and eight RBI in six games. He hit a 3-run homer off Takeru Imamura in a 6-3 win over two-time defending champion Japan and added solo shots off the Netherlands' Diegomar Markwell and Taiwan's Jen-Ho Tseng. He was named MVP of the A Pool. He finished tied for first in the Classic in homers (with teammate Abreu), was 4th in RBI (behind David Wright, Abreu and [[Mike Aviles), tied Cepeda for 4th with 17 total bases, was second in slugging to Michael Saunders (whose Canadian team lasted only one round) and 5th in OBP. He did not make the Classic All-Star outfield as Saunders, Ángel Pagán and Nelson Cruz were selected instead.
Despaigne was the first Cuban allowed to play in the minor leagues without defecting under liberalized Cuban policies, hitting .338/.364/.564 with 124 RBI in 33 games for the Campeche Pirates in 2013. On July 4, he went 6 for 6 against the Saraperos de Saltillo to tie the Mexican League hit record (shared by Dihigo and Daniel Fernández). Cuba also appeared in the Caribbean Series for the first time since 1960. In the 2014 Caribbean Series, Despaigne homered off Alfredo Aceves for Cuba's first home run in the Series in the modern era. He was 3 for 15 with a homer and six whiffs in a disappointing Series for both Despaigne and Cuba.
In the 2013-2014 Serie Nacional, he again saw limited action - in 59 games, he hit .311/.474/.553 with 55 walks, switching from Granma to Santiago de Cuba at the break this time. He was 4th in the league with 12 home runs despite his limited playing time, was 9th in walks (between Andy Zamora and Gourriel) and tied Cepeda for the most intentional walks (24). With Campeche in 2014, he hit .346/.407/.603 with 16 runs and 15 RBI in 20 games before being suspended for an illegal visa.
It was announced on July 14, 2014 that Despaigne had signed a contract with the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Pacific League in Japan. He followed Cepeda and Gourriel to Japan that year as Cubans playing abroad without defecting. He did very well in his 45 games with the club, hitting .311/.374/.627 with 12 homers and 33 RBIs. Despite playing under a third of the year, he was second on the club in dingers, just four behind Luis Cruz. After the season, he re-signed with Chiba Lotte for two more years.
Despaigne was back with the Cuban national team for the 2014 Central American and Caribbean Games. He was 8 for 17 with a double, homer, three runs, three walks and five RBI and had 7 putouts in LF, one assist and no errors. He had three hits in a win over the host Mexicans and was 2 for 4 with a walk and a RBI in the 9-3 Gold Medal game win over Nicaragua. He tied Dainier Moreira for the event lead in average, was 4th in slugging (between Cepeda and Pedro Feliz) and tied for 4th in RBI (with Javier Dominguez, Víctor Méndez, Feliz and Luis Suárez). He was 8 for 24 with two runs in the 2015 Caribbean Series as Cuba won its first Caribbean title in 55 years. In the 3-2 win in the Gold Medal game, his single off Anthony Vazquez scored Gourriel with the winner.
Despaigne got in another partial season in 2014-2015, but all with Granma as they survived the cut at the break. He again dazzled, hitting .406/.521/.762 with 17 homers, 53 runs, 70 RBI and 52 walks in only 58 games. He won the batting title by 37 points over Yadiel Hernández, led in slugging by 173 points ahead of Yordán Batista, tied Yunior Paumier for 7th in walks, tied for 5th in doubles (19), was second in home runs (four shy of Urmani Guerra), was third in RBI (just four behind Guerra and one behind Yordanis Samón) and tied Guillermo Aviles and Yosvani Alarcón for 4th in total bases. He won his fourth MVP award to break his tie with Linares and Wilfredo Sánchez for the most in the Castro era and to tie Dihigo for the most in the history of Cuban baseball.
Returning to Chiba Lotte for 2015, he was the team's primary cleanup hitter and DH. He hit .258/.352/.462, solid numbers but nowhere near his 2004 Japanese production. He homered 18 times in 103 games, leading the club in dingers, 8th in the Pacific League. He took time off to appear in the 2015 Pan American Games, in which he batted .177/.243/.441 as Cuba's starter in left. He fielded .875 with one assist and one error. Three of his six hits were home runs, tying Brock Kjeldgaard, Tyson Gillies, Jeffrey Dominguez, Tyler O'Neill and José Adolis García, behind Anthony García). He took Andrew Albers deep for Cuba's lone run in an eventual 3-1 loss to Gold Medal winner Canada; his other home runs came off Nicaragua's Jorge Bucardo and José Luis Sáenz. In the semifinals, with a 9th-inning tie against the US, the bases loaded and one out, he fanned against Paul Sewald; Cuba wound up losing in the bottom of the 9th. In the Bronze Medal game, he was 1 for 4 with a RBI in a win over Puerto Rico, doubling off Andrés Santiago in the first to drive in José Adolis García. In the 2015 Premier 12, he hit .261/.308/.391 with a homer off Arturo Martoral. After not playing in Cuba in the 2015-2016 season, he was only 3 for 18 with a double, two walks, run and RBI for Ciego de Ávila in the 2016 Caribbean Series.
He remained a premier slugger in NPB in 2016, producing at a .280/.361/.480 clip with 27 doubles, 24 home runs, 64 walks, 81 runs and 92 RBI in 134 games. He was third in the PL in runs (behind Shogo Akiyama and Yuki Yanagita), 7th in doubles, tied Hideto Asamura for 6th in home runs, 5th in RBI (between Brandon Laird and Zelous Wheeler), 9th in walks (between Katsuya Kakunaka and Takuya Nakashima), tied for second in sacrifice flies (7), 5th in slugging (between Ernesto Mejia and Wheeler) and 6th in OPS (between Mejia and Laird). Playing for Granma at the end of 2016-2017, he was 5 for 11 with 8 walks and two homers. He was walked 20 times (10 intentionally) in 11 playoff games, hitting .214/.536/.551. He appropriately enough played a key role to help Granma win its first title, with a 10th-inning homer off Raidel Martínez in game 1 of the finals and scoring the winning run in game 4 (the clincher) when he drew a walk from José Angel García and came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Guillermo Aviles.
Despaigne was disappointing for a second straight Caribbean Series, hitting .111/.200/.278, but with 4 RBI in five thanks in large part to a 3-run homer off Javier Solano. He was back in form for the 2017 World Baseball Classic, though, batting .474/.583/.947 with 3 homers, 6 runs and 6 RBI in six games. He went deep off Japan's Takahiro Norimoto, Australia's Lachlan Wells (a grand slam that provided all of Cuba's punch in a 4-3 win) and Israel's Jason Marquis. For the tournament, he tied for second in home runs (even with John Andreoli, Nelson Cruz, Sho Nakata, Carlos Correa and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, one behind Wladimir Balentien), tied Correa for third in total bases (18, behind Balentien and Jurickson Profar), was 4th in slugging (behind Esteban Quiroz, Balentien and Allan de San Miguel, second to Balentien among those who played more than one round) and 4th in OPS (behind the same quartet). He did not make the All-Star team as Carlos Beltrán, Gregory Polanco and Christian Yelich were picked in the outfield.
In 17 World Baseball Classic games through 2017, he had .370/.485/.778 with 7 home runs, 12 runs and 16 RBI in 17 games. He was among the WBC career leaders (counting qualifiers as well) in hits (20, tied for 10th with Mike Aviles and Jorge Cantú), home runs (1st, one ahead of Miguel Cabrera, Cepeda and Nate Freiman), tied Gourriel for 4th in RBI, 5th in average for those with 10+ games (between James Beresford and Robinson Canó), 5th in OBP (10+ G), second in slugging (10+ G, .018 behind Balentien) and second in OPS (10+ G, 69 behind Balentien and 39 ahead of #3 Cepeda).
He was then superb in the 2017 NPB All-Star Games, his first NPB All-Star Game appearance. In Game 1, he pinch-hit for Seiji Uebayashi in the 6th with a 2-1 PL deficit against the Central League, two on and two out. He singled off Katsuki Matayoshi to score Seiichi Uchikawa with the game-tying run as the PL rallied for a 6-2 win; he did not stay in to play the field. To make up for it, he started Game 2 and batted cleanup, playing the whole game at DH. He singled off Tomoyuki Sugano in the 1st, tied it in the 4th with a dinger off Takumi Akiyama, singled off Shoichi Ino in the 6th and flew out against Kazuki Yabuta in the 9th in a 3-1 win. He was the second foreign player from the Hawks to get a modasho in a NPB All-Star Game, following Don Blasingame by 50 years. He was also the second Hawks import player to be named All-Star Game MVP, following Joe Stanka's 1964 performance. Finally, as Uchikawa was game 1 MVP, the Hawks had MVPs of both NPB All-Star Games for the first time ever; it was only the third time a team had swept the awards and the first such occurrence in 22 years.