Erisbel Arruebarrena, who played in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, is playing for the Cocodrilos de Matanzas in the Liga Elite de Beisbol in Cuba this winter. (Photo by Kenny Hsu – CaptureAt/Getty Images)
By Conor Liguori
World Baseball Network
The 2023 Liga Elite de Beisbol begins its second season on Tuesday, November 7. The winter professional baseball league in Cuba played its inaugural season in 2022 and will have six teams competing this year.
In 2022, the Agricultores defeated the Portuarios four games to three in the best-of-seven championship. The Agricultores represented Cuba at the 2023 Caribbean Series in Caracas and La Guaira, Venezuela, but finished in last place with a 1-6 record and a minus-26 run differential. The team featured players from the past two Serie Nacional de Béisbol champions, the Alazanes de Granma and Leñadores de Las Tunas.
The six teams that will be competing in the 2023 Liga Elite de Béisbol season are the Leñadores Las Tunas, Industriales, Cocodrilos de Matanzas, Avispas de Santiago de Cuba, Gallos de Sancti Spiritus, and Cazadores de Artemisa. All teams will play on the opening day of the 40-game regular season.
Each Liga Elite de Beisbol regular season series will last four games, and all contests from Monday to Saturday have expected start times of 6:30 p.m. ET. According to Beisbol Cubano, all games will begin at 1:30 p.m. ET on Sundays. The only team that must play home games during the day due to a lack of lights at Estadio 26 de Julio is the Cazadores de Artemisa. The final day of the regular season is Monday, December 25.
Notable Players in Liga Elite de Beisbol This Season
Erisbel Arruebarrena, SS – Cocodrilos de Matanzas
Erisbel Arrubarrena is a former Major League Baseball shortstop, playing in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization from 2014-17. He hit .195 with a .464 OPS in a short 22-game stint with the Dodgers in 2014. The 33-year-old has been a solid contributor for the Cocodrilos de Matanzas in Serie Nacional de Béisbol, hitting 11 home runs with 42 RBI in 66 games during the 2021-22 season.
Frederich Cepeda, OF – Gallos de Sancti Spiritus
Cepeda has played 26 consecutive years in professional baseball since 1997, when he was 17. He spent the first 16 years with Sancti Spiritus in Serie Nacional de Beisbol before playing two seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball with the Yomiuri Giants. Cepeda has a career .330 batting average and 314 home runs across all leagues and levels.
Yoelkis Guibert, OF – Avispas de Santiago de Cuba
The left-handed hitter has played nine seasons of professional baseball in Cuba and Mexico and represented Cuba at the 2023 World Baseball Classic. Guibert’s best statistical season was in 2021-22 with Santiago de Cuba. He hit .332 with 20 home runs and 78 RBI. Additional international events where he represented Cuba include the 2019 Pan American Games and the 2019 Premier 12.
Danny Betancourt, P – Avispas de Santiago de Cuba
Like Frederich Cepeda, Betancourt has enjoyed a lengthy career in professional baseball. He has played the vast majority of his 23 seasons with Santiago de Cuba and has appeared in 371 career games. Betancourt finished the 2003-04 Serie Nacional de Beisbol season with a 12-4 record and a 2.09 ERA, the second-best ERA in the league. He has a career 1.421 WHIP and represented his country in the 2005 Baseball World Cup and 2009 World Baseball Classic.
Opening Day Schedule – Tuesday, November 7
6:30 p.m. ET – Industriales vs. Leñadores Las Tunas at Julio Antonio Mella Stadium
6:30 p.m. ET – Cocodrilos de Matanzas vs. Avispas de Santiago de Cuba at Estadio Guillermo Moncada
6:30 p.m. ET – Cazadores de Artemisa vs. Gallos de Sancti Spiritus at Jose Antonio Huelga Stadium
According to Beisbol Cubano, the semifinals will begin on Thursday, January 4, and conclude on Friday, January 12. The finals will start on Monday, January 15, and finish on Tuesday, January 23. Both the semifinals and finals are a seven-game series.