Cuban Elite League Baseball

The First Cuban Elite League has come to a close. Scroll down for my preview from back in September of 2022. The reason I have updated this post and not created a unique one is because it has been very hard to follow the league. Where National Series games have been shown on Youtube via WBSC only certain games of this Elite League were available via pirate streams. In fact certain games weren’t even aired in Cuba as budgets for broadcasts and announcers were exhausted.

The tone of this will likely come across as very negative. This isn’t my objective but I have to be honest about the perils that have faced the Cuban Elite League, baseball in Cuba and the island itself. An estimated 2% of Cuba’s population left the island in 2022. Is this due to Covid restrictions and reactions? Many will argue the cure was worse than the disease? Shortages and scarcity have always been a thing in Cuba but they now resemble scenarios not witnessed since “The Special Period” in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

This scarcity of everyday essentials has left no corner untouched. This scarcity might actually be the motivator for the creation of the Cuban Elite League. This may sound a bit confusing because it is occurring in the shadow of expansion plans of the National Series schedule. Night games have become a rarity as fuel is often in short supply to power the lights. Most stadiums are in different level of disrepair with some facing direct damage from hurricanes. With talent leaving in record numbers is the 16 team National Series viable long term?

The League itself was announced with limited detail. That would be bad enough for observers, except the players weren’t aware of how, when or what they would be paid. The six team circuit would also be spread out among many of the stadiums in the League, hard to track at the best of times, made even harder by no official releases from the Federation website.

The creation of six new team identities wasn’t without controversy. Many clamoured for the Havana entry to be named Almandares after the legendary squads from the former professional Cuban Winter League. A formal poll was even launched via social media, with Almandares appearing to be the winner. The Federation then announced that Portuarios would be the monicker, it wasn’t even an option in the poll.

Born amidst a myriad of confusion the season start would be delayed by two weeks as team uniforms didn’t arrive on time. If not the Emperor at least the players had no clothes. These missteps and the overall gloomy tenor on the island resulted in sparse crowds.

Danel Castro Cuban Hit King

Danel Castro finished the 61st Cuban National Series just 27 hits shy of the Cuban hit record. At 46 years of age his bat is still effective but obviously his days are numbered. The Cuban Elite League statistics would count towards National Series tallies. In a confounding move Castro was left off the Agricultores roster. After public outcry he was added to the Centrales squad. He would break the hits record in front of a estimated 200 people in a non-televised game.

All indications are the caliber of play was solid. I was able to view some of the action but would be lying if I said I was able to view much of the action. Defences were fortified if only by condensing 16 teams into 6. A competitive 50 game qualifying schedule resulted in the top 4 teams advancing to the playoffs. To no ones surprise Agricultores formed of majority of Dynastic Granma with key pieces from recent champion Las Tunas were the top squad and earned a berth in the final. It looked as if we would have an effective National Series finals rematch as Centrales comprised largely of Cuba’s other dominant squad Matanzas would join them.

Portuarios of Havana (Industriales and Mayabeque) were left for dead midseason easily sitting in last place. They would surge in the standings grabbing the final playoff berth and upset Centrales in the semifinal. This magic would continue in the final as they took the first two games and almost a 3-0 stranglehold of the series. The Habaneros would seize a 3 games to one advantage but left the door open just wide enough.

No matter what baseball league and no matter how pothole riddled the road to get there, Game Seven is always exciting. If you subscribe to alls well that ends well then the first Cuban Elite League at least by this metric is a success. Congrats to Agricultores who not only clinched the Elite League title but will also represent Cuba in the Caribbean Series.

A strong showing in the Caribbean Series would help to buoy baseball spirits. These spirits can also be raised by the upcoming World Baseball Classic

As usual, October will see the most important baseball of the season played. Major League playoffs? Well yes, that starts October 7th but the Cuban Elite League begins on October 8th.

The 61st Cuban National Series wrapped with Granma as champions this past June. The Series has the longest legacy and is considered the top baseball competition on the island. Historically it hasn’t had a monopoly though. Competitions such as the Serie Selectiva or Super Series have been contested and in certain seasons even considered the true top league in Cuba. In a way Cuba is moving into the future in revisiting the past. Get Inside the Dugout for my Cuban Elite League Preview.

Cuban Elite League 2022

The structure of the National Series has seen accelerated changes over the past decade. The 60th Series saw 75 games contested without fans in response to a pandemic. The 61st Series mirrored this in length but the schedule pivoted from a September launch to January. This is against the backdrop of a fan base that wants more baseball. At a time when attrition of talent grows and financial resources shrink on the island.

The Cuban Baseball Federation has thus been working to provide more chances for Cuban baseball fans to watch their National Game. All of this while facing real challenges of putting a product on the field at all. Plans were announced before the onset of Covid for an expansion to a 125 game National Series. This would have seen a 75 game 1st phase with the top 6 or 8 teams advancing to the 50 game second phase. The advent of the Cuban Elite League and what is speculated to be a six team 50 game schedule appears to be the spiritual cousin to these plans.

This Elite Series may be a one off with it acting as a showcase for those vying to make the 2023 World Baseball Classic Roster. The construction of that roster has seen massive speculation. Conjecture is we could see everything from Cuban MLB’ers representing the Island to select former pros such as Yasmani Tomas repatriating to status quo of only players living in Cuba being eligible. The Series might also be a trial balloon for a shorter National Series of 16 teams augmented by a six team All-Star competition. More recent reports peg that the Elite Series will run annually in this window with the National Series running in the spring.

Cuban Elite League Preview

I traced out the history of the National Series and the franchises in the video above. The early National Series franchises and special series franchises were frequently named for prevalent trades or jobs in the provinces they represented. The Elite Series will channel a level of this.

As mentioned six teams will vie for the title of being Cuba’s Elite. Is this move necessitated more by the erosion of talent and limited resources including energy? Will the talent level be any different than the 2nd phase of recent National Series? The Elite structure is an escalation of the talent redistribution frequently employed in the 2nd phase. In this scenario instead of a handful of reinforcements joining squads, the team will be a collective of the top talent from multiple teams within geographic proximity.

Let’s look at these geographic catchments the new squads and the preliminary rosters.

Unofficial Cuban Elite Logos via Carlos Rojas @CDavid387

Tabacaleros – The Tobacco Growers/Farmers

Pinar del Rio Vegueros

Artemisa Cazadores

La Isla de Juventud Piratas

Playing in the valley of Tobacco and using a derivative of the local Vegueros name the most famous export of Cuba is represented. Oh and Artemisa and La Isla are here too.


Jorge Rojas – Pinar : Jordanys Acebal – La Isla : Yasiel Ajete – Pinar : Andy Cosme – Artemisa


Luis Rivera – La Isla : Dainier Gálvez – La Isla : Luis Castillo – Pinar : Juan Arencibia – Pinar : Dayán Garcia – Artemisa : Yasmani Viera – La Isla : Luis Rojas – La Isla : Osbel Pacheco – Artemisa :


Eliseo Rojas – La Isla : Reinier León – Pinar : Leonardo Urgellés – La Isla : Yaser Gonzáles – Pinar : Luis Acosta – Pinar : Carlos De La Tejera – Artemisa :


Erlis Casanova – Pinar : Vladimir Baños – Pinar : Jonathan Carbó – La Isla : Frank Medina – Pinar : Geonel Gutiérrez – Artemisa : Dorvis Navarro – La Isla : Kendry Hernandez – La Isla: José Angel García – Artemisa : Franklin Quintana – La Isla : Yunieski García – Artemisa : Manuel Murgado – Artemisa : Leaden Reyes – Pinar : Gabriel Cantero – Pinar : Leonardo Ocle – Pinar :

Portuarios – The Harbour or Portsmen

Industriales Leones

Mayabeque Huracanes

Representing the Capital and adjacent province a fan vote was held to name the squad. Like most Cuban elections that vote meant nothing. Almandares won in a landslide so Portuarios was adopted as the monicker as a complete surprise.


Oscar Valdés – Industriales : Luis Fernández – Mayabeque : Lázaro Ponce – Industriales :


Yasiel Santoya – Industriales : Ariel Echevarría – Industriales : Rafael Fonseca – Mayabeque : Jorge Alomá – Industriales : Juan Torriente – Industriales : Rangel Ramos – Mayabeque : Juan Martínez – Mayabeque : Sandy Menocal – Industriales : Lázaro Martínez – Mayabeque :


Dennis Laza – Mayabeque : Alexander Pozo – Mayabeque : Yasniel González – Mayabeque : Yhosvani Peñalver – Industriales : Alberto Calderón – Industriales : Orlando Lavandera – Mayabeque : Roberto Acevedo – Industriales :


Adrián Sosa – Industriales : Juan Peñalver – Industriales : Yadián Martínez – Mayabeque : Pavel Hernández – Industriales : Andy Vargas – Industriales : Raimond Figueredo – Industriales : Mailon Cruz – Mayabeque : Marcos Ortega – Industriales : Erick Gonzalez – Industriales : Elder Nodal – Industriales : Yandi Molina – Industriales : Mario Batista – Mayabeque : José Bermúdez – Mayabeque :

Centrales – The Central Provinces

Villa Clara Leopardos

Matanzas Cocodrilos

Cienfuegos Elefantes

A nod to provincial boundaries from many years ago. The Centrales name is revived and amalgamates the provinces that were once one before forming their own jurisdictions.


Richel López – Cienfuegos : Andrés Pérez – Matanzas : Julio Miranda – V.C. : Ariel Pestano – V.C. :


Erisbel Arruebarrena – Matanzas : Pavel Quesada – Cienfuegos : Yadir Mujica – Matanzas : Jefferson Delgado – Matanzas : Luis Mateo – Cienfuegos : Yariel Duque – Matanzas : Yente Pérez – V.C. : Christian Rodríguez – V.C. : Magdiel Gómez – V.C. :


Ariel Sánchez – Matanzas : Juan López – V.C. : Javier Camero – Matanzas : Yusniel Ibáñez – Cienfuegos : Juan Soriano – Cienfuegos : Dany Oramas – Cienfuegos : Leandro Turiño – V.C. :


Hermes González – Cienfuegos : Dariel Góngora – Matanzas : Alaín Sánchez – V.C. : Renner Rivero – Matanzas : Yamichel Pérez – Matanzas : Javier Mirabal – V.C. : Oscar Hernández – V.C. : Pedro Castillo – V.C. : Freddy Álvarez – V.C. : Randy Cueto – V.C. : Eriel Carrillo – V.C. : Nerves Entenzas – Matanzas :

Ganaderos – The Ranchers

Camagüey Toros

Sancti Spiritus Gallos

Ciego de Avila Tigres

Camagüey is still listed as the Ganaderos via certain outlets but few recognize that name. The name may be foreshadowing as they are arguably drawing from the deepest collective of talent.


Yunior Ibarra – Sancti : Osvaldo Vázquez – Ciego : Yendri Téllez – Camagüey :


Yordanis Samón – Camagüey : Leslie Anderson – Camagüey : Alexander Ayala – Camagüey : Rubén Valdés : Raúl González – Ciego : Yunier Mendoza – Sancti : Rodolexis Moreno – Sancti : Daviel Gomez – Sancti : Moisés Esqueje – Sancti :


Liosvany Pérez – Ciego : Leonel Moa – Camagüey : Héctor Labrada Ciego : Frederich Cepeda – Sancti : Dismany Ortiz – Sancti : Carlos Gómez :


José Rodríguez – Camagüey : Yuen Socarrás – Sancti : Dachel Duquesne – Ciego : José Santos – Sancti : Ariel Zerquera – Ciego : Yander Guevara – Ciego : Luis Marrero – Ciego : Yankiel Mauri – Sancti : Yanielquis Duardo – Sancti : Alex Guerra – Sancti : Frank Madan – Camagüey : Rorolfo Sorís – Camagüey : Roberto Hernandez – Sancti : José Braña – Sancti :

Agricultores – The Agricultural Workers

Granma Alazanes

Las Tunas Leñadores

The previous Agricultores played in one National Series and won the title representing Havana. Regardless this squad figures to be solid in the grass and the dirt as Granma and Las Tunas have combined for 5 titles in the past 6 years. Las Tunas veteran Danel Castro is 27 hits from the all time record and stats from this series will count. Is he a a part of this team? He is not, somebody explain that.


Ivan Prieto – Granma : Gumersindo Cisneros – Granma : Rafael Viñales – Las Tunas : Yosvani Alarcón – Las Tunas :


Guillermo Avilés – Granma : Carlos Benítez – Granma : Osvaldo Abreu – Granma : Andrés De la Cruz – Las Tunas : Yordanis Alarcón – Las Tunas : Yulian Milan – Granma : Manuel Ávila – Las Tunas : Yosbany Millán – Granma : Denis Peña – Las Tunas :


Yuniesky Larduet – Las Tunas : Darien Palma – Granma : Pedro Almeida – Granma : Alexquemer Sánchez – Granma : Dailier Peña – Las Tunas :


César García – Granma : Carlos Juan Viera – Las Tunas : Leandro Martínez – Granma : Alejandro Meneses – Las Tunas : Yoel Mojena – Granma : Yasel Labrada – Las Tunas : Yunier Castillo – Granma : Kelbis Rodríguez – Granma : Carlos Santana – Granma : Ángel Sánchez – Las Tunas : Manuel Frómeta – Granma : Alberto Civil – Las Tunas : Erluis Blanco – Granma : Miguel Paradelo – Granma :

Cafetaleros – The Coffee Growers/Farmers

Guantanamo Indios

Holguín Cachorros

Santiago Avispas

They are hoping youth will provide a jolt of caffeine as the most eastern contingent is drawing from teams that have struggled of late.


Franklin Aballe – Holguín : Yasmani Velázquez – Gitmo : Nelson Batista – Santiago :


Edilse Silva – Holguín : Santiago Torres – Santiago : Dasiel Sevila – Santiago : Luis Sánchez – Gitmo :

Adriel Hechevarría – Holguín : Michel Gorguet – Holguín : Michel Gorguet – Holguín : Laindel Leyva – Holguín : Marcos Fonseca – Santiago :


Yoelkis Guibert – Santiago : Over Cremet – Gitmo : Jorge Luis Peña – Holguín : Robert Delgado – Gitmo : Edward Magaña – Holguín : Francisco Martínez – Santiago : Yasiel Gonzáles – Holguín :


Alberto Bicet – Santiago : Frank Navarro – Gitmo : Danny Betancourt – Santiago : Michel Cabrera – Holguín : Wilson Paredes – Holguín : Yeudis Reyes – Gitmo : Uberleydis Estévez – Holguín : Enyerbada Fernández – Gitmo : Ruben Rodríguez – Holguín : Yoendri Montero – Santiago : Carlos Font – Santiago : Yosmel Garcés – Santiago : José Sánchez – Holguín : Wilber Reyna – Santiago :

Phil Selig

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