In professional wrestling there has been a tried and true tag team formula for years now; the compatriots. Sometimes this means two partners from the same nation who play into their patriotism, while at others it means two partners from separate countries who play into a weird sort of joint patriotism. More often than not these teams get some sort of catchy nickname like the Can-Am Express, U.S. Express, or one of my all-time favorites, the Miracle Violence Connection. Liga Mexicana del Pacífico’s Algodoneros de Guasave have gone from cellar dwellers to title contenders thanks to a pair of players I have affectionately dubbed the Guasave Cuban Connection.
Guasave is coming off of a sweep of the first place Yaquis de Obregón which moved them into third place overall on the whole season and in a tie for the second-half crown. They weren’t supposed to be here yet, not after they made their return to LMP after a four-year absence and promptly finished eighth in the ten-team league and looked awful doing it. Guasave missed the playoffs last year and looked like a team that would need to make plenty of changes to get markedly better. They did make some fringe changes for the 2020-2021 season, but it has been the arrival of Erisbel Arruebarrena and his partnering with Yadir Drake to form the Guasave Cuban Connection that has most impacted the teams play in a positive manner.
Drake was already with Guasave for the 2019-2020 season. He only played a few weeks for the Sinaloa-based squad but in that time he put up typical Yadir Drake numbers and that was enough for Guasave’s management to bring him back for this season. Drake has managed to play in a somewhat souped-up manner this season, posting a .342/.398/.564 slash line with 6 home runs in 128 plate appearances. He may only be average in the outfield, but at the plate, Drake has been everything Guasave wanted and then some. He’s been the catalyst for the offense, the guy who sets up rallies and gets the offense rolling right out of the gate.
Arruebarrena is a newcomer to the Algodoneros. He spent last season in Serie Nacional de Béisbol after he had repatriated (something that Drake has reportedly also started the process of doing). However, SNB has always had an open policy that it makes Cuban baseball look good when their players can be signed in other leagues and excel, and thus Arruebarrena found himself out of SNB and moving to Guasave as their primary infielder on the right side of the diamond. He’s rewarded Guasave with a .382/.452/.836 season where he’s clobbered 8 home runs in only 62 plate appearances since he jockeyed his way into more playing time. The Cienfuegos native has been the hammer that closes the door on opposing pitchers. He’s mashed his way through LMP pitching rosters and shows no signs of letting up.
It is true that both men are still dealing with relatively small sample sizes; unless you look at their entire careers. Both men are playing above their career marks (.295/.364/.442 for Drake and .282/.334/.456 for Arruebarrena). However, with the exception of Arruebarrena’s unsustainable SLG, there’s nothing about their current numbers that seems a major stretch based on their career marks. Both players have always had high Batting Averages, gotten on base at a net positive clip, and displayed easily recognizable power. That they are slightly outperforming their career marks just means that even if they do regress somewhat they will still be putting up numbers that will keep Guasave in the hunt for an LMP title.
The Guasave Cuban Connection has arrived in Mexico and it has put the rest of the league on notice. The Algodoneros won’t be finishing at the back of the pack this year and their one-two Cuban punch in the middle of the batting order makes for a most formidable line-up. Both Drake and Arruebarrena have proven that they can hang in Mexico’s premier league and if they keep up their play for the rest of the year they will have established themselves as among the very best the league has to offer. Guasave Cuban Connection is taking on all comers and going for the knockout every single time.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Unknown