Australia Advances to 2017 World Baseball Classic

Coming into the tournament, host Australia was the heavy favourites to come out on top and advance to the main event of the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

They were able to do just that, avoiding a scare from an upstart South Africa team, winning the championship game 12-5.

The final score did not indicate just how close this game was, as the back and forth affair was 6-5 heading into the bottom of the 8th before Australia put up 6 runs in the bottom of the 8th.

Gift Ngoepe got the scoring started for South Africa as he hit a leadoff home run to start the game. Australia was able to get one back in the bottom half off a Trent Oeltjen RBI double. Oeltjen finished 3-for-4, with 2RBI, 2R, and a walk.

Big leaguer Travis Blackley started on the mound for the home side and was solid through 5, but ran into trouble in the 6th inning. After a broken bat single and a walk, Kyle Botha crushed the first pitch he saw for a go-ahead 3-run home run.

Australia rebounded from there, scoring 1 in the 6th, 2 in the 7th, and 6 in the 8th to put the game out of reach.

The difference in the game, like many WBC games, was the depth of the bullpen. Australia outscored South Africa 8-1 from the 7th inning on.

Big leaguer Peter Moyland and Ryan Searle closed out the final 3+ innings for the Aussies.

Australia has competed in all 3 prior classics, going a combined 1-8. Their lone win came in a 17-7 win over Mexico, where they set a WBC record with 22 hits.

This year’s team could be the strongest that they have had. Young prospect James Beresford will lead the way, with a lot of veteran presence like Luke Hughes and Trent Oeltjen.

The pitching will be strong with big leaguers Travis Blackley and Peter Moylan leading the way.

The youth movement is also strong with Australia with 15 of the 28 qualifier players being born in 1989 or later.

We will have to wait a few months to see who the Australia draw in their pool. They have bounced around historically, competing in the pool of death in 2013 in Taiwan, in Mexico in 2009, and in the United States in 2006.

They are the only team to never be in the same pool as another team twice. The only team they have played twice is Mexico, due to the modified double elimination tournament in 2009.

After a strong showing at home, and the continued growth of the Australian Baseball League, it is even possible that they can host an opening round pool come next March.

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Qualifier 1 Breakdown

The wait is finally over and the first leg of the 2017 World Baseball Classic will be underway shortly.

Qualifier 1 will be hosted by Australia at the Blacktown International Sportspark, home of the ABL’s Sydney Blue Sox. Joining Australia will be 2 time WBC participant South Africa, New Zealand, and Philippines.

Australia is by far the most experienced team both at the International level, ranked 14th in the WBSC World Rankings, and at the professional level. 26 of the 28 roster spots are filled by players with at least some Minor League experience.

The offense will be led by Twins standout prospect James Beresford, who was an International League All-Star in 2015, hitting .307.

The pitching depth will be the key to success for Australia, led by former big leaguer Travis Blackley. Blackley is accompanied by Twins prospect Sam Gibbons, and Tigers prospect Warwick Saupold.

In a tournament where pitch count is key, having multiple pitchers who can eat innings is crucial.

Australia’s first game will come against the Philippines. In 2012, the Philippines played in the qualifier in Taipei City, going 1-2.

The Philippines are probably more experienced then one would think, having 3 players with MLB experience, and 7 with minor league playing time.

Chris Aguila and Clay Rapada have the most experience, but at 36 and 34 respectively, may be past their primes. The offense will be led by power hitting first baseman Angelo Songco, who was once a top 30 prospect for the Dodgers.

Another key offensive piece is Milwaukees Brewers 4th round pick and speedy outfielder, Eric Farris. He has spent the last 2 seasons in AAA in the Twins organization and has a career .281 average and 233 stolen bases in 8 minor league seasons.

The first game of the night will be between New Zealand, who almost shocked the baseball world by making the finals of the 2013 qualifier, and South Africa, who is coming of a disappointing finish in their 2013 qualifier.

South Africa competed in the first 2 WBC main events, albeit before there was qualifying, and went a combined 0-5, losing by a combined score of 60-16. They were finally able to get their first WBC win, knocking off France 5-2 in the 2013 qualifier, before losing the eventual winner Spain.

Hopes are higher than ever though as they enter this years qualifier. South Africa comes into the tournament with 9 players with MILB experience, including Pirates prospect Gift Ngoepe. Ngoepe is the only player in the tournament currently on an active 40-man roster. Although known for his defense, Ngoepe will have to be an offensive sparkplug for this team if they hope to make it back to the main tournament.

The ‘ace’ will most likely be 22 year old Dylan Unsworth, who has a career 4.46 ERA in the minors. Unsworth was once a top-20 prospect for the Mariners.

New Zealand will be trying to build off their 2-2 record at the 2013 qualifier. Both losses came to the eventual winner, Chinese Taipei. Of all team, New Zealand is the least experienced. Many of their players are coming from colleges, indy leagues, or local leagues.

Ex-MLBer Chris Woodward will be the manager for the Kiwis. Only 2 of the players are currently playing affiliated baseball. Scott Campbell who retired in 2009, has agreed to play for the team as well.

The team will also be without its two main pitchers from the 2013 qualifier, Lincoln and John Holdzkom. Lincoln was tragically killed in a car accident in December, while brother John, who plays in AAA, is unavailable.

Although there is not a lot of experience, New Zealand may have the perfect mix of youthful exuberance and veteran leadership to make a run in a short tournament like this.

Australia is the clear favourite to come out of this group but the other three teams are all equally matched. Winning the first game will be key for South Africa in order to set up their pitching matchups in their favour.

The Philippines and New Zealand may be able to squeak a win out but will be an uphill battle all the way.

It should be Australia vs South Africa in the finals.

 

Schedule
Game 1: South Africa vs. New Zealand — Feb. 10, 9 p.m. ET
Game 2: Philippines vs. Australia — Feb. 11, 3:30 a.m. ET
Game 3: TBD vs. Philippines — Feb. 11, 9 p.m. ET
Game 4: TBD vs. Australia — Feb. 12, 3:30 a.m. ET
Game 5: TBD vs. TBD — Feb. 13, 2:30 a.m. ET
Game 6: TBD vs. TBD — Feb. 13, 10 p.m. ET

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Canada’s Chances

Canada has a lot of talent on their roster, as they do every year. Last tournament they had a quick 0-2 exit in Toronto but this year they are guaranteed three games and will most likely need to win at least two of them to advance.

In the 2006 tournament Canada went 2-1 in pool play, after upsetting USA, and still did not make it to the next round due to run differential. This year they are in a pool with the United States, Mexico and Italy. Mexico and Italy have knocked Canada out of the last two tournaments, so Canada will be coming into this tournament with revenge on their mind.

Canada’s offense is strong, as usual, with major league talent in Justin Morneau, Brett Lawrie, Russel Martin and Michael Saunders. However, one glaring hole that is missing is Joey Votto, who still has to pass a physical before the Reds allow him to compete in the tournament. If Canada does not have Votto in the lineup, their offense will be taking a huge hit. Votto is the cornerstone of this team and will be relied on heavily if there. He will be able to DH because Justin Morneau is more than capable of manning first base.

The other corner infield spot is locked up for Brett Lawrie who will likely be a main stay in the Canada lineup for years to come. Unfortunately, the middle infield is something to be desired. Cale Iorg, Jonathan Malo, Pete Orr and Taylor Green will fight for the middle infield positions. If Canada can get strong tournaments out of them they have a very strong chance at advancing. Their bullpen is one of the stronger ones in the tournament highlighted by John Axford, Jesse Crain and Phillipe Aumont. Their starting pitchers will be their Achilles heel. If starters Scott Richmond, Andrew Albers and Shawn Hill are able to get into the 4th inning or later with the lead, Ernie Whitt’s bullpen should be able to take them the rest of the way. The absence of Scott Diamond and Ryan Dempster do not help the case. Canada will most likely be behind in games going into the middle innings but their bullpen should allow them to stick around.

Canada opens the tournament against Italy at Salt River fields.  This game is essential for Canada if they hope to advance. Italy is not as weak as some think with the additions of Anthony Rizzo and Alex Liddi. Canada does have the edge in offense and will need to capitalize on all opportunities they have. Canada left 11 runners on base in their 6-2 loss to Italy in 2009.  If Canada can’t pull this one out, their chances of advancing are very slim.

Canada then moves to Chase Field to play what is arguably their biggest game of the tournament against Mexico. For arguments sake, let’s say that USA goes 3-0, and Italy goes 0-3. This leaves the Canada vs Mexico game as the one that will decide who is the second team to advance. Canada and Mexico have only met once in the WBC, with Mexico winning 9-1 in 2006. Mexico has a very well rounded team with perennial all-star Adrian Gonzalez as their cornerstone. This is the best supporting cast around Gonzalez with new additions Danny Espinosa and Luis Cruz. Mexico also bolsters one of the best complete pitching staffs in the entire WBC. First-timers Miguel Gonzalez and Yovani Gallardo help out the starting rotation and Sergio Romo and Fernando Salas will help out on the back end. Canada’s pitching will be the key to this game. The offenses stack up fairly evenly but Mexico has the advantage on the bump. If Canada’s pitchers can keep the Mexico offense off the board, Canada will have a chance to win and advance out of their group for the first time.

Canada’s finale will come against the US on the Sunday afternoon. This game could mean anywhere from the battle for first to absolutely nothing. Yes, this is Canada’s biggest rival and yes you should always play to win, but in the long run the first two games are potentially more important for Canada. Canada always plays the States well but they will come into this game as a heavy underdog. Ideally for Canada this game will be a battle for first and they don’t need to win to advance. If Canada can keep the States big bats off the board then they have a chance to keep this game close, just as they did in 2009

In order for Canada to be successful they will need their starting pitching to be stronger than anticipated because the offense and bullpen both stack up well against the rest of the field. Another key for Canada will be whether or not Joey Votto will be in the line-up come March 8th. Another big bat in the order will help hide the potential woes of the pitching staff. Canada will most likely be involved in high scoring games so another big bat that can drive in runs will help them in their style of play.  This is probably the best Canadian team that has been fielded at the WBC and is therefore the best chance they’ve had to advance to the second round.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pool Projections

Now that the line-ups have been announced for the third instalment of the World Baseball Classic, we can begin to prognosticate the potential outcomes. There are some very strong teams entering this WBC, but that does not always guarantee success. Just ask the 2009 Dominican team. We will start with pool A

Pool A

Japan (12-5)
China (1-5
Cuba (9-5)
Brazil (3-0*)

*WBC Qualifier

Japan comes into this year’s WBC as the back-to-back champions. They have always been known as a baseball powerhouse but have never quite been given the respect. Most analysts choose the USA or Dominican Republic every year. However, this year Japan comes into the tournament without the core of the teams that won the past two events. No more Ichiro, Daisuke, Darvish, and Aoki. Most of Japan’s offense will come from their all-star catcher Shinnosuke Abe who had 27HR and 104RBI for Yomuri last year.  They will rely heavily on pitching, defence and small ball to win games. Strength of Roster: B

China has not had much success over the past two tournaments, posting a 1-5 record. Their lone win came against Chinese Taipei.  This will be the first time that China will have a Major League player on their roster, in Bruce Chen. Chen played for the Royals last year and will be the number two starter for the Chinese team. This team will have to upset a couple of teams to somehow sneak out of the round robin. They are a very small team and, like Japan, will rely on small ball and defence to win.  Strength of Roster: D

Cuba is once again sending a strong team although the will heavily miss Aroldis Chapman and Yoenis Cespedes. Cuba is traditionally powerful and fast, and this team appears to be no different. After hitting 2HR and 6RBI in 2009, Yulieski Gourriel will be the offensive leader. Cuba is ranked #1 in the IBAF’s international rankings after reaching the finals in 2006 and the semi-finals in 2009. Cuba will have to deal with long travel and jet lag, but has the talent to come out of this pool with a 3-0 record. Strength of Roster: B+

Brazil is already the Cinderella of the World Baseball Classic after knocking off Panama twice in the WBC qualifier in November.  Brazil has a very youthful team managed by former major leaguer Barry Larkin. Brazil was able to go 3-0 through their qualifier with great pitching and timely hitting. However, the heart and soul of their line-up, Yan Gomes, will not be travelling with the team to Japan which will hurt their chances. Brazil is still a very fast team that has good defence. This style of play will be beneficial for them in this pool. Strength of Roster: C-

CUBA 3-0
JAPAN 2-1
BRAZIL 1-2
CHINA 0-3

Pool B

Korea (12-4)
Netherlands (3-6)
Chinese Taipei (1-4)
Australia (1-5)

Korea is by far the favourite in this pool after going to the finals in the 2009 Classic. They also have the best winning percentage throughout the Classic’s history. Their approach is very similar to Japan, but Korea has a bit more power spread throughout the line-up. Seung-Yeop Lee is back after missing the 2009 WBC. Lee had 5HR and 10RBI in the 2006 instalment. Korea will miss their all-star pitcher Hyun-in Ryu who recently signed with the Dodgers. Strength of Roster: B+

Netherlands is coming off a very impressive 2009 WBC even though they only won 2 games. They went 2-4 but beat the mighty Dominican twice. This year they come into the tournament looking to advance out of their pool for the second straight tournament. This is a very real possibility for the Dutch. This is the best team they have sent, highlighted by Jurickson Profar, Andruw Jones and Roger Bernadina. Jair Jurrjens will also suit up for the Netherlands, hoping to bounce back after a dismal 2012 season.Strength of Roster: B

Chinese Taipei had to go through the qualifying stage just to make it into the tournament that will be hosted in Taichung. They have struggled in the past tournaments in pools with Japan, Korea and China. Now that they are in a new pool they have a strong chance to advance. The battle for second place in this pool will be interesting with three fairly equal teams battling it out. The home crowd advantage could give Chinese Taipei the edge they need. Strength of Roster: C

Australia’s only WBC win came in a 17-7 win over Mexico where they set the record for hits in a game with 22. Ryan Rowland-Smith, Chris Snelling and Luke Hughes all return for a team that will need all the offense it can get.  Australia will need to play mistake-free baseball in order to advance. Strength of Roster: C-

KOREA 3-0
NETHERLANDS 1-2
CHINESE TAIPEI 1-2
AUSTRALIA 1-2

Pool C

Puerto Rico (8-4)
Venezuela (9-5)
Dominican Republic (6-4)
Spain (3-1*)

*WBC Qualifier

Puerto Rico is the host nation for this pool of death and they may need the home town crowd behind them. The hosts will have to play two of the most stacked teams in the whole tournament in the first round. However, Puerto Rico is no slouch themselves with some major talent on their team including Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina. The key for the Puerto Rico squad is their pitching. If they can keep the Dominicans and Venezuelans off balance they have a chance to advance to the next round. Strength of Roster: B+

Venezuela has one of the best teams in the short history of the WBC. The team will consist of 2012 MVP and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval , Marco Scutaro, Elvis Andrus and Asdrubal Cabrera to name a few. They have made it out of their pool the previous two years and look to do so this time around. Their “weak” spot is their pitching. The ace will be King Felix, followed by Anibal Sanchez and the young Henderson Alvarez will be third and most likely get the start against Spain. K-Rod will be closing out games once again for the Venezuelans who will be one of the favourites in the tournament. Strength of Roster: A+

Dominican Republic is trying to forget all about the 2009 WBC where they only went 2-1, losing twice to the mega underdogs from the Netherlands. The Dominicans will once again be a favourite in the tournament with one of the most dynamic offenses ever put together. It is an almost unfair combination of power and speed throughout the line-up with no weak spots. However, the pitching will be the Achilles heel for the Dominicans. Their starting rotation is not overly impressive but their bullpen is strong. If the starters can keep the Dominicans close, they should have the advantage later in the games.Strength of Roster: A

Spain is the newcomer in the WBC and it is almost cruel to put them in a pool with these three powerhouses. Spain is coming off an extra innings win against Israel in the WBC Qualifier in Jupiter. The only advantage that Spain has is that they are a team that has played together, and won together. Spain has never had a player appear in an MLB game. It should be interesting to see how Spain holds up with three of the best teams in the world. Strength of Roster: D

VENEZUELA 3-0
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 2-1
PUERTO RICO 1-2
SPAIN 0-3

Pool D

USA (7-7)
Mexico (5-7)
Canada (2-3)
Italy (2-4)

USA has been a perennial favourite over the years but has yet to have much success at the WBC. Posting a .500 record is not very good by American standards and they are expecting championship or bust yet again from this team. This is a very talented squad with deep pitching and offense. It is not quite the “dream team” that many fans were hoping for but it is a team that is strong enough to go deep into the tournament. This team will be anchored by the reigning NL Cy Young, and newest Blue Jay R.A Dickey. The team will play all of its games in the USA for the first time since 2006 and are hoping the home crowd will back them to victory. Strength of Roster: A

Mexico is getting a lot of help north of the border. Sergio Romo and Adrian Gonzalez are both born United States and will be key pieces for Team Mexico. Romo spent his entire youth in the USA while Gonzalez split time between California and Mexico. This is one of the stronger teams Mexico has sent to the WBC. They have a very well rounded team. They have a good starting rotation and a very solid bullpen. The game that could decide their fate will come in their final game against Canada. Strength of Roster: B

Canada had to go through the qualifying stage after being upset by Italy in the 2009 WBC. Canada has one glaring hole in their line-up: Joey Votto. Votto must pass a physical before he will be allowed to participate and his future should be known shortly. That piece to the puzzle is key for Canada if they want to get out of the first round for the first time. The offense is well rounded and will be highlighted by Justin Morneau and Brett Lawrie. The pitching will be the weak spot of this team with no real major league talent. The absence of Ryan Dempster hurts. Their bullpen is fairly strong and will help them close out games. Strength of Roster: B-

Italy is once again looked at as a heavy underdog. However, this team is better than most will expect. Youngsters Alex Liddi and Anthony Rizzo are added to major leaguers Jason Grilli, Nick Punto, Chris Denorfia and Francisco Cervelli. Italy still has a long way to go before they become a strong contender in these tournaments but they are closer than most people believe.  Strength of Roster: C+

USA 2-1
CANADA 2-1
MEXICO 1-2
ITALY 1-2

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Projected Team Dominican Republic

Batting Order

SS Jose Reyes: The new Blue Jays shortstop and the 2011 NL batting champ is the typical leadoff hitter. He will provide a high average and tons of speed on the basepaths. He hit .287 with 40 SBs this past year with Miami and will most likely be the starting shortstop, but Starlin Castro will get some playing time early in the tournament.

OF Melky Cabrera: Another new Blue Jay is coming off his steroid suspension that saw him miss 50 games and the playoffs for the Giants. He hit .346 with 11HRs in just 113 games before the suspension.

1B Albert Pujols: A perennial MVP candidate got off to a slow start last year with Anaheim, but finished off the year with a .285 average belting 30HR and 105RBI. His career line is .325/475/1434, oh, and he is also a two time gold glove first basemen.

OF Nelson Cruz: A power hitting outfielder with a cannon for an arm who will most likely man right field. Cruz has 130 career home runs with only four seasons of more than 100 games.

2B Robinson Cano: An all-around all-star. Makes amazing defensive plays up the middle then hits .313 with 33 homeruns. Cano hit .231 in his last WBC and hopes to improve on that mark.

3B Adrian Beltre: As long as nobody touches his head he will have a good tournament. Coming off an outstanding year where he hit .321 with 36 homeruns and 121 RBIs. He also has four career gold gloves.

DH David Ortiz: Big Papi is one of the few who had a good year under Valentine in Boston. In just 90 game Ortiz had an average of .313 and had 23 homeruns. His leadership and attitude will be great for this team.

C Carlos Santana: Santana is coming off just his second full major league season with the Cleveland Indians. He has compiled 51 career homeruns and 177 RBIs. Hitting lower in this lineup will provide some security and will allow him to focus more on his defensive game, instead of carrying the offensive load.

OF Carlos Gomez: The exuberant Brewers outfielder is coming off a career year where he hit 19 HR and had an average of .260. He will provide a lot of speed on the basepaths (37 stolen bases in2012) and solid defense in center field.

Pitching

SP Ubaldo Jimenez: He had a…well horrible season but is still a good option for the Dominican. They hope he can find his 2010 form where he went 19-8. This season was his first one with an ERA over 5.00 and less than 150 strikeouts.

SP Edison Volquez: Had a decent year, his first with the Padres, posting an 11-11 record and a 4.14 ERA.  Will most likely be the third starter behind Jimenez and Rodriguez.

SP Wandy Rodriguez: Posted a 12-13 record splitting time between the woeful Astros and the almost equally as woeful Pirates. It was his worst ERA since 2007, but still better than both Jimenez and Volquez.

RP Rafael Soriano: Posted a 2.12 ERA with 42 saves for the Bronx Bombers while doing a great job filling in for an injured Mariano Rivera. Will either close or be the set-up man for Fernando Rodney for the Dominican.

RP Pedro Strop: Posted a 2.44 ERA with the Orioles. Has a plus fastball and will be used to get out of jams when a strikeout is needed.

RP Al Albuquerque: Came back for the end of the season and posted a 0.68 ERA over 13.1 innings and is a strong middle innings option.

RP Alexi Ogando: A long reliever candidate for this team due to his 30 career starts for the Rangers. Especially with the pitch count rule in affect this year, “second starters” are needed to get their teams to the late innings.

RP Carlos Villanueva : Another long reliever possibility. Has split time between the bullpen and a starting role the past two years with the Blue Jays.

RP Jose Valverde: Closes games out for the Tigers this past season, saving 35 games. After his playoffs it will be tough to trust him though. Could be used in mop up duty to help get confidence back.

RP Fernando Rodney: Had an unbelievable 0.60ERA while saving 48 games for the Rays. This was his first season as a full time closer since 2009 where he posted 37 saves with the Tigers. He and Soriano will be fighting out who gets to close out games.

RP Octavio Dotel: Veteran presence will be good in the bullpen. Still a very effective pitcher who posted a 3.57 ERA with the Tigers this season.

Bench

1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion: .280AVG, 42HR, 110RBI with the Toronto Blue Jays.

SS Starlin Castro: .283AVG, 14HR, 78RBI with the Chicago Cubs.

C Miguel Olivo: .222AVG, 12HR, 29RBI with the Seattle Mariners.

2B/OF Emilio Bonafacio: .258AVG, 30SB with the Miami Marlins.

Hopefuls

Johnny Cueto:  With a somewhat weak starting pitching rotation, the addition of Johnny Cueto would be huge for the Dominicans. He posted a 19-9 record with a 2.78ERA before leaving game one of the NLDS against the Giants with a strained back. If the doctors and the Reds give him the go ahead it would be a big addition for the mighty Dominicans.

Jose Bautista:  Adding one more bat to the already over powered offense could put them over the top in 2013. Bautista was hurt for a large part of 2012 and Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said he won’t play if the Jays medical staff has any concerns. Bautista only hit .241 but managed 27 homeruns and 65 RBIs this past year.

Projection

This could be the year for the Dominicans. They have their best lineup to date offensively, but a very weak starting rotation. The starters will either make or break the team. Their opening pool consists of Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Spain.  There are three very good teams in this pool and the Dominicans are one of them. However, if they falter like they did in 2009 where they lost not once, but twice to the Netherlands, they may have another early exit. Last tournaments failure is still fresh in the mind of those players who were there and they are itching to get back at it. They have all the tools to take home the trophy but in a short tournament like this it is all about chemistry and getting hot at the right time.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Projected Team Venezuela

Batting Order

SS Elvis Andrus:  The speedy lead-off hitter for the Rangers won’t hit many home runs (14 HRs in 601 games) but his defense and speed on the base paths are a must have in the lineup.

2B Marco Scutaro: Grew into his role with the Giants this year and won the 2012 NLCS MVP.  He hit .362 with 44 RBIs in the final 61 games of the season.

1B Miguel Cabrera: The triple crown winner is an offensive powerhouse and will be the biggest threat on the team. He won’t have Prince at first so he will be able to move back to his best position. He is a career .318 hitter with over 1100 RBIs.

3B Pablo Sandoval: The Kung-Fu Panda is a two-time World Series winner and won the World Series MVP this year. He hit .364 with 6 HR in the playoffs and is a career .303 hitter. Pablo’s big game experience will help them, especially if they can make it to the semis that will be played in San Francisco.

OF Carlos Gonzalez: CarGo had another solid year for a terrible Rockies team hitting .303 with 22 HR and 85 RBI.

DH Asdrubal Cabrera: Had somewhat of a set-back year only hitting 16 HR with 68 RBI but his overall talent will keep him in the lineup. Cabrera and Elvis Andrus will alternate playing shortstop.

OF Martin Prado: A skilled outfielder for the Atlanta Braves, he hit .301 with 10 HR and 70 RBI while appearing in 156 games.

C Miguel Montero:  This offensive catcher hit .286 with 15 home runs and 88 RBIs. He will most likely split time with Torrealba.

OF Gregor Blanco: Was his first full season in the big league and he only hit .244 but his defense in the outfield and speed on the base paths will hide his weak bat in this powerful offensive lineup.

Pitching

SP Felix Hernandez: King Felix had an ERA of 3.06 while winning 13 games. He also had his first career perfect game. He will be the ace of the staff which is huge in a tournament like this. He will most likely get the start against the mighty Dominicans.

SP Felix Doubront: Had an up and down year, his first as a starter. The token lefty in the rotation. He went 11-10 on a bad Red Sox team this year.

SP Anibal Sanchez: Had a very good playoffs where he posted a 1.77 ERA. Will be a good number 2 starter behind Hernandez.

RP Rafael Betancourt: Posted a 2.81 ERA while saving 31 games for the woeful Rockies. Will most likely serve as the set-up man for K-Rod.

RP Jose Mijares: A tough lefty who posted a 2.68 ERA this season with the Royals. He will come in for lefty matchups for the Venezuelan team.

RP Franklin Morales: Appeared in 37 games for the Red Sox this season, starting 9 of them. He will provide some long relief if a starter can only go 3 or 4 innings.

RP Edward Mujica: Split the year with Miami and St. Louis posting a 3.03 ERA. Once getting to the Cardinals he posted a 1.01 ERA while holding 18 games. Could be used as a 7th inning man in the WBC.

RP Francisco Rodriguez: A natural closer has been used as a set-up man since coming to Milwaukee. Has a career 294 saves and has been the closer for Venezuela in the past.

RP Henry Rodriguez: Struggled a bit with the Nationals this season posting a 5.83 ERA. The flame throwing righty could be used to get that big strike out when they really need it.

RP Carlos Zambrano: The colourful righty will be there mostly for moral support but can supply some decent mop up innings or a couple of innings of relief.

Bench

C Yorvit Torrealba: .227AVG, 4HR, 14RBI with Texas, Toronto and Milwaukee.

2B Jose Altuve: .290AVG, 7HR, 37RBI with the Houston Astros.

OF Endy Chavez: .203AVG, 2RBI, 12RBI with the Baltimore Orioles.

OF Gerardo Parra: .273AVG, 7HR, 36RBI with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

INF Alberto Callaspo: .252AVG, 10HR, 53RBI with the Anaheim Angles.

OF Avisail Garcia: .319AVG, 0HR, 3RBI with the Detroit Tigers.

Hopefuls

SP Johan Santana: After King Felix the starting pitching is unreliable. Having Santana as a number two starter would be a great boost for Venezuela. Santana has a career record of 139-78 with a 3.20 ERA.

C Victor Martinez: After missing the entire 2012 season due to injury it in unlikely Martinez will play. It will be huge for the Venezuelans to have an all star catcher behind the dish. Martinez has a career average of .303 and over 700RBIs.

Projection

Venezuela has one of the strongest team coming into this Classic. The offense will certainly be there with well-rounded power, average and speed. The problem can come with pitching. After Felix Hernandez the pitching is hit or miss. Both Doubront and Sanchez can have great games, or poor games so some of their games may be high scoring. The Venezuelans will be in a pool with Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and an upstart Brazilian squad. Venezuela should have no problem with Brazil, although that is what Panama thought, but the games versus Puerto Rico and the Dominicans will be tough. Venezuela should be playing Dominican Republic for first place out of their pool. I believe that the Venezuelans have the depth to make a run at their first WBC title.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Projected Team USA

Batting Order

OF Mike Trout: The rookie sensation took the MLB by storm this year finishing 2nd in MVP voting in his first full year. He hit an astounding 30HR while having an average of .326. Oh, and he stole 49 bases. Also is one of the best defensive CF in the league already.

2B Brandon Phillips: One of the flashiest players in the league. Is known for his defense but is also very good at the top of the Reds lineup hitting .281 with 18HR, and 77RBI

OF Matt Kemp: Yet another MVP candidate on this squad. In a shortened year he hit .303 with 23HR and 68RBI. Will most likely have a corner outfield position with this team.

OF Ryan Braun: Last year’s MVP had another great year in Milwaukee where he hit 41HR and 112RBI. He also won his 5th straight Silver Slugger. He hit .381 over 6 games in the 2009 WBC.

C Buster Posey: The Giants catcher had a giant season hitting 336 with 24HR and 103RBI while winning the MVP. Also, a very good defensive catcher that will help out the pitching staff. One of the best all-around players in baseball today.

1B Mark Teixeira: Yet another gold glove season for Tex. However, he had a little bit of a regression only hitting for a .251 average and 24HR. He is a switch hitter with power and great defense and has represented the US in the past so he should be manning 1B come March.

DH Gioncarlo Stanton: The power hitting outfielder had a career high .290 average while hitting 37HR and 86RBI. He is a below average fielder so he will probably hit DH for the powerful Americans. He can take it out of the park on any given pitch.

3B David Wright: Another solid year for the Mets franchise player. He batted .306 and tallied 93RBIs. Wright is also a good defender at the hot corner and has played for the US In the past.

SS Ian Desmond: A breakout season for the young shortstop He hit .292 with 25HR and 73RBI while also swiping 21 bags. With Jeter injured he should be ready to take the reins.
Pitching

SP Justin Verlander:Not much you can say about him other than he’s a stud. He can throw for days and gets better as he goes. With the WBCs pitch count he can go all out for all 85 pitches he has. This year with the Tigers he went 17-8 with a 2.64ERA.

SP David Price: A dominating lefty that throws in the high 90s. Won his first career Cy Young by going 20-5 with a 2.56ERA with the Tampa Bay Rays.

SP Clayton Kershaw:Another good year in LA for Kershaw where he went 14-9 with a 2.53ERA.

RP Craig Kimbrel:116 strikeouts in 62.2 innings. ‘Nough said. He also had a miniscule 1.01 ERA while saving 42 games.

RP Chris Sale: With the pitch count in place it is important to have some starters that can come out of the bullpen. Sale has experience doing that although as a starter this year he went 17-8 with 3.05ERA. He can also come in and face a lefty in a jam.

RP Ryan Vogelsong:  Will be used as a mid-relief guy who can pitch the mid innings if a starter doesn’t last. He went 14-9 with the Giants this season. Also has big game experience from pitching in the World Series this year.

RP David Robertson:A solid 7th inning guy for this team. Had a 2.67ERA with the Yankees this season. Always dependable.

RP Jim Johnson: Had a breakout year with the Orioles where he saved 51 games while maintaining a 2.49ERA. He only blew 3 saves all year. Could be used as the set-up man to Kimbrel.

RP Darren Oliver:The old man still has it. He posted a 2.06ERA this season with the Blue Jays. He could use this as somewhat of a farewell tour. Will be used only in one batter situations against lefties.

RP Sergio Romo: A fan favourite with the Giants posted a 1.79ERA with 23holds and 14 saves. He could be a 7th inning guy or be used to get a double play with his dirty slider.

Bench

C Joe Mauer: .319AVG, 10HR, 85RBI with the Minnesota Twins

2B Dustin Pedroia:.290AVG, 15HR, 65RBI with the Boston Red Sox

OF Bryce Harper: .270AVG, 22HR, 59RBI with the Washington Nationals

OF Curtis Granderson: .232AVG, 43HR, 106RBI with the New York Yankees

1B/3B Kevin Youkilis:.235AVG, 19HR, 60RBI with the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox

UTIL Ben Zobrist: .220AVG, 20HR, 74RBI with the Tampa Bay Rays

Hopefuls

To name a few… Derek Jeter, Troy Tulowitzki,  Evan Longoria, Prince Fielder, Andrew McCutchen, Ian Kinsler, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and many more.
Projection

USA has yet another dream team. There are so many all-star caliber players to choose from that even If none of the listed players play, they could still field a team good enough to win. However, the game is not played on paper and that is why the Americans have yet to advance past the semifinals in the previous two tournaments.  USA will most likely be placed in a group with Mexico, Canada and Italy so they should be able to easily advance to the second stage. Once there, they will need their pitching to step up and win them games. Their second round pool will consist of the top 2 teams out of Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Brazil. USA will get to play every game on home soil which could give them an edge.  Look for the Americans to be contending for a World Title by the end of the tournament.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment