Friday, January 18, 2013

2013 World Baseball Classic preview

With the World Baseball Classic rosters being released on Thursday, I will give you some of my thoughts on the tournament, teams and specific players.

First of all, I love the idea of an international tournament for the game of baseball.  One of  the things that I enjoy about baseball is that the players, very good ones too, come from all over the world.  Players such as Miguel Cabrera from Venezuela, Robinson Cano from the Dominican Republic, Andruw Jones from Curacao, Ichiro Suzuki from Japan, Shin Soo-Choo from South Korea, Grant Balfour from Australia,  prove that the game is very diverse.
I was quite disappointed when the International Olympic Committee decided not have baseball as an Olympic sport anymore. WBC is a great idea as a replacement and may end up being a better platform for the game at the end.  Baseball wouldn't get lost among all the other sports during the Olympics and while here, it would stand alone just like the FIFA World Cup does. Also, if it was played as a part of the Olympics, there would be a constant conflict of players taking a break from the regular season to play for their respected countries, like hockey does.  The other option is too use amateurs or minor leaguers, but frankly as fans, I think we all want to see the world's best play each other.

As for the 2013 tournament, I am not going to make any predictions, at least not yet.  Just like any other baseball tournament or short series, it will come down to pitching. The difference here, in this tourney is that it is staged during the time of year when it is normally spring training.  So, the pitchers will not be in season form and because of it, there is a strict pitch limit on each pitcher as no one wants to see a pitcher lose part of or the whole 2013 MLB season.  Because of this, the WBC crown is open for the taking for many countries.  Speaking of the teams, here is some quick thoughts on some of the teams after looking at their rosters.
2009 Topps World Baseball Classic #3

Team USA has a solid roster, but alot of big names are not participating especially among the pitchers. No Justin Verlander, David Price, Jered Weaver, CJ Wilson, Matt Cain, Clayton Kershaw ,etc.  R.A. Dickey and Ryan Vogelsong anchors the staff that is loaded with relief pitchers.  Which is likely a good idea because of the pitch counts and the amount of stressful innings that the pitchers will face that normally don't have this time of year.  The lineup is pretty good with Ryan Braun, Joe Mauer, Mark Teixeira, David Wright and Jimmy Rollins. It has flexibity with utility guys in Ben Zobrist and Willie Bloomquist.  Looks like manager Joe Torre build a team of grinders in trying to win as oppose to getting the biggest names.
2006 Upper Deck World Baseball Classic

Venezuela, on the other hand is loaded with stars. Felix Hernandez and Anibal Sanchez are going to lead the pitching staff.  For the hitters, Miguel Cabrera is the leader of which maybe the best infield of the tourney which also include World Series heroes Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval plus Asdrubal Cabrera and Elvis Andrus. Others hitters include OFs Carlos Gonzalez and Martin Prado and catcher Salvador Perez of Kansas City.. Venezuela could be the team to beat.

Puerto Rico, Mexico and the Dominican Republic each will have a good number of major league stars and will field solid teams that could compete for the title.  Canada and Cuba could make a name for themselves too.
2008 Topps WBC
I haven't mentioned yet the champion of the previous two World Baseball Classics- Japan.  This year's squad doesn't include pitching stars Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish from the past, but even though I am not familiar with the names on the team, I am pretty confident that the Japanese will have a solid team.  They usually have a team that can pitch, defend and manufacture runs that is needed to win a short series.
If you want look at a couple possible future stars in the game, look no further than the Netherlands.  Infielder Jurickson Profar is considered by many as the number one prospect in the game. He came up late last season as a 19 year old to the Texas Rangers and made an immediate splash when he hit a home run in his very first at bat.  Profar's immergence may make Elvis Andrus expendable for Texas.  Also playing for the Netherlands is IF Xander Bogaerts. He is regarded as a future star for the Boston Red Sox, even though it may not be until 2014 at the earliest.
It looks like it will be another exciting World Baseball Classic and I will certainly be watching. 

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