After a big scare, USA advanced to the 2nd round of the World Baseball Classic! Joining the Americans will be the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Italy. Yes, Italy. Forza Italia! Jeremy and Mapes are back with their picks for “Round Two Pool Two” for World Baseball Classic Fantasy. Mapes took the Pool C/D 1st round draft 124-121 over Jeremy (despite Brett Lawrie’s injury), but Jeremy has a sizable lead in “Round Two Pool One”, with just Netherlands vs. Japan left. Remember, for this draft we must have at least two players from each team and no more than four from any country. Mapes picked first last time, so Jeremy will have the 1st pick in this round of drafting!
Countries to pick from: USA, Italy, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico
Positions: C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, OF, OF, OF, Util, SP, SP, RP, RP
Hitter scoring: Single: 1, Double: 2, Triple: 3, Home run: 4, Run scored: 1, RBI: 1, Stolen base: 1
Pitcher scoring: Out recorded: 1, Hit or walk allowed: -1, Run allowed: -2, Strikeout: 1, Win: 10, Loss: -5, Save: 5
Pick #1 – Team Jeremy: Robinson Cano, 2B (Dominican Republic)
I learned my lesson in round one. NEVER BET AGAINST ROBBIE CANO! That being said, I knew I had to take the Dominican slugger (and arguably the MVP of the entire tournament so far) first overall. Sorry, Mapes!
Pick #2- Team Mapes: Ryan Braun, OF (USA)
NOOOOOOO!!!! Cano was going to be my top pick. I’m going to go back to the well with Ryan Braun and hope that he can snap out of his little funk he had in round one. He typically doesn’t hit well at Chase Field, so I hope that’s all it was.
My starting pitcher plan was to grab who is facing Italy, but I don’t know who actually is. I’m going to go with Gio, who is rested and ready to go. He’s pitching in his hometown of Miami and has more pitches to work with. I think he can get a win against Puerto Rico.
Pick #4 – Team Jeremy: Yadier Molina, C (Puerto Rico)
Redemption! It’s so, so sweet. After suffering through round one with Carlos Santana (just kidding, he wasn’t that bad), I knew I had to take my boy Yadi with this pick. His bat’s starting to heat up, and that’s bad news for opposing pitchers.
Pick #5- Team Mapes: Jose Reyes, SS (Dominican Republic)
You took one half of the Dominican dominance up the middle, so I can’t let you have the other. Reyes was great in game one, but fell off a little in the other two games. However, he’s the clear top shortstop in this pool and I’m happy to have him.
Pick #6 – Team Jeremy: David Wright, 3B (USA)
I should have known to take Wright last time, given his history in the WBC. There has been no player more clutch than Wright in the Classic over the years, and I’m betting on him coming up big again in round two.
Pick #7- Team Mapes: Anthony Rizzo, 1B (Italy)
Keeping with my theme from the last draft involving Italy, I want to make sure I get the best player on that team. That is clearly Anthony Rizzo hitting in the middle of the lineup and the crop of 1st baseman isn’t very strong in this pool.
Pick #8 – Team Jeremy: Samuel Deduno, SP (Dominican Republic)
I’m taking a big risk this high, but Deduno was masterful in his first start. I’d prefer that he end up pitching against Team Italy, but I’m pretty comfortable with this guy’s electric stuff on the mound at any point in round two.
Pick #9- Team Mapes: Angel Pagan, OF (Puerto Rico)
I needed to grab someone from Puerto Rico and I have a hard time rooting for Carlos Beltran for some strange reason. *cough Mets* *cough Cardinals* I’ll take Pagan who hit a team-best .455 in round one from the lead-off spot.
Pick #10 – Team Jeremy: Craig Kimbrel, RP (USA)
I’m just glad Kimbrel’s around this late. You love your Braves, but I have to nab the guy right here and make sure I have the most dominant closer in the world right now on my squad. If the USA plays a close game (it will), guess who’s getting me at least five points?
Pick #11- Team Mapes: Fernando Rodney, RP (Dominican Republic)
You had to go and take my Braves guy, I see how it is. I can’t let the other closers fall now, so I’m going to get Fernando Rodney who pitched in all three games for the Dominicans. I think they’re going to win a couple games, so there will be save chances for the man with the crooked hat.
Pick #12 – Team Jeremy: Xavier Cedeno, RP (Puerto Rico)
Good move grabbing Rodney. He’ll score you some points. I can only hope that Cedeno does the same for me with Team Puerto Rico. He was the best reliever on the team in round one, but it’s still unclear to me if he’s the actual “closer.”
Pick #13- Team Mapes: R.A. Dickey, SP (USA)
I really thought about taking Cedeno because I needed another player from Puerto Rico, good pick Jeremy. I have no clue who Dickey will face, but I hope with some more time under his belt the knuckler will be dancing against whomever he pitches against in round two.
Pick #14 – Team Jeremy: Carlos Beltran, OF (Puerto Rico)
You passed on Beltran, but I refuse to make the same mistake. Not only is Beltran dominant in the MLB postseason, but he has solid numbers across his WBC career. Puerto Rico’s captain clutch should rack up some points for me this round.
Pick #15- Team Mapes: Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/Util (Dominican Republic)
Good! You can have Beltran! I wanted to grab the best player on the board for my utility spot and I believe that is the man they call “E5” he hits in the middle of a strong Dominican lineup and I think he’ll put one out of the park this round.
Pick #16 – Team Jeremy: Chris Denorfia, OF (Italy)
One of the reasons I wasn’t worried about you snagging Rizzo early was that I knew you wouldn’t go after Denorfia. Even though his hot start fizzled a little at the end, he’s hitting in front of Rizzo and has good contact and base running abilities. Give me some sneaky points, Chris!
Pick #17- Team Mapes: Alex Liddi, 3B (Italy)
Time to grab another Italian! You wouldn’t let me pick him off the waiver wire when Brett Lawrie went down with a rib injury, so I’m making sure I get him now!
Pick #18 – Team Jeremy: Alejandro De Aza, OF (Dominican Republic)
One of the players I was most impressed with in round one was De Aza, who looks more and more like a sleeper pick in normal fantasy leagues this year. He’s getting on base, scoring runs and swiping bags. Expect more of the same this round.
Pick #19- Team Mapes: Nick Punto, 2B (Italy)
Well, since you took my planned second baseman in Cano, I’ll settle for Nick Punto who was a spark on the top of the Italian lineup. Then hope that it’s Rizzo and Liddi who are knocking him in!
Pick #20 – Team Jeremy: Eric Hosmer, 1B (USA)
Yes, please! Not only do I think Hosmer is a bounce-back candidate in the regular season, but his first two at-bats proved that he’s swinging it on the money right now. The bases-clearing double in the ninth to seal the game was all I needed to confirm this choice.
Pick #21- Team Mapes: Joe Mauer, C (USA)
I need a catcher. Joe Mauer is a catcher. He hits in the middle of the USA lineup. Perfect.
Pick #22 – Team Jeremy: Ryan Vogelsong, SP (USA)
I hate having a Giant on my team, but it paid off last round with Pablo Sandoval and Pagan. I think Vogelsong will get the start against Italy (though if it’s Dominica I may be screwed), and I think he will dominate them.
I probably should’ve taken my boy Giancarlo Stanton returning to Marlins Park, but man his zero points in round one scared me off. I’m going with Alex Rios who has some speed, some power, and I’ll hopefully get three games out of him.
Pick #24 – Team Jeremy: Anthony Granato, SS (Italy)
I just realized that neither of us has Stanton. In his home ballpark. Due for a couple dingers. DANG IT! I’ll move on and collect Granato, the Italian shortstop who put up very good numbers in round one.
Well I’m in a little bit of a pickle for my second reliever. I don’t think Italy wins a game, so that rules out Grilli getting a save. I’m going to the surprise from Team USA in round one in Ross Detwiler. If he comes out as the long reliever, I just hope he’ll rack up some outs and points that way.
Pick #26 – Team Jeremy: Hanley Ramirez, 3B/Util (Dominican Republic)
Smart man, Mapes. Detwiler seems like more of a point-getter to me than Grilli will be. Nice rhyme, huh? Even though Ramirez had one hit in the first round (a monster HR), he’s swinging a hot bat and I think he drops at least one more bomb in round two.
Pool two, round two WBC fantasy draft is in the books! Did we make a mistake not taking Giancarlo Stanton in his home park? Should we have really picked all three American starters? Who would you want on your WBC fantasy squad this round? Let us know in the comments or send us a tweet using #WBCFantasy with the links below!
MLB Network concluded their yearly series “Top 100 Players Right Now” on Tuesday night. The full list of 100 players can be found here. I’m shocked, but respect that they actually put Josh Willingham at #43. The thing about baseball is that there is never an agreement on anything. I couldn’t resist making my own “Top 20 Right Now”, starting with 20-16 today and another group of five over the next three days.
On the MLB Network list, not on my list: #15 Giancarlo Stanton, #16 Evan Longoria, and #20 Cole Hamels
Call me a homer, especially to have Kimbrel leap over NL East rivals Stephen Strasburg, Cole Hamels, Giancarlo Stanton, and David Wright into my top 20. However, when you look at players at their position that are purely dominant Kimbrel is at the head of the class. Kimbrel struck out over half the batters he faced in 2012, a first for any pitcher. He also has finished 23rd and 8th for NL MVP the last two seasons, which is better than anyone in the NL East I jumped him over. I’m going to give the best closer in the game, the respect he deserves. I would’ve done the same with Mariano Rivera a decade ago.
#19, Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals (MLB Network’s #24)
Well this will end my homerism quickly, I jump Molina up a full five spots and into the top 20 after his best season in the majors. You can make a case that he’s the best catcher in the game right now. I won’t go that far, but Molina’s awesomeness at throwing out potential base stealers is unparalleled and gives the Cardinals a dynamic that other teams don’t have. Molina’s won five straight Gold Glove’s and has improved at the plate, not just behind it, hitting over .300 each of the past two seasons. Molina finished a career-best 4th in NL MVP voting in 2012.
#18, CC Sabathia, New York Yankees (MLB Network’s #18)
Our first agreement! Sabathia has almost become underrated as the ace and work horse of the Yankees staff. Even with an injury last year, Sabathia logged his 7th straight 200 innings pitched season. He’s also not just eating innings, Sabathia is giving quality innings, as he hasn’t had an ERA over 3.38 since 2006. He’s been so good for so long, that he’s being overlooked by new pitching flames like Stephen Strasburg.
#17 Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies (MLB Network’s #19)
I’m such a sucker for Cliff Lee because he doesn’t walk anybody. I think growing up watching Greg Maddux not walk anybody made me have an affinity for pitchers with great control. Lee is the epitome of that now, he’s led the league in BB/9 three times and K/BB ratio twice, including leading the league in both in 2012. Lee also hasn’t had an ERA over 3.18 since his breakout Cy Young season in 2008. He’s the shining example that pitcher wins aren’t the correct barometer of pitching quality.
McCutchen moves up a spot on my list as I have him ahead of Evan Longoria and Giancarlo Stanton, but not ahead of a future player. The other two might have more talent, but right now I think McCutchen brings the goods better than both of them. McCutchen broke out in 2012 and finished third in the MVP voting, while taking home a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger. The Pirates star has developed into a true 30 HR, 25 SB, .300 BA threat that is hard to find in the game. He’s the foundation for the Pirates to end their sub-.500 streak and I believe they will this season.
That’s the first part of my “Top 20 Right Now”. Who would be on your list? Let me know in the comments or hit me up on Twitter using the link below with #MapesRightNow! Tomorrow is 15-11, featuring a player who makes a big leap from the MLB Network list!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
The World Baseball Classic returns for the 3rd time starting March 2nd. Fellow blogger Jeremy Dorn gave his rankings of every team in the WBC last week. (I haven’t figured out how he has South Korea 11th either) I wanted to delve more into team USA’s chances and how the roster stacks up.
Who’s In: Joe Mauer-Twins, J.P. Arencibia-Blue Jays, and Jonathan Lucroy-Brewers
Who’s Out: Buster Posey-Giants and Brian McCann-Braves
Interesting that the deepest offensive position with three players is at catcher. They clearly want to rotate these guys so they don’t get too banged up before the MLB season begins. Not being able to score the defending NL MVP in Buster Posey is a tough blow to team USA, but having hitting machine and former AL MVP Joe Mauer lessens the blow. He could even be the designated hitter option, when Arencibia or Lucroy are behind the plate. Arencibia’s inclusion seems to coincide with R.A. Dickey’s appearance on the roster. The two are now teammates in Toronto and have been working together to have knuckleball success. I’m sure the Blue Jays will be pleased with them getting reps together in high pressure situations. Lucroy had his best season at the plate last year, but was hampered by injuries. He’ll be a solid offensive piece down the lineup. Getting Posey on board would’ve made this an easy A, but alas. Grade: B+
Who’s In: Mark Teixeira-Yankees
Who’s Out: Prince Fielder-Tigers, Paul Konerko-White Sox, Adam LaRoche-Nationals, and Freddie Freeman-Braves
I would’ve much preferred the bat of Prince Fielder, but I have no qualms with Teixiera joining team USA for the 2nd time. He’s not the hitter he once was, but does have pop, will provide for some interesting decisions with his switch-hitting ability, and is one of the best defensive first baseman in the game. He’s going to get a lot of work in as the only true first baseman on the roster, but could get spelled by Mauer and maybe even Ben Zobrist. Grade: B-
Who’s In: Brandon Phillips-Reds and Ben Zobrist-Rays
Who’s Out: Dustin Pedroia-Red Sox, Ian Kinsler-Rangers, and Aaron Hill-Diamondbacks
Pedroia and Kinsler are probably better hitters than Zobrist, but the Zorilla’s ability to play mulitple positions makes him a suitable choice. I don’t think we’d see any of the other possibilities manning right field or shortstop the way Zobrist does for the Rays. Brandon Phillips will get the majority of time at second base and the three-time Gold Glove winner will flash plenty of leather for the red, white, and blue. The only better second baseman in the tournament is Robinson Cano for the Dominican Republic. Grade: B+
Who’s In: Jimmy Rollins-Phllies and Willie Bloomquist-Diamondbacks
Who’s Out: Derek Jeter-Yankees, Troy Tulowitzki-Rockies, and Ian Desmond-Nationals
One would have to believe that Rollins is on the roster over Desmond just based on experience and leadership ability. Jeter’s ankle may not be 100% in time for the WBC and with Tulo’s injury history it was clear he wouldn’t risk it. Rollins is the defending NL Gold Glove winner at the position and played in the last WBC for USA. He’s not the hitter we once was, but can provide speed atop the lineup. Bloomquist is the questionable pick for the roster, but he’s a clear utility player and can play numerous positions in case of injury. When compared to the players team USA could’ve had if healthy, I can’t give out a great grade. Grade: C
Who’s In: David Wright-Mets
Who’s Out: Chase Headley-Padres, Ryan Zimmerman-Nationals, and David Freese-Cardinals
This was the easiest call for team USA. Wright is the best third baseman in America right now. The only problem for the Stars & Stripes is that Venezuela (Miguel Cabrera) and the Dominican Republic (Adrian Beltre) have better options at the position. Grade: A-
Who’s In: Ryan Braun-Brewers, Adam Jones-Orioles, Giancarlo Stanton-Marlins, and Shane Victorino-Red Sox
Who’s Out: Mike Trout-Angels, Bryce Harper-Nationals, Andrew McCutchen-Pirates, Josh Hamilton-Angels, and Matt Holliday-Cardinals
Now we’re getting to the good stuff. Even without Trout and McCutchen, I love this outfield. Braun is the best left fielder in the game and a perennial MVP candidate. Jones is a budding superstar that helped turned the Orioles around and is one of the best defensive center fielders in the game. Stanton is a straight masher that you can’t pitch around in middle of the lineup. Victorino doesn’t have the name of some of the other players that aren’t playing, but his ability to play all three oufield positions, while filling in as pinch-runner and possibly designated hitter is good enough. I know Mike Trout wanted to have a traditional spring training entering his 2nd full season, but I think that he’s going to come to regret not being around this talented group. Grade: A
Who’s In: R.A. Dickey-Blue Jays, Kris Medlen-Braves, Ryan Vogelsong-Giants, Derek Holland-Rangers
Who’s Out (for now): Justin Verlander-Tigers, David Price-Rays, Jered Weaver-Angels, Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, and Cliff Lee-Phillies, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw-Dodgers, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner-Giants
It’s pretty easy too look at those two lists and get a lump in your throat. There is one spot still open for a starting pitcher that’d presumably would go to Verlander if he wants it. Let’s look at what is definite right now. Team USA sports the defending NL Cy Young winner in Dickey, who’s knuckleball will give batters fits seeing it for the first time this season. Medlen was arguably (and I’d argue was) the best pitcher in the 2nd half last season. When he’s on his game, he’s unhittable. Vogelsong is a fantastic story since returning to MLB from Japan and can be useful as he might have some inside knowledge on the Japanese hitters. Holland is a decent southpaw, great in the clubhouse, and let’s be honest we’re all secretly hoping he faces the Netherlands. If Joe Torre has a sense of humor, it’ll happen. It’s not the best, but it’s certainly not the worst. Grade: B-
Who’s In: Jeremy Affeldt-Giants, Tim Collins-Royals, and Glen Perkins-Twins
Who’s Out: Sean Marshall-Reds, Eric O’ Flaherty and Jonny Venters-Braves, Darren Oliver-Blue Jays, and Sean Burnett-Angels
No offense to Tim Collins, but I’d rather have all five pitchers in the “Who’s out” list than him. Affeldt is a great big-game pitcher as he proved in the 2012 postseason. He’ll have to come through in big spots as the best of this bunch. Perkins has become a solid lefty. He’s climbed his way up the ranks to become the Twins closer. Seeing a lot of quality lefties staying in their spring training homes is a little disheartening though. Grade: C+
Who’s In: Heath Bell-Diamonbacks, Mitchell Boggs-Cardinals, Steve Cishek-Marlins, Luke Gregerson-Padres, Craig Kimbrel-Braves, Chris Perez, and Vinnie Pestano-Indians
Who’s Out: Jim Johnson-Orioles, Jason Motte-Cardinals, Jonathan Papelbon-Phillies, Joel Hanrahan-Red Sox
As long as the words “Heath Bell in a high pressure situation” aren’t used I really like the bullpen that Greg Maddux has to work with. Craig Kimbrel is the best relief pitcher in the world right now and should lock down any game in the 9th inning. Perez and Pestano work well together in Cleveland. Boggs was a revelation in St. Louis this past season. Cishek will be a change of pace reliever with his submarine delivery. Cishek did really well filling in as the Marlins closer when Heath Bell fell apart last season. Gregerson is one of the leagues most underrated relievers because he pitches in San Diego and has never had an ERA over 3.24 in his four seasons. Having Kimbrel on the roster is such a boon for this bullpen. Grade: A-
Final Thoughts: Team USA will have a real shot at knocking Japan off the top of the WBC mountain. The coaching staff with Joe Torre, Greg Maddux, Dale Murphy, Gerald Perry, Larry Bowa, Willie Randolph, and Marcel Lachemann is top notch. The only real question marks are at shortstop and left-handed pitching to me. I believe that if the starters can get a lead to the bullpen though, USA will be dangerous. I expect at least another run to the semi-finals and a trip to San Francisco. Every team at that level is so talented, it’s going to come down to the little things to decide the champion.
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
In about six weeks, the World Baseball Classic will be upon us again and Team USA will look to win its first title in the competition’s history. They’ve got a good shot — manager Joe Torre released his roster on Thursday, and they are absolutely loaded.
Unfortunately for fans of Team USA, one glance at a few competing rosters will stop the celebration in its tracks. Can someone unseat two-time defending champions, Team Japan? Will Team USA improve upon their 4th-place finish in 2009?
We can’t predict the results down to the wire, but we’re here to do what we do best at Three Up, Three Down. We rank the rosters! So strap in, baseball fans, and see if your favorite team stands a chance:
**The “Stick to Soccer” Group**
Notable player(s): Barry Larkin, Manager (and Hall of Fame Reds SS)
International Baseball Federation (IBAF) Ranking: 20
Breakdown: Good thing for their dominance on the international soccer scene, because Brazil isn’t going anywhere in the Classic. Yan Gomes was the first Brazilian player to ever reach the big leagues, and the country itself only has 14 players signed to Major League contracts. How they will win: They won’t. Why they won’t: See “How they will win.”
Notable player(s): Bruce Chen, SP, Royals
IBAF Ranking: 18
Breakdown: The Chinese baseball team is a decade away from being a serious contender, but they are headed in the right direction. They’ve made steady improvements over international tournaments since a decent showing at the 2009 WBC, in which they eliminated Chinese Taipei. How they will win: Hustle, starting pitching. Why they won’t: Not enough of either.
Notable player(s): Paco Rodriguez, RP, Dodgers/Engel Beltre, OF, Rangers
IBAF Ranking: 16
Breakdown: I’m not sure what to think about Spain. They lack star power, but did knock off Israel and South Africa in qualifiers. The roster is dotted with promising Major League prospects, but I don’t foresee Spain winning more than a game, maybe two in the WBC. How they will win: Breakout tourney from Beltre. Why they won’t: Their Pool C competition is stacked (Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic).
Notable player(s): Jason Grilli, RP, Pirates/Francisco Cervelli, C, Yankees/Nick Punto, IF, Dodgers/Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs/Chris Denorfia, OF, Padres
IBAF Ranking: 9
Breakdown: Not only did we miss out on a Hall of Fame induction for Mike Piazza, but he won’t be participating on Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic either. Props to the Italians for back-to-back Euro Championships, but the competition is pretty weak over there right now. I think they will be humbled in the WBC. How they will win: Play with a chip on their shoulder. Why they won’t: Even the MLB-level hitters are thin.
#12: KINGDOM OF THE NETHERLANDS
Notable Player(s): Jair Jurrjens, SP, MLB Free Agent/Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox/Jurickson Profar, 2B, Rangers/Jonathan Schoop, 3B, Orioles/Andrelton Simmons, SS, Braves/Roger Bernadina, OF, Nationals/Andruw Jones, OF, MLB Free Agent
IBAF Ranking: 7
Breakdown: The Dutch soccer team is one of my favorites to watch. And for the first time in recent memory, so will their baseball team. They just missed my “dark horse” cut, due to sheer overall talent of the rest of the field. But the Major League potential of some youngsters on this roster is extremely intriguing. They’ve won 20 of 32 Euro Championships ever played. How they will win: Infield of dreams breaks out. Why they won’t: Not all the youngsters will perform.
**The Dark Horses**
#11: SOUTH KOREA
Notable player(s): Jae Seo, SP, former Met, Dodger, Ray in MLB
IBAF Ranking: 4
Breakdown: I feel ridiculous ranking Korea this low, considering their past successes in the WBC. But, it’s the third time this tournament has been played and each team has scouting on the opposition now. I don’t think South Korea will sneak up on anyone this time around. How they will win: High on-base percentage, good defense. Why they won’t: Too much good competition.
Notable player(s): Peter Moylan, RP, Dodgers
IBAF Ranking: 10
Breakdown: There’s a handful of good Major League players (like A’s closer Grant Balfour) who hail from the land down under, but there isn’t a whole lot of MLB experience on this roster. Team Australia still has a shot at advancing, but they may have more trouble than in years past. How they will win: Pure grit. Why they won’t: Not enough runs, upstart opposition in Pool B.
Notable player(s): Jesse Crain, RP, White Sox/John Axford, RP, Brewers/Jameson Taillon, SP, Pirates/Russell Martin, C, Pirates/Brett Lawrie, 3B, Blue Jays/Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins
IBAF Ranking: 6
Breakdown: We all know that Canada produces some bona fide stars in MLB (Joey Votto, anyone?), but not all are present and accounted for on this roster, similar to Team Australia. They still have the talent to make a run with Lawrie, Morneau and Martin in the middle of the lineup though. How they will win: Dominant bullpen, good middle of the lineup. Why they won’t: Too much youth in the rotation.
#8: CHINESE TAIPEI
Notable player(s): Chien-Ming Wang, SP, MLB Free Agent
IBAF Ranking: 5
Breakdown: There’s a reason that Team Chinese Taipei is a top-five ranked country right now. But their proudest current professional representative (Orioles pitcher Wei-Yin Chen) is not on the team yet. This team is still legit, and has a very winnable pool group. How they will win: Small ball. Why they won’t: Overall talent is lacking.
**The “Justtttt A Bit Outside” Group**
#7: PUERTO RICO
Notable player(s): Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals/Carlos Beltran, OF, Cardinals/Angel Pagan, OF, Giants/Mike Aviles, IF, Indians/Javier Vasquez, SP, MLB Free Agent
IBAF Ranking: 12
Breakdown: There may be no more high-ceiling-yet-average team in the WBC this year. Team Puerto Rico has finished fifth at both tournaments preceding this, and killed Team USA in 2009 before being ousted by them two games later on a walk-off hit. Even with players such as Molina, Beltran and Pagan, they won’t even be favorites in their own pool. How they will win: The Major League talent they have is relentlessly good. Why they won’t: Lack of depth in the rotation.
Notable player(s): Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Dodgers/Luis Cruz, 3B, Dodgers/Yovani Gallardo, SP, Brewers/Danny Espinosa, 2B, Nationals/Sergio Romo, RP, Giants
IBAF Ranking: 11
Breakdown: In their pool, Team Mexico will have to deal with Team USA, but other than that they should be favored to top Team Canada and Team Italy to move on. They have a decent infield, top-of-the-line ace, and one of the best closers in baseball. How they will win: Adrian Gonzalez goes off, Gallardo is dominant. Why they won’t: Romo is neutralized unless they have a lead late.
Notable player(s): None
IBAF Ranking: 1
Breakdown: Don’t let the lack of notable players deceive you — this team is good. Really good. They have played in the IBAF World Cup 29 times and won 25 gold medals, finishing second the other four times. In the WBC, Team Cuba has finished second and fourth (which, at the time, was their lowest finish ever in international competition). They just can’t legally have players like Aroldis Chapman or Yoenis Cespedes on their squad, otherwise they might be even better. How they will win: Hard-throwing starters, handful of five-tool prospects. Why they won’t: The top four teams are just too stacked.
Notable player(s): None
IBAF Ranking: 3
Breakdown: Again, don’t let the lack of Major League firepower fool you. Much like Cuba, Team Japan has been a hotbed for MLB stars over the years (Daisuke Matsuzaka, Yu Darvish). Even though none of them joined the fray in 2013, this team is stacked. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple of future MLB players come off this roster after good WBC performances. After all, they are two-for-two in WBC titles up to this point. How they will win: Ichiro-style on-base scavengers, deceptive pitching. Why they won’t: Not having Ichiro and Darvish, among others, will end up costing Team Japan.
#3: DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Notable player(s): Santiago Casilla, RP, Giants/Octavio Dotel, RP, Tigers/Alexi Ogando, RP, Rangers/Fernando Rodney, RP, Rays/Wandy Rodriguez, SP, Pirates/Edinson Volquez, SP, Reds/Carlos Santana, C, Indians/Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers/Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees/Edwin Encarnacion, DH/OF, Blue Jays/Hanley Ramirez, IF, Dodgers/Jose Reyes, SS, Blue Jays/Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers/Melky Cabrera, OF, Blue Jays
IBAF Ranking: 13
Breakdown: The only reason Team Dominica is ranked so low by the IBAF is because all those notable players are stars in the big leagues, and don’t regularly compete internationally for their country. But now that the WBC has rolled around again, this is one unbelievably good team. My only concern is their starting pitching depth. How they will win: Scoring 15 runs per game (no…really). Why they won’t: Like I said, starting pitching depth. Will Volquez and Rodriguez be enough?
#2: UNITED STATES
Notable player(s): Jeremy Affeldt, RP, Giants/R.A. Dickey, SP, Blue Jays/Craig Kimbrel, RP, Braves/Kris Medlen, SP, Braves/Ryan Vogelsong, SP, Giants/Chris Perez, RP, Indians/Joe Mauer, C, Twins/Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds/Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies/David Wright, 3B, Mets/Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees/Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers/Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Marlins/Adam Jones, OF, Orioles/Joe Torre, Manager
IBAF Ranking: 2
Breakdown: I didn’t even pick all the “notable players” I could have for this team. It’s Team USA’s equivalent of the MLB Dream Team, and Justin Verlander still is undecided as to whether he’ll join the rotation. This team is already a favorite with a balanced lineup and very strong pitching staff, but adding JV would be a coup. Check out fellow Three Up, Three Down host Bryan Mapes’ grades-by-position for Team USA. How they will win: Veteran experience, explosive pitching. Why they won’t: The bane of their existence, Team Japan, will come along eventually.
Notable player(s): Anibal Sanchez, SP, Tigers/Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners/Francisco Rodriguez, RP, MLB Free Agent/Ronald Belisario, RP, Dodgers/Miguel Montero, C, Diamondbacks/Salvador Perez, C, Royals/Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers/Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, Indians/Miguel Cabrera, 3B/1B, Tigers/Pablo Sandoval, 3B, Giants/Marco Scutaro, 2B, Giants/Carols Gonzalez, OF, Rockies/Gerardo Parra, OF, Diamondbacks
IBAF Ranking: 8
Breakdown: The quantity of star power on Team Venezuela might not match up to Team USA or Team Dominica, but the quality is far and beyond. When you start your rotation with Hernandez and stack the middle of your lineup with the reigning Triple Crown winner between Gonzalez and Sandoval, you are a very, very scary team. Even though their WBC pool is very tough, it would be a momentous upset to not see Team Venezuela make moves in the 2013 tournament. How they will win: A large margin of victory. Against anyone. Why they won’t: Slumping hitters or being outplayed by one of the other favorites.
And that’s a wrap. This writer believes Team Venezuela is the team to beat, with Team USA, Team Dominica and Team Japan not far behind. But in all honesty, there are about 10-11 teams who could potentially take home the title in 2013. Root for your team and country to take home top honors, and stay tuned to Three Up, Three Down because we’ll have all your World Baseball Classic coverage.
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
Next up in our awards series is the Cy Young. We’ve been saying all season that NL Cy Young was the most wide open awards race in the league, with 7-10 players having a legitimate case at the award. Only eight though, received votes from 3U3D, our apologies to Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, and Madison Bumgarner. Let’s take a look at the Cy Young race!
Our AL Cy Young Thoughts:
Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman): How do you choose between those top four, honestly? King Felix doesn’t have quite the numbers of the others, but he did pitch an absolutely brilliant perfect game. Then again, Weaver has the numbers and a no-no to go with it. Price has been the quiet stud keeping Tampa Bay in the playoff race, and Verlander is being Verlander in Detroit, dominating all power categories on the stat sheet. I’m going with my gut here and giving Price his first career Cy Young award by a smidgen over the reigning winner in Detroit.
Angelo Fileccia (@GODF_TH_R): Justin Verlander repeats as AL CY Young because he remains the most dominant pitcher in the game. JV is 2nd in ERA (2.64) to Price (2.56), 2nd in WHIP (1.06) to Weaver’s (1.02). First in IP (238.1) by 6.1 innings and 1st in complete games with 6; the next closest pitcher had 4. Verlander also finished 1st in SO with 239. He was 3 wins off the AL lead with 17 but also didn’t have a favorable amount of run support. Not to mention he was within 1 out of his 3rd No Hitter.
Brian Boynton (@GingaBeard_Man): Justin Verlander was the best pitcher in baseball last season and once again he proved to be the best this season. He led the AL in strikeouts and although Price’s ERA may have been slightly less Verlander had two more starts and pitched in 27.1 more innings. If Hernandez pitched for a better team he would have a better chance of winning this award this season. How can he not be considered though having more complete game shutouts than any other pitcher had complete games.
Kurt Peter (@FalconKP): You’ll see a theme in my Cy Young picks as I went with the two pitchers that won more games in each league, because winning games is what it’s all about. For Weaver to lead the league in wins, winning percentage, WHIP, and hits/9. This to me proves that he was the best pitcher in the American League in 2012. Verlander we know is great and is a strong #2. In the battle of great Rays pitchers this season, I’m giving the slight edge to Fernando Rodney, who really solidified Tampa’s bullpen when Kyle Farnsworth went down, while I think the Rays rotation would have been strong even without David Price.
Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes): David Price did everything in his power to knock off the reigning AL Cy Young and MVP, but in the end it just wasn’t enough for me to put him at the top. Would you rather have a 2.64 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP over 238.1 innings or a 2.56 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP over 211 innings? I think it’s the first option clearly and that’s why Verlander is my Cy Young winner. He led the American League in pitcher WAR, strikeouts, complete games, and adjusted pitcher wins, while being 2nd in ERA and WHIP. It’s what we’ve come to expect from the best pitcher in the game. Rodney had one of the best reliever seasons and deserves serious consideration after posting the lowest ERA by a pitcher with 50 innings pitched in league history. At first glance, Sale over Weaver may look wrong, but to me it’s right. Sale was better than Weaver in WAR, adjusted ERA+, runs and wins.
Our NL Cy Young Thoughts:
Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes): When we look back at the 2012 season, I believe there are going to be four things we truly remember, the World Series champion, Mike Trout’s historical rookie year, Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown, and R.A. Dickey. The 37-year old knuckleballer became the first Mets pitcher since 1990 to win 20 games, which is even more amazing when you factor in that the Mets only won 74 games total. Dickey’s 1.05 WHIP is incredible when you factor in he’s throwing a knuckler (Tim Wakefield’s career WHIP is 1.35). Plus, he led the league in strikeouts. He’s the best story and the best pitcher in the NL in 2012. Johnny Cueto gets my silver spot, as he was incredible when you factor in that he was pitching half the time in one of the biggest hitters havens in the Majors in Cincinnati. Cueto led the NL in adjusted ERA+ and was second in pitcher WAR. Kershaw’s numbers were great as he fell one strikeout short of winning the pitching Triple Crown. Kimbrel was the league’s best closer, striking out more than half the batter he faced and had one of the best slugging percentages against in league history. He’s near unhittable, but gets penalized for not throwing enough innings. Gonzalez and Medlen I couldn’t decide so I put them both. Medlen’s conversion to the Braves rotation may have saved them in the 2nd half. Gonzalez led the league in wins, but you could almost make a case Jordan Zimmermann was the most valuable pitcher on the Nationals this season.
Kurt Peter (@FalconKP): I gave the edge to Gonzalez again because he led the NL in wins and K/9. His dominance is what let him stay in games longer and pick up more wins. Gonzalez was the best pitcher on the best team in the National League and deserves the Cy Young. Medlen over Dickey is a controversial pick I’m sure, but Medlen put the Braves on his back in the 2nd half and got them to the playoffs. Dickey got to pitch in a relaxed environment in a pitchers park for a near-last place team. The knuckleball just seems like a fluky gimmick to me. I’m surprised that Matt Cain was only on my ballot, not sure why he remains so underrated. He only threw the 3rd most innings, while posting the 4th best ERA and 2nd best WHIP. He even threw one of the most dominant games in the history of baseball, what else does he need to do?
Brian Boynton (@GingaBeard_Man): R.A. Dickey won 20 games for the Mets. Let that sink in for a minute, 20 games for the Mets. I know Kershaw’s numbers were better but come on the kuckleballer had it working this season and anybody willing to throw something going that slow at a professional athlete deserves to be rewarded in some way. Kershaw had the best season statistically but he won the award last season and who knows if Dickey will ever get a chance to win it again. Johnny Cueto had a fantastic season for the NL Central Champions. Leading that rotation posting a career high in innings pitched and winning 19 games.
Angelo Fileccia (@GODF_TH_R): Kimbrel has had a season for the ages as a closer. He became the first pitcher ever to K HALF of the hitters he faced. He only allowed 26
hits all year, making his opponent’s BA a measly .123. Oh not to mention his stellar WHIP of 0.65. Kershaw showed dominance and so did Gio, winning 21 games.
Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman): This is another close race, pitting a lot of very quality starting pitchers against each other for the league’s greatest honor at the position. This award has so much talent in the running that guys like Stephen Strasburg and Matt Cain and Kyle Lohse are left off my ballot completely. I’ve got to go with the fantastic story that is Dickey for 2012, as his numbers barely edge the others and he’s a KNUCKLEBALLER for heaven’s sake! How can you not love this guy? When I ran the numbers, I see that Kershaw led the Majors in ERA and WHIP this season, and fell one strikeout shy of the K title in the National League (behind Dickey). But the fact that Dickey has similar numbers, but a better record, on a much worse team and he primarily throws a knuckleball is enough for me to crown him. It’s not an award based on a cute story, it’s based on him being the best pitcher in the league for 2012.
Congrats to R.A. Dickey and Justin Verlander on winning the 3U3D Cy Young Awards!
Who makes your Cy Young ballot? Let us know in the comments! Love our personal ballots? Hate our personal ballots? Hit us up on Twitter, we want to hear from you! And tell us here who you think should be the Cy Young winner for each league:
The NL MVP race is possibly the most wide-open of all the awards with three or four players that have a case to be tops in the National League. Here’s how we filled out our ballots at 3U3D:
Here are our thoughts on NL MVP:
Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman): Numbers four through 10 don’t really matter all that much; this is a three-horse race. Even though the Pirates and Brewers both fell short in their postseason quests, you can’t discount the seasons each team’s star player had. But to out-gallop Posey, who has been the catalyst behind the Giants’ runaway division title, is much too difficult. That being said, I like Posey to take this award, as his team ran away with the NL West, and the rest of the field barely snuck into the playoffs or missed altogether. If the Brewers had made the postseason, Braun would have won. If the Pirates had even managed a slightly better August and September, I’d give it to McCutchen. But as it stands now, there is no more important player to one single team than Posey.
Angelo Fileccia (@GODF_TH_R): Buster Posey had the best 2nd half of any player in the majors and led the Giants to an NL West championship. Buster’s post-all-star numbers (.389/.462/.644) propelled him to an NL batting title (.336). Posey becomes the 2nd catcher in 70 years to win a batting title (Joe Mauer) and the first NL catcher in 100 years to win the on-base percentage stat.
Brian Boynton (@GingaBeard_Man): Ryan Braun proved this season that he may actually have been telling the truth about his alleged steroid use. His power numbers are better this year: Home Runs 41 to 33, RBI 112 to 111, and he did this without Prince Fielder being in the lineup. Buster Posey has been a stable force behind the plate and at it. He lead his pitching staff to the fifth best ERA in the NL. He played in 147 games hitting .337 with 24 home runs. McCutchen was almost able to lead the Pirates to their first winning season in 20 years. He set career highs in batting average (.327), Home Runs (31), and RBI (96). Was there a bigger surprise this season other than R.A. Dickey? The knuckleballer beasted up this season finishing with 20 wins for the New York Mets while having a 2.73 ERA. He set career highs in almost every statistical category. Not bad for a 37 year old.
Kurt Peter (@FalconKP): Looking at the NL MVP selection, people may still be hung up on this summer’s PED scandal, but Ryan Braun has been tearing the cover off of the ball. He leads the league in HRs, total bases, slugging, and OPS. He is in the Top 5 in runs, hits, OBP, and average, while being 9th in steals. Only he and Mike Trout have a 30/30 season and has only the 11th 40/30 season in Major League history. It’s no question: Ryan Braun is the NL MVP.
Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes): Andrew McCutchen was atop my rankings for the previous three months and I thought that if he got the Pirates to the playoffs he was a lock. If the Pirates finished above .500, he was going to have a good chance. Instead, the Pirates fell below the .500 mark again and I seriously debated dropping him to 4th, but his overall offensive numbers (1st in offensive WAR) saved him. This opened the door for Buster Posey and Ryan Braun to have a tight 1-2 battle for me. Braun’s raw numbers are better and is the better power-speed combo, but Posey led the NL in OPS+ which takes into account park factor and opponent that was the difference to me. I was surprised to see Braves Michael Bourn and Craig Kimbrel only on my ballot as Bourn provided a spark atop the Atlanta lineup and Kimbrel had arguably the most dominant season by a closer striking out more than half the batters he faced. I wish I had room for Chipper Jones, Jason Heyward, and Martin Prado. Prado did anything and everything for the Braves this year. I’m also sad that I had no room for one of my favorites Giancarlo Stanton, if he was healthy the whole season, things might have been different for Miami.
Congrats to Giants Buster Posey on winning the 3U3D NL MVP!
Who’s on your NL MVP ballot? Let us know in the comments or if you want to debate our ballot, hit us up on Twitter!
Yesterday, I gave you my projected A.L. All-Star roster that can be found down below this post. Today with the final voting update being released for the National League, let’s see if I can figure out what the N.L. roster will look like. I’m really glad that Tony LaRussa retired and has a ton of time on his hands to figure out the roster, because this thing is pretty tough. Especially trying to put a Padres representative on the team.
Starter: Buster Posey, Giants
Reserves: Yadier Molina, Cardinals and Carlos Ruiz, Phillies
This will be a close battle all the way to the end as Molina may still end up starting the game. Posey could be in danger of not making the game if not named the starter as Molina and Ruiz are the two clear-cut top catchers this season. LaRussa could decide that two catchers are enough and go with an extra back-up somewhere else.
Starter: Joey Votto, Reds
Reserve: Martin Prado, Braves
This is where I had to get creative. No offensive position has gone without a backup since Derrek Lee in 2005 for the N.L. In that game, Morgan Ensberg who was designated as a 3B moved over to replace Lee in the game. In 2002, Alfonso Soriano was the only 2B for the American League and Omar Vizquel switched over from SS to play 2B. There is precedent to not have a backup 1B and I don’t think there should be. The only one I can make a case for is the Diamondbacks Paul Goldschmidt, but it would be bad if he becomes Arizona’s lone representative over a deserving Wade Miley. Prado is a versatile player that plays outfield, third base, and first base for the Braves. He’s a deserving All-Star, but N.L. outfield is so deep (we’ll get to that soon) that this is a way to get Prado on the team. I’m still figuring out why there are 873,526 wasted votes on Ryan Howard who hasn’t played this season.
Starter: Dan Uggla, Braves
Reserve: Jose Altuve, Astros
Uggla has fallen off hitting just .179 in the month of June, but Braves fans have continued to vote for him. He has a healthy lead on Brandon Phillips going into the final stage of voting. Altuve has been a find for the Astros hitting over .300 and being 5th in the league in hits. Phillips gets bumped to the Final Vote as the only infielder represented.
Starter: Rafael Furcal, Cardinals
Reserve: Starlin Castro, Cubs
The injury woes of Troy Tulowitzki will allow Furcal to make his 3rd All-Star team in 13 seasons and it’s deserved. Furcal looked done after last season, but has bounced back to hit .287 and be solid atop the Cardinals lineup. Castro is the Cubs lone representative for the 2nd straight year. Pretty impressive for a 22 year-old.
Starter: David Wright, Mets
Reserves: Chipper Jones, Braves and David Freese, Cardinals
I’ve made it clear previously that I think that Chipper Jones should be starting the All-Star Game in his final season. Here’s my solution. The National League will need a designated hitter, so who better than Chipper Jones? He could have his moment like Cal Ripken did in 2001 and David Wright still gets to start at 3B like he deserves. I’m sure Chipper’s knees would also appreciate not having to play the field. Freese has been solid for the Cardinals as he’s top 10 in the league in HR’s and RBI. I’m sure LaRussa will bring him along after his postseason heroics in 2011.
Starters: Matt Kemp, Dodgers, Carlos Beltran, Cardinals, and Ryan Braun, Brewers
Reserves: Melky Cabrera, Giants, Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies, Andrew McCutchen, Pirates, Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins and Andre Ethier, Dodgers
This is by far the deepest position in all of the Majors. Not making the team includes Michael Bourn, Matt Holliday and Hunter Pence who have all been fantastic. Mike Trout was able to make my A.L. squad, but the deepness at the position here blocks Bryce Harper from making the initial squad at 19 years old. There is still a tight battle for the final starting spot between Braun and Cabrera, but both will make the team. Gonzalez and Stanton are being snubbed by voters, but will be the solo representatives for the Rockies and Marlins respectively. Ethier sneaks in the final outfield spot as he’s helped keep the Dodgers afloat in Matt Kemp’s absence. Kemp’s injury will hopefully open up an extra spot for Bourn, Holliday, or Pence.
Starter: R.A. Dickey, Mets
Reserves: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals, Matt Cain, Giants, Gio Gonzalez, Nationals, Wade Miley, Diamondbacks, Johnny Cueto, Reds, James McDonald, Pirates, Lance Lynn, Cardinals, Chris Capuano, Dodgers, and Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
The battle to be the starting pitcher couldn’t be any closer between Dickey, Strasburg, and Cain. I just think that Dickey is such a wonderful story that it would be amazing to have him start the game, so I gave him the edge. My American League roster had eight starters, but there are so many options in the N.L. that I upped it to ten. Even that wasn’t enough as Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke get snubbed. I believe that LaRussa will err on the side of the Cardinals and take Lance Lynn for the last pitching spot. Wade Miley is rightfully Arizona’s only representative.
Reserves: Craig Kimbrel, Braves, Aroldis Chapman, Reds, and Huston Street, Padres
Kimbrel has been lights out all season. Chapman had been perfect up until recently, but they are the two fireballers that the senior circuit needs to close out the game. Street goes to the game because I couldn’t figure out another way to get a Padre on the roster. I couldn’t have Carlos Quentin take a spot from one of the outfielders, Chase Headley over David Freese, or have Yonder Alonso be the back-up 1B. Street missed time with an injury, but has a 1.50 ERA and 0.78 ERA when healthy this season.
Michael Bourn, Braves, Cole Hamels, Phillies, Brandon Phillips, Reds, Matt Holliday, Cardinals, and Bryce Harper, Nationals
When I originally wrote out my roster Harper making the Final Vote didn’t even cross my mind. Then I had an epiphany, there is no way MLB doesn’t put Harper in, just to stir up some excitement for it. There are great voting fan bases represented in this final vote and I sadly couldn’t put in Zack Greinke. Greinke and Hamels will hopefully make the team on the “pitcher pitching Sunday” rule. Bourn has been wonderful leading off the Braves lineup and is among the league leaders in WAR. Brandon Phillips might make the All-Star game as a starter still, but him being in the Final Vote let’s him use his social media skills to the fullest.
Dodgers and Braves-4
Giants and Reds-3
Mets, Nationals, and Pirates-2
Diamondbacks, Padres, Rockies, Cubs, Brewers, Astros, Phillies, and Marlins-1
Unlike the American League, I feel like there are a ton of snubs on my National League team. Joel Hanrahan, Tyler Clippard, Kenley Jansen, Zack Greinke, Hunter Pence, Ryan Vogelsong, and Jed Lowrie just to name a few. Who would make your National League roster? Let me know in the comments!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)