We’re back! And what better way to break back on to the scene than with a joyous barrage of 500-foot home runs? In case you missed our first Home Run Derby Draft last year, check out the teams here. We see a couple familiar names in there, including A.L. captain Robinson Cano. But how will the results turn out in 2013?
Just like last season, this is all based on points. Whoever hits the most home runs accumulates the most points for his team, and determines the winner of this Mapes vs. Jeremy challenge. The draftees are Cano, Yoenis Cespedes, Prince Fielder, and Chris Davis on the A.L. side. The senior circuit rolls with captain David Wright, Michael Cuddyer, Bryce Harper, and Pedro Alvarez (who recently replaced Carlos Gonzalez).
The scoring system is simple. For each home run by a player on our team, we get points. In the first round, it’s one point per home run. In the second round it’s two points, and the third round is three. The bonus for drafting the winning slugger is five points, and could make or break this battle.
So check out our draft, and vote in the polls below. Who is going to win the 2013 Home Run Derby, and which of our teams will be crowned 3U3D champions?
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
The 2013 MLB All-Star Game is 83 days away, but never fear you can start voting for your favorite players today here. You get 25 votes that gets bumped up to 35 if you log in with your MLB.com account. Of course there are still paper ballots that can be found at every stadium and the MLB Fan Cave for you to fill out. While I don’t fill out mine until I get a better grasp of who deserves it (like that ends up mattering) here’s what my ballot would look like on April 24th.
American League: Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles Davis is off to a hot start for Baltimore. He’s hitting .382 with an AL-leading 7 home runs coming into the games on the 24th. Mike Napoli and Prince Fielder have cases and Napoli would be my pick if he was on the ballot at catcher, not first base. (Runner-up: Prince Fielder, Tigers)
National League: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds The power numbers aren’t there, but Votto-matic is automatic at getting on base leading the league with 26 walks so far and a crazy .485 OBP. The next highest walk total is 16 by David Wright. (Runner-up Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers)
American League: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees I can make a case that Robinson Cano is the MVP of the American League right now. Then you can make the case that it’s April 24th and that’s stupid. (Runner-up Ian Kinsler, Rangers)
National League: Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds It must be nice for Phillips to just get to drive in OBP-machines Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo getting on base ahead of him all the time. He leads NL second baseman in RBI and is tied for the lead in home runs. Plus, he’s the best defender at the position in the league. (Runner-up Daniel Murphy, Mets)
American League: Jed Lowrie, Oakland Athletics Lowrie has been quite a coup for Billy Beane’s boys. Lowrie leads AL shortstops in runs, RBI, and batting average. (Runner-up: Jose Reyes, Blue Jays, I’m not joking either)
National League: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies Why have the Rockies been surprising in 2013? A healthy and hitting Troy Tulowitzki is a big part of it. He leads NL shortstops in home runs, RBI, and runs, while hitting .292. (Runner-up: Jean Segura, Milwaukee Brewers)
American League: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers The defending AL MVP is off to a quiet start, but is still among the league leaders in hits and is best among AL third sackers in batting average. (Runner-up: Evan Longoria, Rays)
National League: David Wright, New York Mets I really wanted to have NL batting leader Chris Johnson here, but Wright has had the overall better start to the season, especially on the basepaths. There’s a lot of depth here right now with Todd Frazier, Pablo Sandoval, and Martin Prado off to solid starts. (Runner-up: Chris Johnson)
American League: J.P. Arencibia, Toronto Blue Jays Napoli not being on the ballot at catcher is Arencibia’s gain for now. He leads the American League in home runs with eight after another one on Wednesday. He’s my least likely from here to be on my actual ballot in a couple months. (Runner-up: Carlos Santana, Indians)
National League: John Buck, New York Mets Let’s just sum up Buck’s start with this meme. (Runner-up: Evan Gattis, Braves, wait he’s not on the ballot?!?)
American League: Coco Crisp, Oakland Athletics, Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox, and Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles These three have been the best all-around outfielders in the American League this season. It’s not my fault that they’re all center fielders. (Runners-up: Austin Jackson, Tigers and Alex Rios, White Sox)
National League: Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves, Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies, and Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals There is a ton of depth at National League outfield right now. You could take the next four on my list and make a case they deserve it on to the squad. Justin Upton has been hands-down the best hitter in the game so far this season, it’s ridiculous that he’s still on pace for 90+ home runs. (Runners-up: Shin-Soo Choo, Reds, Dexter Fowler, Rockies, Ryan Braun, Brewers, and Andrew McCutchen, Pirates)
American League: Mark Reynolds, Cleveland Indians Reynolds has been a great find for Cleveland with seven home runs and 18 RBI, both are top ten in MLB right now. (Runner-up: Travis Hafner, New York Yankees)
Who would you have on your All-Star ballot on release day? Let us know in the comments!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
According to MLBTradeRumors.com, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News has information that the New York Mets’ front office may be looking seriously at trying to swing a trade for either Miami Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton or Carlos Gonzalez of the Colorado Rockies.
We don’t need to tell you that the Mets’ outfield is a mess (the two highest-paid outfielders on the team aren’t actually on the team), or what kind of impact either one of those bats would have on a young lineup struggling to keep pace with the monster of the NL East. But, that’s what we’re here for. So…
…it’s this writer’s opinion that trading for Stanton is the best hypothetical move for the Mets. I prefer Gonzalez as an all-around player, but he’s more expensive to maintain in the long run than the 23-year-old Stanton would be and allows them a lot less financial flexibility to bring in free agent replacements for the pitching staff.
Though the Mets front office has indicated they are willing to increase the payroll (contrary to popular belief, it is not so they can pay Bobby Bonilla even more interest), the 27-year-old Gonzalez would bring over a contract that owes him nearly $65 million over four years, whereas Stanton will be under team control through 2016.
But as Mets’ superfan and MLBFanCave Dweller Travis Miller (@AtTravisMiller) mentions: “I’d go with CarGo. Even though he’s a few years older, he’s a proven .300 hitter who can swipe bags, and is gold glove-caliber in the outfield. A 500-foot bomb is pretty to look at from time to time, but I’ll go with the five-tool player every single time.”
It’s a tough choice, knowing that either trade would likely cost the Mets their top two prospects in Zack Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud, as well as a hefty financial investment. But the opportunity to improve the heart of the order and complement David Wright may be too good to pass up.
Stanton brings massive home run potential and has been improving his batting average every year in the big leagues (career high .290 in 2012), but Gonzalez has won a batting title and two Gold Gloves, and sports an average slash line of .299/28/97 with about 25 steals.
Would CarGo struggle away from the thin air of Coors Field? Would Stanton continue to blossom into a premier all-around hitter? Nobody knows for sure, but it seems the Mets may be willing to pay in order to find out.
Vote in our poll below–who would be the better hypothetical pick up for the Mets? And comment with who YOU would prefer if your team was in the same situation.
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
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!
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)
It’s that time of year again. That time when you realize your resolution to lose 30 pounds failed – in fact, we gained 30, didn’t we? When your declaration that your vampire novel would finally be finished and sent to the publisher, never got off the shelf.
Or that your dream of visiting Tahiti ended up being a shady motel for a weekend in Oakland on business.
Now that we’ve set a bleak mood, here’s the point: It’s New Years resolution time. We will all be making them, whether it’s private or public. And likewise, our favorite MLB teams must have one resolution they are aiming to accomplish in 2013.
Since we survived the apocalypse for now, here are Three Up, Three Down’s resolutions for every MLB team:
Texas Rangers – Make a new friend – The Rangers either shopped in the wrong place or got screwed over for every player on their Christmas wish list. It’s not too late to snag Justin Upton from the D’Backs, though it gets less likely with each passing day. Texas should be going after the powerful right fielder hard in January.
Los Angeles Angels – Make a little money – Hear me out. Everyone knows that Arte Moreno and his Angels are filthy rich, but do they really have enough left over to re-work the decimated starting rotation? Trading for Jason Vargas was a nice touch, but will Vargas, Joe Blanton and Tommy Hanson really replace Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana?
Oakland A’s – Move to a better ‘hood – Lew Wolff is fooling nobody. Because everyone and their mother knows that o.Co Coliseum is not a viable venue for a professional baseball team. Wolff claims he wants at least another half-decade in Oakland, but I’m calling his bluff. Their resolution should be to get OUT, and fast.
Seattle Mariners – Bulk up – No, not on the Bartolo Colon diet. The M’s took a good first step toward that workout regimen by trading for Kendrys Morales. But just because that punch-less offense now benches the bar doesn’t mean opponents will quiver with fear. The M’s need to go out and get some more power to legitimize those playoff hopes.
Houston Astros – Graduate – It’s no secret that the ‘Stros are a big work in progress. Moving to what was last year’s best division in baseball isn’t going to help things. While the other four teams in the division are – at the very least – grown men, Houston is struggling to graduate from a student to a serious businessman. Can they take that step in 2013?
Detroit Tigers – Learn to close – Take this as you may. There are thousands of frat boys in America resolving to improve in the same fashion next year. But I meant it as a nod to the Tigers getting handled in a sweep in the World Series in 2012. Adding Torii Hunter and bringing back Anibal Sanchez were big steps, but 2013 will be a failure without redemption.
Kansas City Royals – Become a “cool kid” – Oh, don’t pretend like you weren’t aspiring to be one your whole academic life. The Royals got some nice clothes and a haircut over the winter vacation, and are looking to butt their way into the “in” crowd. In baseball speak, that means they are aiming to be the new playoff darlings after adding much-needed pitching.
Cleveland Indians – Get along with Dad – The relationship wasn’t that bad before, but the Indians sure would like to impress new skipper Terry Francona in 2013. Cleveland is loaded with untapped potential, and they are hoping to play well for a full season to show their manager and fans that they are serious about this job.
Chicago White Sox – Prove everyone wrong – Wait, didn’t they do that last year? Sure, but people like me are still unconvinced. Their numbers were unexpectedly good, but that just makes the boss curious. Can they repeat? Do they actually deserve the promotion? The Chisox sure would like to move on up, but they will have a tough road.
Minnesota Twins – Get back on their feet – Plenty of people have to resolve to do this every year. Whether it be an economic downturn, family problem, or injury, some years are just destined to be awful. The Twins know they won’t contend in 2013, but they can start the grueling process of getting back to a stable place.
New York Yankees – Forgiveness – They better learn how, because former public enemy number one, Kevin Youkilis, will be manning third base for the Yanks in 2013. What this really means, is that if Youk bounces back and has a good year, the Yanks will forget all about their problems, and likely return to the postseason.
Boston Red Sox – Get cleaned up – This kind of resolution is usually reserved for a junkie of some kind, but it’ll fit nicely with the BoSox here. Boston got so far off track last season that they traded away millions of dollars in bad contracts for below-average prospects. Once they finish cutting out the rot, the Sox might contend again, even in this division.
Toronto Blue Jays – Build an empire – Such a wish is much more foreboding when applied to business in the real world, but opponents of the Jays should really be terrified of the changes this team has made. Their one and only goal with so many major acquisitions must be to not only make the playoffs, but to dominate everyone on the way.
Tampa Bay Rays – Try something crazy – I want to go skydiving, or hike a volcano, or start a band. The Rays, however, should do a whole different kind of crazy. Start Wil Myers in the big leagues, and see if it takes off. The kid is ready, and the lineup needs a boost. Anything remotely good from Myers may mean a playoff berth for Tampa.
Baltimore Orioles – Update the security system – In this day and age, you can’t be too careful with home security. I’m not talking a drawbridge and moat, but we’ve learned that the best teams are thriving because of good pitching staffs, to protect any other weaknesses they may have. Baltimore NEEDS a couple starting pitchers.
Los Angeles Dodgers – Give to charity – I swear, this isn’t even a “rich ownership” joke. Okay, it kind of is. But with all the money this team has shelled out over the past ten or so months, why isn’t their most deserving commodity seeing any of it? They keep talking about an extension for Clayton Kershaw, but show the fans you mean business!
San Francisco Giants – Share with friends – Not the World Series title itself, although this Dodgers fan would appreciate them passing that honor along next season. I’m talking about the Giants sharing with their San Francisco cohort, the 49ers. As the new year starts, the 49ers will be in contention for a title of their own, and any advice would be great.
Arizona Diamondbacks – Cut ties with a family member – Sometimes it’s just necessary. You hate to see anyone secede from the clan, but signing free agent outfielder Cody Ross makes it inevitable. Will it be Upton? Adam Eaton, Jason Kubel or Gerardo Parra? One will need to go, and it’s only a matter of time before they get dumped.
Colorado Rockies – Get health insurance – I know, I know. It’s not affordable in this country anymore. That’s one thing I won’t argue! But you have to think, given the regularity of major injuries to Colorado’s best players (Michael Cuddyer, Troy Tulowitzki, etc.) they would find any way to keep everyone off the DL.
San Diego Padres – Earn a promotion – Any opponents who take the Padres lightly in 2013 are foolish. With Chase Headley, Alexi Amarista and Yonder Alonso backing an underrated pitching staff, San Diego could be the A’s of 2013. They will have to fight and scrap their way to get there, though.
Cincinnati Reds – Follow through – This is a tough one for any given person to accomplish. We make all sorts of promises to ourselves that oftentimes go unfinished. The Reds have made a silent pact to be even better than they were last year, and finally achieve what they’ve been on the brink of for years now. They might be the team to beat in the NL next year.
St. Louis Cardinals – Rekindle the flame – In a non-romantic way, of course. One of the reasons the Cardinals were able to shock fans everywhere and make that insane title run in 2011 was the clutch gene. They weren’t missing it last year, but everything was just too inconsistent in St. Louis. If they rediscover their balance and passion, watch out everyone else.
Milwaukee Brewers – Be a good parent – Confused? Good. The Brewers almost clawed their way all the way back into a Wild Card slot in 2012 after a dismal, bullpen-failure-laden start to the year. With a loaded lineup and above average pitching staff, this should not happen again. So their resolution is to help tutor young shortstop Jean Segura into a star.
Pittsburgh Pirates – Improve their grades – The Pirates were so close to being eligible last year. Not for the playoffs, or any nonsense like that. But to finally getting over the hump. Pittsburgh needs a 2.0 to be eligible – in this case, they need 81 wins – to be taken seriously. Will they reach the .500 mark? A slight improvement in 2013 will do it!
Chicago Cubs – Change their image – There really is no changing an entire image built around loss and devastation, as Cubs fans have known all too well for over a century. But even a slight uptick in wins and a breakout season from one of their young stars (Brett Jackson, maybe?) will at least give people hope that they can change.
Washington Nationals – Make up – Adam LaRoche needs to be back in D.C. for 2013. All he wants is one extra year on a contract he has more than earned. Without a doubt, he was the most consistent hitter on the best team in the league in 2012, and should get paid as such. My New Years advice to the Nats is to make up with him. Sign the guy for three years.
Atlanta Braves – Learn acceptance – I remember being taught in psychology that the standard grieving process goes Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Braves fans and any good fan anywhere are surely coming out of the Depression stage right now (I know I am) and trying to transition into Acceptance at the fact that Chipper Jones has retired.
Philadelphia Phillies – Become more patient – This is easier said than done for anyone, but it’s especially pertinent in Philadelphia. From an outsider’s perspective, I thought Philadelphia was caving into a sinkhole given the fans general reaction to last season’s debacle. Patience, Phillie fanatics. Your team is still very, very good. They are close, too.
New York Mets – Have more fun – I presume life as a Mets fan hasn’t been very enjoyable for the past three seasons – well, at least after the All-Star break. But they re-signed poster boy David Wright and gained some really solid prospects in the R.A. Dickey trade. Everything is headed in the right direction, Mets fans. Just calm down and have a little fun with it.
Miami Marlins – Make amends with people – Strange, you say? Au contraire! The smaller fan base that follows the Marlins are no doubt let down by the shocking fire sale that took place this winter. No more executive-speak, front office. Give it to the fans, and your best remaining player Giancarlo Stanton, straight. What is the plan? Honesty will take you far.
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)