Tagged: Italy

World Baseball Classic Fantasy: Round Two, Pool Two

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!

Quick reminder:
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

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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!

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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.

Screen Shot 2013-03-11 at 4.44.12 PMPick #3- Team Mapes: Gio Gonzalez, SP (USA)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

Screen Shot 2013-03-11 at 12.34.30 PMPick #23 – Team Mapes: Alex Rios, OF (Puerto Rico)

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.

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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.

Screen Shot 2013-03-11 at 12.37.21 PMPick #25 – Team Mapes: Ross Detwiler, RP (USA)

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.

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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!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes) & Jeremy Dorn (@jamblinman)

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World Baseball Classic Fantasy Baseball!

The World Baseball Classic is in full swing!  Congrats go out already to Japan, Cuba, Chinese Taipei, and the Netherlands for advancing to round two!  Somewhere around 3:30 AM while admiring the wonder that is the word “honkbal” myself and Jeremy Dorn wondered why we didn’t have a fantasy game for the World Baseball Classic?  We’re going to rectify that now with another Mapes vs. Jeremy battle!

The Rules:

1) There is a draft for each remaining round.  That means the 2nd part of round one, each grouping of round two, and the championship round will each have a draft that you can find here!

2) Each fantasy team must have at least one player from every country and no more than two from any country.  The round two and the championship rounds the totals are upped to at least two from each country and no more than four from any country because there’s only four countries to choose from.

3) Most points at the end of the championship round wins!

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

Countries in 2nd half of Round One:

USA, Italy, Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Spain

Mapes won the toss and elected to pick 2nd/3rd, so Jeremy is up with the first pick!

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Pick #1 – Team Jeremy: Miguel Cabrera, 1B (Venezuela)

Do I really even need to explain this pick? Cabrera is fresh off of a Triple Crown, MVP season and is already feasting on pitchers this Spring. It doesn’t matter who is on the bump; Cabrera is going OFF in the World Baseball Classic.

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Pick #2 – Team Mapes: Ryan Braun, OF (USA)

I was going to go with a surprise pick at the top, but with you taking a first baseman at the top will let me wait a little.  I’ll start off with Ryan Braun who hits for average, has power, and can steal a base.  He should be good for quite a few points.

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Pick #3 – Team Mapes: Carlos Gonzalez, OF (Venezuela)

Might as well stock up on outfielders and there’s another player who should go in the top 10 of regular fantasy drafts this season.  Gonzalez will be a stud in a strong Venezuelan lineup.  He’ll rack up runs or RBI’s no matter where he is hitting.

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Pick #4 – Team Jeremy: Giancarlo Stanton, OF (USA)

I don’t know how breakable the scoreboards are in Arizona, but Stanton will take his shots. This kid is still incredibly raw, but opposing pitchers are going to find out just why MLB teams dread the inning that he steps into the box.

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Pick #5 – Team Mapes: Jose Reyes, SS (Dominican Republic)

I watched the Dominican Republic’s drubbing of the Phillies in an exhibition and was so impressed with Reyes that I wanted to make sure I got him.  He’s the best shortstop in this portion of the tournament.  I expect plenty of chances for points atop the Dominican lineup.

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Pick #6 – Team Jeremy: R.A. Dickey, SP (USA)

It should be a tough match-up for Dickey against Team Mexico, but I’m banking on ten points for a win from the reigning N.L. Cy Young winner. Did you see Stephen Fife of all people shut down Mexico’s offense? Yikes. Good luck with the knuckler, guys.

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Pick #7 – Team Mapes: Brett Lawrie, 3B (Canada)

Thanks for grabbing your 2nd American early!  Now I know I can wait until the end of the draft and still get the player I was targeting.  Here I’ll lock up my Canadian spot with Brett Lawrie.  I know Joey Votto is better, but I still have a plan for that 1B spot, which means I’ll grab the 2nd best offensive player from the Great White North.

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Pick #8 – Team Jeremy: Carlos Beltran, OF (Puerto Rico)

When has Beltran ever NOT come through in a big spot? (Cue Mets fans everywhere grumbling about 2006 NLCS…) Beltran is one of the most decorated postseason hitters ever, and he will have no problem handling the best of international competition, either.

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Pick #9 –  Team Mapes: Yadier Molina, C (Puerto Rico)

Every time we do these battles you always end up with Yadier Molina.  NOT THIS TIME.  Molina might be the best offensive weapon on Puerto Rico and knowing you can’t take Joe Mauer at catcher, so this will put you in a nice little bind!

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Pick #10 – Team Jeremy: Pablo Sandoval, 3B (Venezuela)

I hate taking Giants players, but who am I to pretend that Sandoval isn’t one of the most rapidly improving hitters in the game right now? He dominated the Winter Leagues and will put up some big points for my team over the next couple weeks.

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Pick #11 – Team Mapes: Anthony Rizzo, 1B (Italy)

Here’s the player that I almost took first!  The drop from Rizzo to the 2nd best player on Italy is such a big drop that I wanted to make sure I grabbed the Cubs future superstar and stick you with the Alex Liddi’s or Nick Punto’s of the WBC.

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Pick #12 – Team Jeremy: Carlos Santana, C (Dominican Republic)

Silly Mapes. You thought I’d be “in a bind” with my catcher pick? How about I just snatch up a powerful, switch-hitting, on-base percentage machine in a stacked lineup? That’s the sound of points ringing up in my register, buddy! Cha-ching!

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Pick #13 – Team Mapes: Robinson Cano, 2B (Dominican Republic)

Sometimes in draft plans change!  I was going to try to grab Spain’s 2B Paco Figueroa for this spot and then take the best player available for my utility, but I realized that best player might be Robinson Cano anyway!  I love locking up the D.R.’s double play combo, hopefully Cano knocks in Reyes a ton.

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Pick #14 – Team Jeremy: Angel Pagan, OF (Puerto Rico)

I KNOW. Really? Two Giants players on my squad? As much as I hate to admit it, Pagan is in his prime and will only get better in 2013. Hitting atop a good lineup for Puerto Rico will give Pagan plenty of stolen base and run-scoring opportunities.

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Pick #15 – Team Mapes: Sergio Romo, RP (Mexico)

Neither of us have grabbed a reliever yet and I needed a player from Mexico, so I’m grabbing the guy with the nastiest slider in the game.  There’s potential for him to get saves points for me against Italy and Canada.  Plus, I know you can’t counter with the closer for USA or Venezuela.

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 12.33.55 PMPick #16 – Team Jeremy: Yovani Gallardo, SP (Mexico)

I’m hoping that Gallardo gets the nod on the mound against Italy in Mexico’s first game — otherwise, I’m pitting my two starting pitchers against one another. Either way, I’m going to get a good chunk of points from the righty hurler.

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 12.35.11 PMPick #17 – Team Mapes: Barbaro Canizares, 1B/Utility (Spain)

I need a Spain guy.  I’m going to go with the one that is regarded as the best hitter on the team and even had a cup of coffee with my favorite team, the Atlanta Braves.

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 12.36.20 PMPick #18 – Team Jeremy: Nick Punto, 2B (Italy)

This has absolutely nothing to do with Punto being a member of my favorite team, the Dodgers. None whatsoever. Zero…correlation…OKAY FINE. But I needed an Italian representative and all the good second basemen are gone, so why not?

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Pick #19 – Team Mapes: John Axford, RP (Canada)

I wish I could take Fernando Rodney, but I’ve already met my maximum of Dominican players.  There’s a limited amount of closers on teams that could get wins left, so I’m going to snag John Axford and hope he closes a win against Italy.

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 12.44.12 PMPick #20 – Team Jeremy: Fernando Rodney, RP (Dominican Republic)

I was very worried I had run out of options for relievers at this point, but after scanning the rosters one more time, it was like Christmas morning seeing the American League’s best closer from 2012 still available. I’ll be sure to see a few arrow poses in the WBC.

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 12.45.52 PMPick #21 – Team Mapes: Ryan Vogelsong, SP (USA)

The American I was able to wait on!  There’s one reason I’m going with Vogelsong over the other Americans, he gets to pitch against Italy.  He’s economical with his pitches and should get through enough of the game to get a win vs. the Italians on Saturday.

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 12.47.15 PMPick #22 – Team Jeremy: Jason Grilli, RP (Italy)

Strikeouts for days! I’ve got to assume that Grilli will be Team Italy’s closer, given that he’s the best reliever on the roster.  If Italy is in a save situation, it will be a mini miracle, but Grilli is still going to rack up some K’s for me and steal some points.

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 12.49.52 PMPick #23 – Team Mapes: Martin Prado, OF (Venezuela)

While you grabbed to Venezuelans early, I was able to wait and get one of my favorite players in the league to complete my outfield.  Prado’s going to want to play so I know he’ll get at-bats, which hopefully will result in points.  I’ll take my outfield of Braun, CarGo, and Prado over yours any day.

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 12.50.58 PMPick #24 – Team Jeremy: Yunesky Sanchez, SS (Spain)

This is my Spain representative, and I think it’s a big-time steal! Sanchez is mostly unknown, but he did push the team into the WBC against Israel in qualifiers with a huge, three-RBI game. He’s got some pop in that bat!

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 12.54.33 PMPick #25 – Team Mapes: Giancarlo Alvarado, SP (Puerto Rico)

I had to go with a starter from Puerto Rico, Spain, Italy, or Mexico for my last pick.  Since I’m not entirely sure who is going to pitch against Spain for Mexico, I’m going to take my chances with Alvarado pitching in his team’s first game against Spain on Friday.

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 12.55.29 PMPick #26 – Team Jeremy: Joseph Daniel Votto, 1B/Utility (Canada)

This will be the first and last time in the history of fantasy drafts that Joey Votto goes with the final selection. Team Canada’s best player is going to be providing most of the offense on that team, and I will be the benefactor! By the way, Mapes. Don’t pretend you didn’t just pick that Spanish rep to have someone named “Giancarlo” on your team…

Our first World Baseball Classic is complete!  Feel free to use this as a guide for your own!  Players like David Wright, Adrian Gonzalez, Craig Kimbrel, and Edwin Encarnacion, we’re sorry.  It’s just fantasy business.  What picks would you have made?  Let us know in the comments!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes) & Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

Ranking the World Baseball Classic Rosters

World-Baseball-Classic-2013In 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**

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#16: BRAZIL

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.”  

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#15: CHINA

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.

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#14: SPAIN

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).

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#13: ITALY

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.

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#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**

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#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.

Australia-WBC-hat

#10: AUSTRALIA

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.

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#9: CANADA

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.

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#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**

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#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.

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#6: MEXICO

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.

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#5: CUBA

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.

**The Favorites**

japan wbc hat

#4: JAPAN

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.

dominican republic wbc hat

#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?

USA wbc hat

#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 USAHow they will win: Veteran experience, explosive pitching. Why they won’t: The bane of their existence, Team Japan, will come along eventually.

venezuela wbc cap

#1: VENEZUELA

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.

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– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)