Tagged: Ryan Vogelsong

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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Rate that Roster! USA World Baseball Classic Edition

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.

Catcher

WBC catchers

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+

First Base

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-

Second Base

WBC 2B

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+

Shortstop

WBC SS

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

Third Base

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-

Outfield

WBC OF

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

Starting Pitching

WBC SP

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-

Left-Handed Relievers

WBC LHP

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+

Right-Handed Relievers

WBC RHP

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)

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**

Brazil hat wbc

#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.”  

china wbc cap

#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).

italy wbc cap

#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.

mexico 2013 wbc cap

#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.

cuba wbc cap

#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)

2012 Dark Horse Award Candidates: MVP, Cy, ROY, MOY

We’re rounding third and heading for the home stretch of the 2012 baseball season as August fades into September and the elite players in MLB step up their game for a late playoff push.

It’s been a season for the ages, what with three perfect games (so far), five no-hitters, Mike Trout, a four-homer game, two cycles in one week, Mike Trout, crazy trades, Chipper’s farewell, and of course, Mike Trout.

But the ultimate pinnacle of 2012 will occur around Halloween hangover time, when an official World Series champion will be crowned. Shortly thereafter, we find out who a bunch of writers think were the best hitters, pitchers, rookies and managers in baseball this season.

And we all know who the big candidates are: Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, Justin Verlander, Buck Showalter, Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Davey Johnson, Stephen Strasburg, Mike Trout and Mike Trout.

Did I mention Mike Trout might win every award ever created for 2012?

Here’s how I expect it to go when the final tally comes across:

American League: Trout (MVP/Rookie of the Year), Felix Hernandez (Cy Young), Showalter (Manager of the Year)

National League: McCutchen (MVP), Wade Miley (Rookie of the Year), R.A. Dickey (Cy Young), Johnson (Manager of the Year)

Womp, womp. That’s fun. But how about the dark horse candidates in each league for each of these awards? The guys like “Brendan Conlon” (Joel Edgerton) from the movie Warrior (Side bar: if you haven’t seen it, go. Leave this blog immediately and Red Box that sh*taki right now.), who are up against all odds and turn in an incredible performance to take home the hardware? Someone you would never expect to have a chance?

Here is my list of three dark horse candidates for each major award in each league for the 2012 MLB season:

A.L. MVP

Leading candidates: Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Josh Hamilton, Prince Fielder, Robinson Cano, Paul Konerko

Adam Jones, OF, Orioles: Arguably the best story in all of baseball this season has been the resurgence of the Orioles. The catalyst in the offense is All-Star center fielder Jones. His slash line in 2012: .290/24/65/12 SB

Josh Willingham, OF, Twins: Normally I shy away from great players on losing teams (sorry, Edwin Encarnacion), but I can’t ignore what Willingham has brought to the Twins. This season: .258/31/91/.900 OPS

A.J. Pierzynski, C, White Sox: An unlikely first place team led by an unlikely season from their catcher. Sure, Paul Konerko is pitching in, but look at the damage A.J. has inflicted on opposing pitchers: .293/23/70/.877 OPS

A.L. Cy Young:

Leading candidates: Verlander, Hernandez, Jered Weaver, Chris Sale, David Price

Jake Peavy, White Sox: He is only 9-9, but records really are out of a pitcher’s control. His peripherals are really good. And did I mention the White Sox are potentially playoff bound? Peavy’s numbers: 9-9/3.09/155/1.08

Matt Harrison, Rangers: Shame on you for not recognizing Harrison’s dominance. On one of the best teams in baseball, he’s been their most consistent starter, low strikeout numbers be damned: 15-7/3.04/101/1.22

Hiroki Kuroda, Yankees: A big free agent signing for the Yankees has been fantastic this season in maintaining some sense of sanity in the messed up world that is the Bombers’ rotation: 12-9/2.98/131/1.10

A.L. Rookie of the Year:

Leading candidates: Trout, Yu Darvish, Brett Lawrie, Will Middlebrooks, Yoenis Cespedes, Jesus Montero

Quintin Berry, OF, Tigers: Berry came up as an injury replacement and forced his way into the everyday lineup. Average, speed, a little pop and great defense? What more could you ask for? His line: .272/2/24/17 SB (in 17 tries)

Kyle Seager, 3B, Mariners: Mark my words – the Mariners are really heading in the right direction. One of the offensive cornerstones they will build around is this guy. Could be a big power hitter soon: .252/15/73/.725 OPS

Tommy Milone, SP, Athletics: Untouchable at home, but has had his share of growing pains. That being said, Milone looks like he has the potential to develop into a very special starter: 10-9/3.87/112/1.19

A.L. Manager of the Year:

Leading candidates: Showalter, Robin Ventura, Ron Washington, Joe Girardi, Jim Leyland

Bob Melvin, Athletics: Maybe he should have been considered a “leading candidate.” But he manages an Oakland ball club that has to have a movie made about them to get national attention. His team is 69-57. I honestly expected 100 losses.

Joe Maddon, Rays: A contender every year it seems, Maddon might not get a ton of recognition this year because people are used to him being a great manager. But the Rays are leading the Wild Card despite losing Evan Longoria to injury for most of the season.

Eric Wedge, Mariners: Again, props where props are due, people! Wedge has turned this exceptionally young, raw M’s team into a force to be reckoned with. With such a baby-faced team, they are only 5 games under .500, 8.5 back in the Wild Card.

N.L. MVP:

Leading candidates: McCutchen, Buster Posey, Carlos Gonzalez, Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Ryan Braun, David Wright, Carlos Ruiz

Angel Pagan, OF, Giants: The Braves finally figured out how to tame the wild beast that was Angel Pagan yesterday, but before that he was hitting over .500 in his previous week’s worth of games. With Melky Cabrera suspended, Pagan could steal a potential MVP award from his teammate Posey if the Giants make the playoffs: .292/7/48/21 SB

Jason Heyward, OF, Braves: Speaking of the Braves, how about the ridiculous season Heyward is having? I guess the sophomore slump is real, because J-Hey is back going Yicketty and Mammo all day in a solid third season: .278/23/68/18 (please don’t remind me he’s 7 months younger than me…it hurts)

Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals: Teammates Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday are stealing the thunder in St. Louis these days, but I bet if you polled the clubhouse, Yadi would be the team MVP. If the Cards make another miracle run to the playoffs, this award could be his: .326/17/61/11 SB/.892 OPS (and we know about the defense)

N.L. Cy Young:

Leading candidates: Dickey, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw, A.J. Burnett, Johnny Cueto, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Cole Hamels, Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel

Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals: I’m a little bit offended that Zim’s fantastic season is going under the radar. Sure he’s overshadowed by two of his own teammates, but check this line: 9-7/2.48/119/1.11

Ryan Vogelsong, Giants: Speaking of being overshadowed by two of his teammates, Vogelsong is quietly having a career year. His peripheral stats are off the charts in 2012: 11-7/2.90/122/1.19

Kyle Lohse, Cardinals: Speaking of being over…wait. You mean to tell me KYLE LOHSE has been the best pitcher for the Cardinals this year? Undoubtedly, this has been the most anonymous Cy campaign of 2012: 13-2/2.61/104/1.08

N.L. Rookie of the Year:

Leading candidates: Miley, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rizzo, Zack Cozart, Yonder Alonso, Todd Frazier, Wilin Rosario

Mike Fiers, SP, Brewers: KP can attest to how incredibly good Fiers has been this year. When he shut down the Dodgers earlier this season I thought it was a fluke. His numbers in 2012 would beg to differ: 7-6/2.98/96/1.13

Norichika Aoki, OF, Brewers: Okay, maybe now I’m just sucking up to KP. Just kidding – there was no way to avoid putting Aoki on here with the type of spark he’s been for Milwaukee: .279/6/30/19 SB

Steve Lombardozzi, OF, Nationals: I went back and forth here between Lombardozzi, who has been just as good, if not better than his teammate Harper, and Colorado infielder Jordan Pacheco. Lombo gets the nod: .281/2/23/hitting leadoff for a 1st-place team

N.L. Manager of the Year:

Leading candidates: Johnson, Clint Hurdle, Don Mattingly, Dusty Baker, Fredi Gonzalez, Bruce Bochy 

Bud Black, Padres: “What! The Padres suck this year!” Au contraire, monsieur (for you who are Frenchly challenged, I believe that translates to YOU ARE WRONG, DUMMY)! How about 28-20 since the All-Star Break with a roster of nobodies?

Mike Matheny, Cardinals: Another guy not getting much credit for keeping his team in an extremely tough race is Matheny. He’s in his first year managing, has dealt with a plethora of injuries and the loss of Pujols. Still, the Cards are in line to win a Wild Card berth.

Terry Collins, Mets: I know the Mets are out of it, but is it still not an admirable job that Collins has done in the Big Apple? Besides David Wright and R.A. Dickey, the man has nothing to work with, yet the Mets were still a contender into mid-July.

*All statistics current as of start of play on Sunday, August 26th, 2012*

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– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)