It’s time for the San Francisco treat, the World Baseball Classic finals! We have two teams that everyone expected to be there in Japan and the Dominican Republic, plus two upstarts that have surprised everyone along the way in the Netherlands and Puerto Rico. The latter two knocking out two of the big favorites in the tournament in Cuba and the United States. Mapes is just excited he gets to yell HONKBAL for at least one more game!
It’s time though for the final WBC Fantasy draft on Three Up, Three down between Mapes and Jeremy. Jeremy dominated “Round Two Pool One” 161-121 after Mapes took the USA side “Pool C/D Round One” draft 124-121. Mapes came back to crush Jeremy in “Round Two Pool Two” 115-63 on the strong backs of Gio Gonzalez and Fernando Rodney and the bad back of “Captain America” David Wright for Jeremy. Mapes now leads the overall score 360-345.
For the final with only three games, we’re going to draft the same nine offensive positions, but only one SP and one RP each. Again, we must have at least two from each country and no more than four from any country. Jeremy had first pick last time, so Mapes starts us off for the finals!
Pick #1 – Team Mapes: Kenta Maeda, SP (Japan)
If I had just picked Maeda in the last draft with the Japanese teams, I’d be coasting to victory. Maeda is rested and ready to go, he gets to face a Puerto Rican team who just had to travel from Miami to San Francisco with no rest day. Maeda’s been the best pitcher in this tournament and is the clear #1 pick to get a win and advance to the finals.
I’m snagging the guy that killed me last round, and it’s not just for revenge. Out of the four teams left, I think Rodney is the closest thing to a guarantee to get me some save points, as he’s been automatic since…well, since Opening Day of the 2012 season. If the Dominican Republic somehow doesn’t advance, I’ll be shocked. But we’ve seen crazier things happen.
Not picking the best hitter in the tournament would just be plain silly. Cano is going to rip up the Netherlands’ pitching, and likely have a second game in the tournament to do more damage. I expect to see at least one ball clearing the outfield fence when he’s hitting at AT&T this week. Watch out, McCovey Cove!
You said Abe was the Japanese Buster Posey. The finals are in AT&T Park in San Francisco. I like that symmetry there and I’m not letting him have a multi-homer game on your team again. Yes, I know this lets you take your boy Yadier Molina later and stay in your girlfriend’s good graces.
I know this is the third straight time I’ve taken Beltran, and he hasn’t exactly produced. But the guy has given me no reason to doubt him over a clutch postseason career, and he’s still one of the most productive hitters in the history of the World Baseball Classic. Plus, he kind of likes hitting in AT&T Park (.328 there over the last three years).
You’d think you’d learn by now that I’m not going to take Beltran, ever. My crush on Andrelton Simmons is tremendous right now. It’s to the point that I’ve made a custom Netherlands shirsey for him, but not sure to pull the trigger on ordering it. If the honkballers win the title, I will for sure.
Pick #7 – Team Jeremy: Yoshio Itoi, OF (Japan)
This guy has been absolutely crushing the ball lately, driving in 7 runs in his 6 games. If he’s good for a couple hits, a run and an RBI in Japan’s first game, I’m happy. That being said, Japan should get two games. Double the pleasure, double the fun for me!
Pick #8 – Team Mapes: Hirokazu Ibata, Util (Japan)
He’s been DHing a lot for Japan, but I have no qualms with just putting him in my utility spot. He’s 8 for 14 for the Japanese and hits in the middle of that lineup. I’ll pair him with Abe and hope for the best. I think you can tell by now, I believe Japan make the finals for the 3rd straight time.
I thought about waiting a little longer to snag my boy here, but didn’t want to risk you finding a way to sneak him on as a third baseman or something. It hasn’t just been the WBC — Ramirez has been hitting the ball hard all spring. He’s going to get me some points hitting in that lineup, especially in two games, hopefully.
Pick #10 – Team Mapes: Nelson Cruz, OF (Dominican Republic)
We’ve strangely never drafted the “Lord of the Boomstick”, but he’s been one of the Dominican’s top hitters and way better than Hanley’s pitiful .176 average in the WBC.
Pick #11 – Team Jeremy: Mike Aviles, SS (Puerto Rico)
We don’t get points for batting average. So you can keep your Cruz, I’ll take my Hanley, who has the same amount of runs scored and homers in this tournament, even with the big gap in average! That being said, Aviles is hitting around .300 in the tournament and has been the only RBI threat on the team thus far. His 8 RBI are five more than the next closest in that lineup.
Might as well load up on the middle of the Dominican lineup after you’ve made the terrible mistake of not taking Jose Reyes at shortstop with your utility already filled. I’m ready for Encarnacion to put out a bomb like he did 42 times in 2012.
Oh, you mean the Reyes who has 2 RBI and 0 stolen bases in this tournament? That Reyes? No thanks. I’ll stick with Aviles, who has been far more productive. I love Smith, too, and I’m not sure why. But he seems to be the most consistent threat in that Honkbal lineup behind Simmons, and I don’t want to miss this chance.
I’ll finally cave and take a Puerto Rican, not that I’m bitter for them knocking out the United States. We should make them the 51st state just so these shenanigans don’t happen again. Pagan leads Puerto Rico in total bases and picks up an occasional steal. If they’re going to have a chance against Japan, Pagan needs to play like he did at AT&T Park last season.
Now why do you have to bring up Pagan at AT&T Park last season? That’s a low blow! But I’ll snag your boy Andruw here, who is Team Honkbal’s third most consistently dangerous hitter. You can have Simmons, I’ll take the talents of their other two offensive stars to South Beach (seriously, there’s an area in San Francisco called South Beach…don’t laugh at this, I don’t deserve it).
Please just stop being terrible for one game Rios. It’s all I ask.
Pick #17 – Team Jeremy: Nobuhiro Matsuda, 3B (Japan)
I can’t believe I’m only going to take two Japanese players in this draft, but it’s equally shocking that I get Matsuda this close to the end of the draft. All he’s done at the hot corner for Team Japan thus far is hit .389 with a homer, 5 RBI and 5 runs scored.
Pick #18- Team Mapes: Jonathan Schoop, 2B (Netherlands)
I need a second baseman AND another Honkballer so I’m going with the Orioles prospect that I know has some pop.
You said earlier that this was to stay in Kelsey’s good graces. Is it any coincidence that I’ll be telling her about this draft later today? Yes, believe it or not. I actually had my eye on Carlos Santana of the Dominican Republic, just because they should have two games, as opposed to Molina’s one. But I won’t complain about getting Yadi again. He’s been good for me so far.
HONK IF YOU LOVE HONKBAL!!!
Pick #21 – Team Jeremy: Edinson Volquez, SP (Dominican Republic)
Your first overall pick of Maeda did end up putting me in a bind. We don’t even know who is going to start for the Netherlands, and Puerto Rico’s pitcher will get rocked. Volquez is a guy I rarely trust, but with that lineup behind him, he could have a mediocre start and still pick up 10 points for me. I’m just glad he’s not facing his own team.
Still can’t resist a submarine-throwing closer. Just can’t do it.
Can Jeremy mount a comeback in the finals? Or is the 15 point lead going to hold up for Mapes? Should Jeremy have take Jose Reyes? Let us know in the comments or tweet usand thank for enjoying WBC Fantasy, we’ve had a lot of fun doing it!
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)