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)
Rookie of the Year, in the American League it’s the easiest call on the board. However, in the National League there are a few players that have a chance at taking home the hardware. Here’s who 3U3D picked for the best rookie in each league.
Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman): If I could list Trout as first, second and third for this category, I would. No disrespect to Cespedes, Chen, or guys like Jarrod Parker, Will Middlebrooks, and Brett Lawrie…but this is going to be a unanimous decision. The only real question is whether Trout receives a nice, shiny, MVP trophy to go along with his Rookie of the Year.
Angelo Fileccia (@GODF_TH_R): Not much needs to be said about why Trout is the AL ROY considering he’s close to an MVP. Yu had a stellar year and probably would have won ROY if it wasn’t for Mike Trout.
Brian Boynton (@GingaBeard_Man): Is there anyone else that can win this award or will even get first place votes other than Mike Trout? There is no way he doesn’t win this award. Led the AL in steals, he is the youngest member of the 30/30 club and hit well above .300 doing this while being 20 for much of the season and missing the first month before being called up. Yoenis Cespedes had a very good rookie season and would win this award in most seasons but he was second in almost every offensive category only behind Trout. Had Yu Darvish not faded for much of the middle months of the season there could actually be a debate as to who should win. He started the season very strong faded in the hottest months of the season and finished strong his team winning his last 6 regular season starts.
Kurt Peter (@FalconKP): There’s not much to be said for AL ROY. Mike Trout is a destroyer. As for the other two spots on my ballot, it’s hard to argue against Yu Darvish and Yoenis Cespedes. Darvish led all rookies in Ks and tied Wade Miley for wins. Did I mention the 2nd closest guy in Ks had almost 50 less? It was a no brainer. Yoenis Cespedes also turned heads with his performance all season. Posting a .292 average with all of the hype and money being thrown at him wasn’t easy. Not only that, he led them to the late playoff surge behind Billy Beane’s magic that is ‘Moneyball’. A truly memorable season for the A’s and Cespedes.
Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes): My thoughts are Mike Trout is the clear one. Yoenis Cespedes is the clear #2. That leaves my 3rd place vote and it comes down to the best rookie pitcher in the American League. I’m basing this partly on ERA+ which factors in ballpark and opponents and partly on my own observations. Hisashi Iwakuma 118, Yu Darvish 116, Scott Diamond 115, Jarrod Parker 114, Tommy Milone, 106, Wei-Yin Chen 105, and Matt Moore 100. I’m giving the edge to Parker who helped the A’s to the AL West title. Iwakuma didn’t throw enough innings, Darvish was a little too wild, and Diamond was so close, but couldn’t pull the trigger.
Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes): I’m proud of 3U3D for not giving into the hype and just handing Bryce Harper the N.L. Rookie of the Year. It’s hard comparing apples and oranges in the hitter (Harper) vs. pitcher (Miley), but I truly believe that Miley was the best rookie this season. Miley led National League rookies in wins, ERA, WHIP, innings pitched, and strikeouts. He was heads and shoulders above any N.L. rookie pitcher. I can’t make the same case for Harper, where other hitters like Frazier, Aoki, Rosario, Zack Cozart, Yonder Alonso, and even Anthony Rizzo had comparable numbers.
Kurt Peter (@FalconKP): The NL ROY race is all about what you prefer. Are you a fan of phenoms? Pitching? Consistency? For me, I only had a little bit of Harper fever in me, that’s why he landed 2nd in my ballot. When looking at consistency and value added for the team, no one did it better all season than Norichika Aoki. He never slumped below a monthly BA of .260 and ended the season T-20th in the NL in BA. Not only that, he stole 30 bases, fielded his position with only 2 errors, and ignited the Brewers comeback late in the season by slugging .536 in September. Miley no doubt put up a great season for the Diamondbacks, but as a whole, his stats don’t speak to me as much. Pitching is valuable, but he certainly wasn’t dominant in Ks and lost a few too many games to get me to put him up a little higher.
Brian Boynton (@GingaBeard_Man): Wade Miley led the NL rookies in wins, ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts. I know he played for Diamondbacks, but after a dismal season they need something to look forward to next season. Plus as a pitcher he directly resulted in the outcome of more games than a positional player which is why he gets my vote. Wilin Rosario put up video game like numbers leading NL rookies in home runs, 28, and RBI, 71. His power numbers will be slightly skewed playing in hitter friendly Coors Field. He will be hitting in the middle of that lineup for a long time coming. The other rookie to make his debut the same day that Trout did is Bryce Harper and his numbers were very good. He hit .270 with 22 home runs and 59 RBI. When he was called up he was my choice to win this award because he has been a household name for the last three or four years.
Angelo Fileccia (@GODF_TH_R): Bryce Harper had a September to remember hitting .330/.398/.651 and overtaking the NL ROY lead. Wade Miley was efficient for a rookie, but had a mediocre September which allowed Harper to sneak into the top spot.
Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman): I have a bad feeling that Harper is going to take this award because of name recognition. That would be an absolute travesty, because Miley has been not only the best rookie pitcher in baseball this season, but one of the best regardless of experience. He has been the one rock solid constant on the Diamondbacks staff this year, and deserves the award, hands down. All apologies to Frazier, Michael Fiers, Norichika Aoki and Wilin Rosario, but you picked a bad year to burst onto the scene.
Congrats to Mike Trout and Wade Miley on winning the 3U3D Rookie of the Year awards!
You’ve seen our ballots? Hate them? Love them? Let us know in the comments or yell at us on Twitter, all of our handles are right there. Don’t forget to vote in the polls below! And if you like what you see, follow @3u3d on Twitter or LIKE Three Up, Three Down on Facebook!
Well we hit a bump in the road after Kyle Kendrick, Andrew Cashner, and Dan Straily evened out the greatness that had been the Mapes Fantasy Special. Naturally, the secondary picks of Francisco Liriano, Tommy Milone, Jeremy Guthrie, and Mike Minor were the ones I should have gone with. Hopefully you find yourself in the next round of the playoffs. Here’s what I like for Tuesday, September 18th.
I’m going with Mets rookie Matt Harvey making his last start of the season at home against the Phillies. The 39% owned righty was solid pitching at Philadelphia on August 29th going 6.1 IP and giving up just two earned runs. I think Harvey will want to leave a lasting impression on Mets fans as they head to the offseason. Harvey’s strikeout potential (63 in 52.1 IP) is tremendous if you’re looking for a push in that category. Plus, you’ve got to like him pitching in Citi Field where he has a 2.12 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 17 innings.
We’re double dipping today for Mapes Fantasy Special with one of our favorites Baltimore’s Wei-Yin Chen. Chen provided great numbers for us last week (7.1 IP, 8H, 2ER, 1BB, 7K) against the Rays. He now gets to pitch in possibly the best pitchers park in Seattle. Last time he faced the Mariners at Safeco, Chen just dropped a pitching line of 7.1 IP, 2H, 2ER, 0BB, and 9K. That exactly what we’re looking for in a Mapes Fantasy Special and what Orioles are looking for in their playoff push. Chen is owned in just 45% of Yahoo! fantasy leagues.
If You’re Desperate: Yankees veteran Andy Pettitte returns from a broken fibula after three months to take on the Blue Jays. He’s a big game pitcher, but not a risk I think I’m willing to take, Pettitte is owned in 22% of leagues. Athletics rookie A.J. Griffin (46% owned) has been an absolute stud since getting called up, but I’m not sure I’m willing to trust him on the road against the Tigers team that has the 3rd best OPS against righties in MLB. Padres Eric Stults (18% owned) has a matchup at Chase Field against the D’Backs, which is usually scary, but Stults threw 7 scoreless at Arizona just four starts ago. Braves Paul Maholm (44% owned) has been Jeckyll & Hyde lately alternating good and horrible starts. He’s due for a good start this time (if you believe that sort of thing) at the Marlins who he held to one earned over eight innings last time he faced them. Reds Homer Bailey (34% owned) has three straight starts of 2ER or less, but faces a Cubs team who he gave up nine hits and four earned runs last time he pitched in the Windy City.
If You’re Desperate Rankings: Maholm, Griffin, Stults, Pettitte, Bailey
Good luck in your fantasy leagues!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
3U3D brought back the Mapes Fantasy Special with Travis Wood yesterday, plus a side of Clayton Richard. We’re still waiting to see the results, but here’s my pick for Thursday, September 13th.
Orioles “ace” Wei-Yin Chen has been their most reliable pitcher the entire season. The Rays are a great team pitching-wise, but still have their hitting woes. Chen threw 7 shutout innings against Tampa on August 4th and has a 3.72 ERA and 1.14 WHIP against the Rays in 19.1 innings this season. Chen will be completely focused and looking to bounce back after a distastrous start against the Yankees. Chen is owned in just 43% of Yahoo! leagues.
He doesn’t qualify for the Mapes Fantasy Special because he’s now over 50% owned, but if Brett Anderson (62% owned) is still available, go grab him! Now!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)