Tuesday, January 20, 2009

WBC Provisionals Star-Studded, Irrelevant, or Cuban

The World Baseball Classic provides Major League Baseball fans with a new periodic reminder of the status of baseball around the globe. Some teams, like the Dominican Republic and the United States, are comparable to All-Star teams in overall big name talent. Japan mixes stars from MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball. Others, like the Netherlands, Australia and Italy have a few familiar names, but simply don't have the talent to compete with the top class of the world's teams. And then there are the surprises...like Cuba, Taiwan and Korea, who use mainly unknown players, but come from rich baseball-playing cultures.

Here are my breakdowns of the familiar names, by position:

SP- Jake Peavy, Roy Oswalt, Scott Kazmir, Justin Verlander, John Danks
RP- Jonathan Broxton, Scot Shields, Brian Fuentes, J.P. Howell, Joe Nathan, J.J. Putz, B.J. Ryan
C- Brian McCann, Chris Iannetta, A.J. Pierzynski
1B- Kevin Youkilis, Derrek Lee
2B- Dustin Pedroia, Brian Roberts
3B- Chipper Jones, Evan Longoria, David Wright
SS- Derek Jeter, Jimmy Rollins
OF- Grady Sizemore, Ryan Braun, Carlos Quentin, Curtis Granderson, Ryan Ludwick, Vernon Wells

My take: Solid all around. One of the best two bullpens in the Classic. Disappointing rotation given the depth of American starters, but there is less patriotism with American pitchers than with other countries. Salary is the primary concern, so why play for free and risk injury? And I thought that John Lackey was on this roster. What happened? He would really help. Another question is who will get the lion's share at third? If it's Chipper, can you honestly say he's the best out of the group? They could use one of those guys at another position, if someone played one. Rollins is better than Jeter at this point, but won't play as much supposedly. Great hitting outfield. They will undoubtedly be good. But come on, boys, win this one for Obama.

Dominican Republic
SP- Edinson Volquez, Ervin Santana, Francisco Liriano, Fausto Carmona, Pedro Martinez
RP- Juan Cruz, Damaso Marte, Rafael Perez, Jose Arredondo, Carlos Marmol, Fernando Rodney, Jose Valverde, Francisco Cordero
C- Miguel Olivo
1B- Albert Pujols, Carlos Pena
2B- Robinson Cano, Placido Polanco
3B- Alex Rodriguez, Aramis Ramirez
SS- Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes
OF- Vladimir Guerrero, Alfonso Soriano, Jose Guillen, Willy Taveras

My take: Scary-high potential in that rotation. Better bullpen than the USA. Weaker at catcher, outfield and at second, probably better everywhere else. This is my favorite team in the Classic, but then again, they were last time, too.

Puerto Rico
SP- Javier Vazquez, Ian Snell, Jonathan Sanchez, Joel Pineiro
RP- Kiko Calero, Javier Lopez, Pedro Feliciano, J.C. Romero
C- Geovany Soto, Bengie Molina, Ivan Rodriguez, Yadier Molina
1B- Carlos Delgado
2B- Felipe Lopez
3B- Mike Lowell, Ramon Vazquez
SS- Mike Aviles
OF- Carlos  Beltran, Alex Rios, Bernie Williams

My Take: Solid players everywhere, but not top-flight on the world stage.

SP- Johan Santana, Carlos Zambrano, Felix Hernandez, Anibal Sanchez, Armando Galarraga
RP- Cesar Jimenez, Renyel Pinto, Rafael Betancourt, Jorge Julio, Francisco Rodriguez
C- Dioner Navarro, Ramon Hernandez, Max Ramirez
1B- Miguel Cabrera
2B- Jose Lopez
3B- Carlos Guillen, Melvin Mora
SS- Omar Vizquel, Cesar Izturis
OF- Magglio Ordonez, Bobby Abreu, Juan Rivera, Carlos Gonzalez

My take: That rotation is filthy. Besides Rodriguez, the bullpen is short. Weak at shortstop, and slightly weak in the outfield. This team is a contender. They would probably win it all if the pitch limits were not so strict strictly due to the presence of Johan, Zambrano and King Felix. 

SP- Matt Garza, Yovani Gallardo, Oliver Perez, Alfredo Aceves, Jorge De La Rosa
RP- Dennys Reyes, Oscar Villarreal, Eddie Guardado, Joakim Soria
C- Rod Barajas
1B- Adrian Gonzalez
2B- Edgar Gonzalez
3B- Jorge Cantu
SS- Jerry Hairston, Jr.
OF- Scott Hairston, Karim Garcia, Alfredo Amezaga

My Take: This team is not a joke, but they aren't going to go that far either.

SP- Rich Harden, Jeff Francis
RP- Jesse Crain, Eric Gagne
C- Russell Martin
Infield- Justin Morneau, Joey Votto
Outfield- Jason Bay, Mark Teahen, Matt Stairs

My take: Some really solid players have crossed the border to the South to play in the bigs. Unfortunately, some of the best ones they have seem to be concentrated in redundant positions. 

SP- Daisuke Matsuzaka
RP- Masa Kobayashi, Hideki Okajima
C- Kenji Johjima
Infield- Akinori Iwamura
Outfield- Ichiro Suzuki, Kosuke Fukudome

My take: This list may look short, but don't let it fool you. At least not again. It is no fluke that Japan won the last WBC. Okay, maybe it was a fluke, because they didn't look like the best team to me. But the Japan League is very good, and some unknowns (at least for us) will definitely shine a la Dice-K in '06. Everyone seems to be betting it's Yu Darvish this time.

Manny Corpas, Carlos Ruiz, Carlos Lee

My take: No Mariano Rivera, no chance. In fact, no chance anyway.

Jae Seo, Byung-Hyun Kim

My take: Boring. But they will probably win some games, because they were strong last time with a similarly snore-inducing squad.


My take: They need to clone Chien-Ming Wang and teach some of his clones how to hit. And I don't care how many times you call it Taipei. It's Taiwan to me, because that's what the products I love say.

Lenny Dinardo, Jason Grilli, Mike Napoli, Frank Catalonotto, Robert Fick, Nick Punto, Chris Denorfia.

My take: Ragtag assortment of never-weres and Mike Napoli. Not promising.

Grant Balfour.

They aren't winning the World Baseball Classic. But I bet they'd have a pretty good shot in a drinking contest.

Jair Jurrjens.

My take: When colonialism ends, so too does the Dutch baseball enterprise. Well, it's not all that alive anymore now that Andruw Jones can't hit a moose with a Jeep.

Nobody who made it to the USA...guaranteed.

My take: Cuba is fascinating. When they play in international tourneys, we get a glimpse of some very talented players who would otherwise likely not be known to us. Well, barring a succesful defection and a minor league contract.

South Africa

My take: No. There will not be a South Africa in the second round this year.

No one you would know.

My take: Do I need to write about this one?

Remember, these rosters will be cut down to 28 by the time the Classic starts. And some big names will likely be barred by their employers.

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