As the 2013 World Baseball Classic enters the qualifying stages tonight in Jupiter, Florida, the collection of talent on each team is interesting, to say the least.
All eight teams that will be playing in games over the weekend boast former Major League players, prospects at various levels of the minors and players looking to make a name for themselves on a big stage.
To preview the qualifying round, I'll be taking a look at all eight teams that will be playing over the weekend and ranking them based on their talent. Obviously, talent alone does not win in a double-elimination format like this, so don't be shocked to see upsets along the way.
No. 1 Canada
Click here to see the full Canadian roster.
I really like what Canada has done with its preliminary roster. It has the perfect collection of old and young players who can shine in this kind of environment.
The best player is Phillies outfielder Tyson Gillies, who hit .299/.369/.440 across three levels of the minors in 2012. He could be in the big leagues next season.
Other notable players include Rangers catching prospect Kellin Deglan and Indians outfielder Nick Weglarz, who doesn't hit for average but does have some power and can draw walks.
No. 2 Germany
Click here to see full German roster
Germany doesn't boast a lot of big-league talent. Instead, it will rely on young players like Donald Lutz, who brings some power, and Max Kepler, who slugged .539 in the Appalachian League.
The Germans don't have much pitching, so the offense has to carry them if they hope to make it out of qualifying.
No. 3 Spain
Click here to see full Spanish roster
Even though Spain comes in at third on my list, I think it might be the team to beat in its qualifying round.
The roster has a lot of high-upside talent, such as Rangers prospect Engel Beltre, who is still more tools than performance, and a great lefty-righty duo in Chris Manno and Richard Castillo.
With those two carrying the rotation, Spain might have the best pitching staff of all eight teams playing this weekend.
No. 4 Israel
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Click here to see full Israel roster
Israel is using an interesting tactic to try and make it through qualifying. Few of its players are actually from Israel, though they do have ties to the country.
Former big leaguers Shawn Green and Gabe Kapler will be instantly recognizable to fans, but the roster also boasts Joc Pederson, who hit .313/.396/.516 in the California League.
Like Germany, there isn't a lot of talent on the pitching staff, so it is imperative that the offense is firing on all cylinders every game in order to make it out of qualifying.
No. 5 South Africa
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South Africa is using a lot of youth and high-upside arms to fill out its roster. It is a risky gamble, though it can pay huge dividends if even half of the players manage to hit.
Pitchers like Robert Lewis Walker and Kieran Lovegrove have minimal professional experience, so if nothing else, this will be an excellent learning curve for them.
No. 6 Great Britain
Click here to see full Great Britain roster
I might be underselling Great Britain a little, because I really like its top two pitchers (Chris Reed and Michael Roth). This team might be able to ride those two far if they are on top of their game.
That said, their offense is filled with a lot of players who have scuffled in the minors. I do like the youth on this team, but it will take a lot to go right for them to make it out of qualifying.
No. 7 France
Click here to see full French roster
A lack of depth and little power will force the French to play a lot of small ball. That might work in qualifying, though it will be difficult to see this team go very far if it makes it into the big event next March.
No. 8 Czech Republic
Click here to see full Czech Republic roster
The Czech Republic roster does not boast star power or impact at many spots on the field. Its best player is Mike Cervenak, who is a 36-year-old third baseman without much range or bat to speak of.