World Baseball Classic: Players Who Will Benefit Most with Strong Performances

David A. Cucchiara@@cucch22Correspondent IJanuary 6, 2013

World Baseball Classic: Players Who Will Benefit Most with Strong Performances

0 of 9

    A select few will benefit from securing their roster spots for this year’s World Baseball Classic, just two months away.

    From salvaging careers to moving up the minor league ranks, the World Baseball Classic will be more than just an exhibition, and this year’s rosters will be some of the most competitive in the history of the tournament.

    The following list analyzes players who have already committed to their respective countries’ rosters.

    Here are the players who will benefit most with strong performances in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

Francisco Lindor, Puerto Rico

1 of 9

    The 19-year-old Francisco Lindor can really help his prospective stock with an impressive performance—offensively and defensively—in this year’s WBC.

    Lindor was drafted eighth overall by the Cleveland Indians in the 2011 MLB amateur draft and sits as the 37th highest-rated prospect by Baseball America, according to 2012 rankings.

    Basically, this kid is good and should be on every fan’s radar heading into 2013.

    Lindor, who played at the Single-A level for Cleveland last season, has a chance to move up the ranks, possibly earning a spot on Columbus Clippers for next season. Right now, offensively, his 2012 performance wasn’t enough to move him up the ranks after he hit just .257.

    Lindor’s specialty is his plate discipline and defensive prowess, both of which need to be showcased in this year’s WBC.

David Wright, USA

2 of 9

    It’s hard not to respect the loyalty David Wright has for the Mets organization, and vice versa.

    Wright will benefit from playing third for the U.S. because it will give him exposure playing on a winning team. It’s no secret that the Mets will not only miss the playoffs, but likely end 2013 in the basement of MLB.

    Wright, who was awarded a seven-year, $122 million contract this offseason, has secured his place as the face of the franchise.

    Wright will play a major role for this U.S. team, and if he can produce, will lead the U.S. to its first WBC title.

Ryan Rowland-Smith, Australia

3 of 9

    Ryan Rowland-Smith, 29, put up some decent numbers from 2007 to 2009 for the Seattle Mariners, but after a horrible season in 2010 he has yet to see a major league mound.

    His struggles continued in 2011 for Triple-A Oklahoma City where he went 2-10 with a 6.19 ERA—similar numbers to his 2010 stint for the Mariners. Surprisingly, in 2012 for Triple-A Iowa, Rowland-Smith recorded an ERA of 3.94, including eight starts and a good amount of relief work

    Smith is a free agent this offseason and has a real chance to secure a spot in a bullpen that needs some help (Colorado, Milwaukee, etc.).

    Smith, who will likely start for team Australia, will need to pitch well if he has any hope of been signed this offseason.

Engel Beltre, Spain

4 of 9

    Few players have been as stagnant in the minor leagues as Engel Beltre.

    Beltre has spent the last three seasons in Double-A Frisco in the Texas Rangers organization, where he’s posted subpar numbers.

    While the numbers aren’t there in terms of average, RBI and home runs, it’s his speed that makes Beltre such a valuable player.

    Beltre, 23, needs to showcase his speed in the classic to have any chance at bumping up to Triple-A. If Beltre tears up the basepaths in this year’s WBC and goes without an error in the outfield, he has a shot at a late-season call-up as a utility man in 2013.

Justin Morneau, Canada

5 of 9

    A lot is on the line for Justin Morneau—not only in the WBC, but the entirety of 2013.

    Morneau is a free agent in 2014 and is coming off a disaster season.

    The British Columbian hit just .267 with 77 RBI and 19 home runs.

    Morneau, who hasn’t had a respectable season since 2010, will likely not be returning to the Twins in 2014 unless he can prove worthy of a contract.

    Health has always been the primary concern for Morneau, which makes playing in the classic risky, but it also shows that he’s dedicated to the game and his country.

    Canada is currently ranked sixth in the world according to the IBAF World Rankings, and will field a roster that includes some big names.

    An excellent performance from Morneau in the WBC will hopefully give him the momentum he needs to be successful at the start of the 2013 regular season.

Jason Grilli, Italy

6 of 9

    With Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan being dealt to the Red Sox in December, the Pirates have announced that Jason Grilli will take over the closer role.

    Grilli has very little to gain, but everything to lose in this year’s WBC.

    Yet, you have to give him credit for wanting to help an Italy team that will likely make a quick exit in this year’s WBC.

    Grilli’s job is on the line, and he needs an above-average performance to cement his name as the Pirates’ closer.

Freddy Asiel Alvarez, Cuba

7 of 9

    The young right-hander Freddy Asiel Alvarez has one mission for this year’s WBC: drawing interest from MLB squads.

    Alvarez has an impressive resume, beginning with his four-hit, nine-strikeout shutout of team USA in the 2005 World Youth Championship Gold Medal game.

    Since his 2005 performance, Alvarez has put up respectable numbers, including a 7-2 record with a 3.40 during his 2008-09 season in the Cuban National League.

    While Alvarez has definitely been on MLB teams' radars, it’s the WBC that can finally land him a spot in an MLB franchise.

Chien-Ming Wang, Chinese Taipei

8 of 9

    Chien-Ming Wang has never been the same dominant pitcher since injuring his foot in a game vs. the Astros in 2008.

    The former 19-game winner has a lot to prove in this year’s WBC after five straight injury-plagued seasons. Wang, who’s now a 32-year-old free agent, has little chance of a team acquiring him this offseason.

    That being said, with a few successful starts for Chinese Taipei, Wang could put himself back on the MLB map and draw interest.

    Unless Wang can do something worthy of a contract, we won’t be seeing him in the majors in 2013.

Jason Bay, Canada

9 of 9

    Similar to his Canadian teammate Justin Morneau, Jason Bay is also a free agent in 2014 and is coming off an absolutely embarrassing season for the Mets.

    Bay, who signed a one-year deal with the Mariners in December, batted just .165 with eight home runs and 20 RBI in 194 at-bats.

    Bay can build some serious momentum by leading Team Canada to a deep run in the WBC, and carry that energy over into next season.

    Follow this Featured Columnist on Twitter @cucch22