Complete Guide to the 2013 World Baseball Classic

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2013

Complete Guide to the 2013 World Baseball Classic

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    If the incredibly diverse rosters around Major League Baseball weren't enough to convince people that America's pastime has worldwide appeal, the 2013 World Baseball Classic should do the trick.

    Players representing 16 different countries will take to fields in different parts of the world in what is truly a global tournament, one that will ultimately be decided at the home of the reigning world champions, the San Francisco Giants.

    If you're one of those fans who bemoans the fact that the WBC interrupts spring training, unfortunately this truly is the only time period that works. As Paul Archey, president of the World Baseball Classic, told me back in September, "There's no perfect time to hold it."

    Yet the event has become an important part of the baseball landscape. 

    Not only does it bring the sport to places that it has never been before, but it opens eyes in front offices around the game, with scouts being dispatched to parts of the world never thought of as hotbeds of baseball talent prior to the first WBC, held back in 2006.

    You never know where the next great slugger or ace of a rotation is going to come from.

    With that said, let's take a look at what's in store for the third edition of the World Baseball Classic.

     

    *All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

    *All rosters courtesy of WorldBaseballClassic.com.

Schedule and Viewing Information

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    The field is broken into four pools of four teams each, with the first round played as a round-robin tournament where every team plays other members of its pool once.

    The second round is a modified double-elimination tournament, while the championship round requires a team to win two games (semifinal and final) in order to be declared the WBC champion.

    All of the action can be seen on MLB Network.

     

    First-Round Schedule

    Pool A: Brazil, China, Cuba, Japan

    Location: Fukuoka Yahoo! Japan Dome (Fukuoka, Japan)

    GAME DATE/TIME (LOCAL) DATE/TIME (ET) MATCHUP
    1 Saturday, Mar. 2, 7:00 p.m. Saturday, Mar. 2, 5:00 a.m. Japan vs. Brazil
    2 Saturday, Mar. 2, 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Mar. 2, 10:30 p.m. Cuba vs. Brazil
    3 Sunday, Mar. 3, 7:00 p.m. Sunday, Mar. 3, 5:00 a.m. China vs. Japan
    4 Monday, Mar. 4, 4:30 p.m. Monday, Mar. 4, 2:30 a.m. China vs. Cuba
    5 Tuesday, Mar. 5, 5.00 p.m. Tuesday, Mar. 5, 3:00 a.m. Brazil vs. China
    6 Wednesday, Mar. 6, 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, Mar. 6, 5:00 a.m. Japan vs. Cuba

     

    Pool B: Australia, Chinese Taipei, Korea, Netherlands

    Location: Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium (Taichung, Taiwan)

    GAME DATE/TIME (LOCAL) DATE/TIME (ET) MATCHUP
    1 Saturday, Mar. 2, 12:30 p.m. Friday, Mar. 1, 11:30 p.m. Australia vs. Chinese Taipei
    2 Saturday, Mar. 2, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Mar. 2, 6:30 a.m. Korea vs. Netherlands
    3 Sunday, Mar. 3, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Mar. 3, 1:30 a.m. Netherlands vs. Chinese Taipei
    4 Monday, Mar. 4, 6:30 p.m. Monday, Mar. 4, 5:30 a.m. Korea vs. Australia
    5 Tuesday, Mar. 5, 12:30 p.m. Monday, Mar. 4, 11:30 p.m. Australia vs. Netherlands
    6 Tuesday, Mar. 5, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Mar. 5, 6:30 a.m. Chinese Taipei vs. Korea

     

    Pool C: Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Spain, Venezuela

    Location: Hiram Bithorn Stadium (San Juan, Puerto Rico)

    GAME DATE/TIME (LOCAL) DATE/TIME (ET) MATCHUP
    1 Thursday, Mar. 7, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Mar. 7, 6:30 p.m. Venezuela vs. Dominican Republic
    2 Friday, Mar. 8, 6:30 p.m. Friday, Mar. 8, 5:30 p.m. Spain vs. Puerto Rico
    3 Saturday, Mar. 9, 12:00 p.m. Saturday, Mar. 9, 11:00 a.m. Dominican Republic vs. Spain
    4 Saturday, Mar. 9, 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Mar. 9, 5:30 p.m. Puerto Rico vs. Venezuela
    5 Sunday, Mar. 10, 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Mar. 10, 12:30 p.m. Spain vs. Venezuela
    6 Sunday, Mar. 10, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Mar. 10, 7:30 p.m. Dominican Republic vs. Puerto Rico

     

    Pool D: Canada, Italy, Mexico, United States

    Location: Salt River Fields at Talking Stick (Phoenix, Ariz.)

    GAME DATE/TIME (LOCAL) DATE/TIME (ET) MATCHUP
    1 Thursday, Mar. 7, 1:00 p.m. Thursday, Mar. 7, 3:00 p.m. Italy vs. Mexico
    2 Friday, Mar. 8, 12:30 p.m. Friday, Mar. 8, 2:30 p.m. Canada vs. Italy

    Location: Chase Field (Phoenix, Ariz.)

    GAME DATE/TIME (LOCAL) DATE/TIME (ET) MATCHUP
    3 Friday, Mar. 8, 7:00 p.m. Friday, Mar. 8, 9:00 p.m. Mexico vs. United States
    4 Saturday, Mar. 9, 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Mar. 9, 2:30 p.m. Canada vs. Mexico
    5 Saturday, Mar. 9, 7:00 p.m. Saturday, Mar. 9, 9:00 p.m. United States vs. Italy
    6 Sunday, Mar. 10, 1:00 p.m. Sunday, Mar. 10, 4:00 p.m. United States vs. Canada

     

    Second-Round Schedule

    Location: Tokyo Dome (Tokyo, Japan)

    GAME DATE/TIME (LOCAL) DATE/TIME (ET) MATCHUP
    1 Friday, Mar. 8, 12:00 p.m. Thursday, Mar. 7, 10:00 p.m. Pool A Runner-Up vs. Pool B Winner*
    2 Friday, Mar. 8, 7:00 p.m. Friday, Mar. 8, 5:00 a.m. Pool B Runner-Up vs. Pool A Winner*
    3 Saturday, Mar. 9, 7:00 p.m. Saturday, Mar. 9, 5:00 a.m. Game 1 Loser vs. Game 2 Loser
    4 Sunday, Mar. 10, 7:00 p.m. Sunday, Mar. 10, 6:00 a.m. Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner
    5 Monday, Mar. 11, 7:00 p.m. Monday, Mar. 11, 6:00 a.m. Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Loser
    6 Tuesday, Mar. 12, 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, Mar. 12, 6:00 a.m. Game 5 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner

    *Games may be switched. If Japan advances to the second round of the 2013 WBC, they will play at 7 p.m., regardless of whether they advanced as the winner or runner-up of Pool A. 

     

    Location: Marlins Park (Miami, Fla.)

    GAME DATE/TIME (LOCAL) DATE/TIME (ET) MATCHUP
    1 Tuesday, Mar. 12, 1:00 p.m. Tuesday, Mar. 12, 1:00 p.m. Pool D Runner-Up vs. Pool C Winner*
    2 Tuesday, Mar. 12, 8:00 p.m Tuesday, Mar. 12, 8:00 p.m Pool C Runner-Up vs. Pool D Winner*
    3 Wednesday, Mar. 13, 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, Mar. 13, 7:00 p.m. Game 1 Loser vs. Game 2 Loser
    4 Thursday, Mar. 14, 7:00 p.m. Thursday, Mar. 14, 7:00 p.m. Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner
    5 Friday, Mar. 15, 7:00 p.m. Friday, Mar. 15, 7:00 p.m. Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Loser
    6 Saturday, Mar. 16, 7:00 p.m. Saturday, Mar. 16, 7:00 p.m. Game 5 Winner vs. Game 4 Winner

    *Games may be switched. If the United States advances to the second round of the 2013 WBC, they will play at 8 p.m., regardless of whether they advanced as the winner or runner-up of Pool A. 

     

    Championship Round

    Location: AT&T Park (San Francisco, Calif.)

    GAME DATE/TIME (LOCAL) DATE/TIME (ET) MATCHUP
    1 Sunday, Mar. 17, 6:00 p.m. Sunday, Mar. 17, 9:00 p.m. Pool 2 Runner-Up vs. Pool 1 Winner
    2 Monday, Mar. 18, 6:00 p.m. Monday, Mar. 18, 9:00 p.m. Pool 1 Runner-Up vs. Pool 2 Winner
    3 Tuesday, Mar. 19, 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, Mar. 19, 8:00 p.m. Game 2 Winner vs. Game 1 Winner

Australia (Pool B)

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    Roster      
    Pitchers Age Throws MLB Affiliation
    Adam Bright 28 L  
    Tim Kennelly 26 R Philadelphia Phillies
    Steven Kent 23 L  
    Shane Lindsay 28 R  
    Chris Oxspring 35 R  
    Ryan Rowland-Smith 30 L  
    Andrew Russell 28 R Atlanta Braves
    Dushan Ruzic 31 R  
    Warwick Saupold 23 R Detroit Tigers
    Ryan Searle 23 R Chicago Cubs
    Clayton Tanner 25 L  
    Brad Thomas 35 L  
    Matthew Williams 25 R  
    Brendan Wise 27 L  
    Catchers Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Allan de San Miguel 25 R Baltimore Orioles
    Matt Kennelly 23 R Atlanta Braves
    Infielders Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    James Beresford 24 L Minnesota Twins
    Josh Davies 27 R  
    Brad Harman 27 R  
    Justin Huber 30 R  
    Luke Hughes 28 R  
    Mike Walker 24 L Milwaukee Brewers
    Stefan Welch 24 L Pittsburgh Pirates
    Outfielders Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Corey Adamson 21 L San Diego Padres
    Mitch Dening 24 L  
    David Kandilas 22 R Colorado Rockies
    Joshua Roberts 26 L  
    Chris Snelling 31 L  

     

    Current MLB Players On Roster: None

    Former MLB Players On Roster: Four

    Current Minor League Players On Roster: 13

    IBAF Ranking10

    All-Time WBC Record: 1-5

    Highest WBC Finish: 12th (2009)

    Odds Of Winning: 66-to-1 (per Bovada)

     

    Even without two of its best relievers in Oakland's Travis Blackley and Grant Balfour, Australia heads into the WBC with a chance to make things interesting for its opposition in Pool B.

    A veteran starting rotation that includes hurler Ryan Rowland-Smith should be able to keep Australia in games, though whether the Aussies have the bats in the lineup to take advantage of that remains to be seen.

    Twice, in 2003 and 2006, Baseball America ranked Justin Huber as one of the top 100 prospects in baseball, but the left fielder/first baseman could never get things going when given a chance, posting a pretty awful .224/.276/.304 slash line in parts of five major league seasons.

    Infielder Luke Hughes was never as highly touted, but he too failed to meet expectations as a major leaguer, with a .218/.277/.331 slash line over parts of three seasons in the big leagues.

    Asking them to contribute much offensively at this point in their careers may simply be asking too much.

     

    Player To Watch: David Kandilas

    He's years away from potentially making an impact in the big leagues, but 22-year-old outfielder David Kandilas is someone to keep an eye on.

    Kandilas had a solid first season at Single-A Asheville for Colorado in 2012, hitting .266 with a .360 on-base percentage and 19 stolen bases in 83 games.

    With a solid approach at the plate, a knack for getting on base and the speed to make things happen, Kandilas could open some eyes in this year's WBC and play an integral part in any success Australia has.

Brazil (Pool A)

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    Pitchers Age Throws MLB Affiliation
    Gabriel Asakura 24 R  
    Rafael Fernandes 26 R  
    Murilo Gouvea 24 R Houston Astros
    Hugo Kanabushi 23 L  
    Kelsey Kondo 23 R  
    Daniel Missaki 16 R  
    Rafael Moreno 18 R Baltimore Orioles
    Oscar Nakaoshi 21 L  
    Ernesto Noris 40 R  
    Andre Rienzo 24 R Chicago White Sox
    Thyago Vieira 20 R Seattle Mariners
    Carlos Yoshimura 29 R  
    Catchers Age Throws MLB Affiliation
    Diego Franca 25 R  
    Bruno Hirata 24 R  
    Infielders Age Throws MLB Affiliation
    Felipe Burin 21 L Los Angeles Dodgers
    Alan Fanhoni 21 L  
    Iago Januario 20 L Tampa Bay Rays
    Daniel Matsumoto 32 L  
    Pedro Okuda 22 L Seattle Mariners
    Leonardo Reginatto 22 R Tampa Bay Rays
    Lucas Rojo 18 R Philadelphia Phillies
    Marcio Tanaka 32 R  
    Outfielders Age Throws MLB Affiliation
    Tiago Magalhaes 31 R  
    Mike Magario 21 R  
    JC Muniz 37 R  
    Paulo Orlando 27 R Kansas City Royals
    Jean Tome 23 R  
    Designated Hitters Age Throws MLB Affiliation
    Reinaldo Sato 32 R  


    Current MLB Players On Roster: None

    Former MLB Players On Roster: None

    Current Minor League Players On Roster: 10

    IBAF Ranking20

    All-Time WBC Record: N/A

    Highest WBC Finish: N/A

    Odds Of Winning: 100-to-1 (per Bovada)

     

    Under the watchful eye of manager Barry Larkin, Brazil makes its first appearance in the World Baseball Classic by way of the qualifying round, where it defeated Panama by a score of 1-0.

    Brazil's best player and the first Brazilian to play in the major leagues, 25-year-old infielder/catcher Yan Gomes, is not on the squad, opting to focus his attention on winning a roster spot in spring training with the Cleveland Indians instead.

    Gomes was a big part of Brazil's success in making it this far, so his absence won't be an easy one for Larkin's squad to overcome.

    That being said, Brazil is quickly becoming a hotbed for major league talent, as evidenced by the 10 players currently in minor league systems around baseball.

    The luck of the draw was against Larkin's squad this year, as it will be hard-pressed to come out of Pool A with stalwarts Cuba and Japan standing in the way.

    But the future looks bright for Brazil, which very well could be one of the favorites in the fourth edition of the WBC.

     

    Player To Watch: Andre Rienzo

    Named Chicago's seventh-best prospect heading into the 2013 season by Baseball America, 24-year-old right-hander Andre Rienzo heads to the WBC with a realistic chance of making his major league debut at some point in 2013.

    Suspended for the first 50 games of the 2012 season after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs (Stanozolol), Rienzo nonetheless put together a solid season, going 7-3 with a 2.53 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 113 strikeouts in just over 103 innings of work at three different minor league levels.

    He'll be starting Brazil's opening game against Japan, and you can be sure that White Sox skipper Robin Ventura will be paying close attention to how Rienzo fares.

    With only three pitches—a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, a cutter and a big, overhand low-70s curve—Rienzo's major league future may be as a setup man. But a strong showing in the WBC could leave Ventura wanting Rienzo to be a part of his future rotation on the north side of Chicago.

Canada (Pool D)

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    Roster      
    Pitchers Age Throws MLB Affiliation
    Andrew Albers 27 L Minnesota Twins
    Phillippe Aumont 24 R Philadelphia Phillies
    John Axford 29 R Milwaukee Brewers
    Jesse Crain 31 R Chicago White Sox
    Mark Hardy 24 L San Diego Padres
    Jim Henderson 30 R Milwaukee Brewers
    Shawn Hill 31 R Detroit Tigers
    Jay Johnson 23 L Philadelphia Phillies
    Chris Leroux 28 R Pittsburgh Pirates
    Trystan Magnuson 27 R Toronto Blue Jays
    Scott Mathieson 29 R  
    Dustin Molleken 28 R  
    Jameson Taillon 21 R Pittsburgh Pirates
    Catchers Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Jason Suomi 32 L/R
    Chris Robinson 28 R Baltimore Orioles
    Infielders Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Taylor Green 26 L Milwaukee Brewers
    Cale Iorg
    27 R Detroit Tigers
    Brett Lawrie 23 R Toronto Blue Jays
    Jonathan Malo 29 R  
    Justin Morneau 31 L Minnesota Twins
    Pete Orr 33 L Philadelphia Phillies
    Jimmy Van Ostrand 28 R Washington Nationals
    Joey Votto 29 L Cincinnati Reds
    Outfielders Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Tyson Gillies 24 L Philadelphia Phillies
    Adam Loewen 28 L Toronto Blue Jays
    Michael Saunders 26 L Seattle Mariners
    Rene Tosoni 26 L Milwaukee Brewers
    Designated Hitters Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Tim Smith 26 L Baltimore Orioles

     

    Current MLB Players On Roster: Eight

    Former MLB Players On Roster: One

    Current Minor League Players On Roster: 17

    IBAF Ranking6

    All-Time WBC Record: 2-3

    Highest WBC Finish: Ninth (2006)

    Odds Of Winning: 18-to-1 (per Bovada)

     

    While the Canadian squad lacks big-time pitching, it more than makes up for it with a formidable lineup that is capable of going run-for-run with anyone in the tournament.

    Led by a pair of former MVP first basemen in Justin Morneau and Joey Votto, Canada's lineup has power in the middle, speed at the top and one of the best up-and-coming youngsters around in Toronto third baseman Brett Lawrie.

    Canada shocked the United States with an 8-6 victory back in the 2006 WBC, while the U.S. got its revenge in 2009, beating the Canucks by a score of 6-5.

    Who wins the rubber match of the series? 

    You would have to give the nod to the Americans, but Canada has the horses needed to pull off the upset. 

    You don't want to miss the neighborly clash when it goes down on Sunday, March 10.

     

    Player To Watch: Jameson Taillon

    He's been one of the most highly-touted pitching prospects in the minor leagues since arriving on the scene in 2011, and now the second-best prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization (according to Baseball America) gets to show his stuff on a global stage.

    This is a guy with a ceiling so high that the Pirates ranked him above Bryce Harper heading into the 2010 MLB draft. Granted, that may be a reason why the Pirates haven't seen a playoff game in nearly 20 years, but it says a lot about Canada's most talented starting pitcher.

    Taillon has overpowering stuff, namely a four-seam fastball with boring action that sits in the mid-90s and a curveball that breaks so ridiculously late and sharply that it often gets mistaken for a slider.

    Confident to a fault, Taillon has the natural ability to make batters look foolish. It will be fascinating to see whether he can have that kind of success against some of the best hitters in the world.

China (Pool A)

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    Roster    
    Pitchers Age Throws
    Tao Bu 29 L
    Kun Chen 35 L
    Shuai Li 27 R
    Wenming Li 24 R
    Xin Li 20 L
    Yu Liu 21 R
    Jiangang Lu 34 R
    Qingyuan Meng 24 R
    Song Ran 20 L
    Xia Luo
    20 R
    Haifan Yang 18 R
    Yanyong Yang 18 R
    Dawel Zhu 24 R
    Catchers Age Bats
    Wei Dong 23 R
    Weiqiang Meng 24 R
    Wei Wang 34 R
    Infielders Age Bats
    Ray Chang 29 R
    Fujia Chu 23 L
    Delong Jia 27 S
    Yubing Jia 30 R
    Lei Li 28 R
    Shu Okamura 19 L
    Xu An
    25 R
    Yufeng Zhang 36 R
    Outfielders Age Bats
    Xiao Cui 24 R
    Jingfeng Lai 23 R
    Zhenhong Lu 21 R

     

    Current MLB Players On Roster: None

    Former MLB Players On Roster: None

    Current Minor League Players On Roster: None

    IBAF Ranking18

    All-Time WBC Record: 1-5

    Highest WBC Finish: 11th (2009)

    Odds Of Winning: 33-to-1 (per Bovada)

     

    With Kansas City's Bruce Chen giving up his attempts to pitch for China, the team heads into its third consecutive World Baseball Classic without an active major leaguer on the roster.

    Chen, who was born in Panama, supplied all the documentation he had to prove that his grandparents were born in China.

    But as he continued to wait for approval from the powers that be in China, Chen decided that he needed to focus on winning a spot in Kansas City's rotation this spring instead, as he told MLB.com's Paul Casella at Royals spring training:

    I wanted to [play for China] but I didn't want to push for something that might not happen. I have a responsibility with the Kansas City Royals and I feel I did my best to [play in the Classic]. I'm very grateful to the Chinese team and to the WBC, and the Royals were very lenient and understanding. But at some point, I had to make a choice. We're trying to win a championship here and I don't want to be a distraction every day to my teammates. Team China also needs to know what's going on so I felt it was time to make a decision.

    Chen isn't a front-of-the-rotation arm, but his experience against major league batters would have been invaluable to a Chinese squad that will be overmatched talent-wise against the likes of Cuba and Japan in Pool A.

     

    Player To Watch: Ray Chang

    A career .272 hitter in eight minor league seasons with four major league organizations (San Diego, Pittsburgh, Boston and Minnesota), 29-year-old third baseman Ray Chang is the only member of the Chinese team with any professional experience on this side of the Pacific.

    Now with his fifth major league franchise, the Cincinnati Reds, Chang will be counted on to help China improve upon a terrible 1-5 record in WBC play. China's lone win, a 4-1 victory over Chinese Taipei in the 2009 classic, came largely on Chang's bat, as he went 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBI.

Chinese Taipei (Pool B)

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    Roster      
    Pitchers Age Throws MLB Affiliation
    Hung-Wen Chen 27 R Chicago Cubs
    Chin-Chih Huang 35 L  
    Hung-Chih Kuo 31 L  
    Yi-Hao Lin 22 L  
    Yu-Ching Lin 24 R  
    Ching-Lung Lo 27 R  
    Wei-Lun Pan 30 R  
    Jen-Ho Tseng 18 L  
    Chien-Ming Wang 32 R  
    Ching-Ming Wang 27 R  
    I-Cheng Wang 27 L  
    Yao-Lin Wang 22 R Chicago Cubs
    Yao-Hsun Yang 30 L  
    Catchers Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Ta-Hung Cheng 31 L  
    Chih-Kang Kao 31 R  
    Hung-Yu Lin 26 R  
    Infielders Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Chiang-Ho Chen 30 R  
    Yung-Chi Chen 29 R  
    Yen-Wen Kuo 24 L  
    Han Lin 28 R  
    Yi-Chuan Lin 27 S  
    Chih-Sheng Lin 31 R  
    Cheng-Ming Peng 34 R  
    Outfielders Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Cheng-Wei Chang 32 L  
    Chien-Ming Chang 32 L  
    Szu-Chi Chou 31 L  
    Che-Hsuan Lin 24 R Houston Astros
    Dai-Kang Yang 26 R  

     

    Current MLB Players On Roster: None

    Former MLB Players On Roster: Two

    Current Minor League Players On Roster: Three

    IBAF Ranking5

    All-Time WBC Record: 1-4

    Highest WBC Finish: 12th (2006)

    Odds Of Winning: 25-to-1 (per Bovada)

     

    After failing to record a win in the 2009 WBC, Chinese Taipei was forced to play in the qualifying round for this year's tournament, and it did so in impressive fashion, outscoring the opposition by a score of 35-0 in the three games needed to earn a berth.

    Taipei will rely heavily on the veteran arms of starter Chien-Ming Wang and reliever Hung-Chih Kuo, both of whom have had substantial success at the major league level.

    Wang went 54-20 with a 3.79 ERA and 1.29 WHIP over the first 95 starts of his big league career before injuries took their toll and forced him to the sidelines. While he's struggled to regain his prior form, his ability to keep the ball in the park will come in handy in group play.

    Kuo, who from 2008 through 2010 was one of the best left-handed relievers in all of baseball for the Los Angeles Dodgers, will be asked to deliver in high-pressure situations late in the game. While he's lost something from his stuff, Kuo can still dig deep and blow it past a batter when need be.

    It's really all about the pitching for Taipei, which needs its starters and relievers to keep the high-powered opposition in check so the offense has a chance to pull the team ahead.

     

    Player To Watch: Che-Hsuan Lin

    Che-Hsuan Lin doesn't hit for a lot of power, but what he lacks in brute force he makes up for with a keen batting eye.

    With a career .347 on-base percentage in six minor league seasons, Lin's ability to get on base will be crucial for Chinese Taipei, allowing the heart of the lineup to step to the plate with a speedy runner on base.

    More importantly, Lin has a cannon for a throwing arm, something that will help keep the opposition in check. Keep an eye on him if a runner tries to advance when he has the ball in his hand. That blur you saw screaming across your television wasn't a technical glitch; it was the ball nailing the runner.

Cuba (Pool A)

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    Roster    
    Pitchers Age Throws
    Freddy Alvarez 23 R
    Danny Betancourt 31 R
    Diosdany Castillo 25 R
    Odrisamer Despaigne 25 R
    Vladimir García 23 R
    Norberto González 33 L
    Yander Guevara 25 R
    Raciel Iglesias 22 R
    Ismel Jiménez  26 R
    Darien Nunez 19 L
    Yadier Pedroso 26 R
    Wilber Pérez 36 L
    Alexander Rodriguez 29 R
    Catchers Age Bats
    Frank Morejón 26 R
    Yosvani Peraza 33 R
    Eriel Sánchez 38 R
    Infielders Age Bats
    José Dariel Abreu 25 R
    Erisbel Arruebarruena 22 R
    José Miguel Fernández 24 L
    Raúl González 25 R
    Yulieski Gourriel 28 R
    Andy Ibáñez 19 R
    Luis Felipe Rivera 35 L
    Outfielders Age Bats
    Alexei Bell 28 R
    Frederich Cepeda 32 S
    Alfredo Despaigne 26 R
    Guillermo Heredia 21 R
    Yasmani Tomás 22 R



    Current MLB Players On Roster: None

    Former MLB Players On Roster: None

    Current Minor League Players On Roster: None

    IBAF Ranking: 1

    All-Time WBC Record: 9-5

    Highest WBC Finish: Second (2006)

    Odds Of Winning: 16-to-1 (per Bovada)

     

    The top-ranked team in the world by the IBAF, Cuba heads into its third World Baseball Classic looking for some revenge against Japan, the team that defeated it in the 2006 finals and in the second round of the 2009 classic.

    While 18 Cuban-born players are on active MLB rosters, none of them will be playing for their home country in the WBC due to the political system currently in place. Amazingly enough, not one member of the Cuban team has ever defected during the tournament. Sooner or later, someone will.

    The problem in trying to gauge just how good the players on Cuba's roster are is two-fold: Not only is there a lack of scouting reports from reliable sources, but with the defections of so many players, the talent pool in Cuba has been somewhat watered down.

    That said, there's plenty of talent on this year's team to finally get a leg up on the Japanese and advance to the semifinals of the WBC.

     

    Player To Watch: José Dariel Abreu

    Abreu first came to the attention of the masses in the U.S. last year thanks to Grantland's Jonah Keri, who wrote an in-depth piece that saw the 25-year-old first baseman compared to Barry Bonds, Miguel Cabrera and Ryan Howard.

    That's pretty impressive company.

    From the little video that's available, it certainly appears as if Abreu's got a quick swing that generates plenty of power. While it's all speculation at this point, you wonder if a strong showing in the WBC could generate enough buzz among major league teams that Abreu would decide to defect in the near future.

Dominican Republic (Pool C)

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    Roster      
    Pitchers Age Throws MLB Affiliation
    Santiago Casilla 32 R San Francisco Giants
    Angel Castro 30 R  
    Juan Cedeno 29 L New York Yankees
    Samuel Deduno 29 R Minnesota Twins
    Octavio Dotel 39 R Detroit Tigers
    Kelvin Herrera 23 R Kansas City Royals
    Fernando Rodney 35 R Tampa Bay Rays
    Wandy Rodriguez 34 L Pittsburgh Pirates
    Atahualpa Severino 28 L Washington Nationals
    Alfredo Simon 31 R  
    Pedro Strop 27 R Baltimore Orioles
    Jose Valverde 34 R  
    Jose Veras 32 R Houston Astros
    Edinson Volquez 29 R San Diego Padres
    Catchers Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Francisco Pena 23 R New York Mets
    Carlos Santana 26 S Cleveland Indians
    Infielders Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Erick Aybar 29 S Los Angeles Angels
    Robinson Cano 30 L New York Yankees
    Edwin Encarnacion 30 R Toronto Blue Jays
    Leury Garcia 21 S Texas Rangers
    Hanley Ramirez 29 R Los Angeles Dodgers
    Jose Reyes 29 S Toronto Blue Jays
    Miguel Tejada 38 R Kansas City Royals
    Outfielders Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Nelson Cruz 32 R Texas Rangers
    Alejandro De Aza 28 L Chicago White Sox
    Melky Mesa 26 R New York Yankees
    Ricardo Nanita 31 L Toronto Blue Jays
    Moises Sierra 24 R Toronto Blue Jays

     


    Current MLB Players On Roster: 
    17

    Former MLB Players On Roster: Two

    Current Minor League Players On Roster: Eight

    IBAF Ranking13

    All-Time WBC Record: 6-4

    Highest WBC Finish: Fourth (2006)

    Odds Of Winning: 13-to-4 (per Bovada)

     

    An infield comprised of Edwin Encarnacion at first base, Robinson Cano at second, Hanley Ramirez at third and Jose Reyes at shortstop is certainly a good place to start when comprising a team, don't ya think?

    The lineup has power, speed and the ability to put games out of reach early. 

    Fernando Rodney and Jose Valverde anchor a strong bullpen, one that has a wealth of experience and multiple pieces that can be mixed and matched together, important to note as the team's starting rotation is mediocre at best.

    Edinson Volquez struggles badly with his command and gets hit hard when not pitching in a "pitcher's park," while Wandy Rodriguez has put together a solid, unspectacular career as a middle-of-the-rotation arm (he was miscast as the ace in Houston).

    Despite the potential issues in the starting rotation, the Dominican Republic's offense will win games, and the matchup against Venezuela on Thursday, March 7 is must-watch baseball.

    Not only will it pit two of the most talented teams in the tournament against each other, but the winner will have a leg up on the competition for first place in Pool C.

     

    Player To Watch: Robinson Cano

    On a team full of All-Star infielders, Robinson Cano sits on the throne as best player on the squad.

    A perennial MVP candidate and the best second baseman in baseball, Cano enters his walk year with big expectations from Yankees fans and the potential of fetching a contract in excess of $200 million on the open market at the end of the season.

    With as much on the line as he has, will Cano hold back in what amounts to a series of exhibition games? Will avoiding injury trump playing winning baseball, with his eye squarely on the lucrative prize waiting for him in 10 months or so?

    I don't believe that we'll see a different Cano than what we've become accustomed to, but it will be interesting to see if his level of play lives up to the gaudy standards he's set for himself over the course of his career.

Italy (Pool D)

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    Roster      
    Pitchers Age Throws MLB Affiliation
    Justin Cicatello 28 R  
    Chris Cooper 34 L  
    Tim Crabbe 25 R Cincinnati Reds
    Tiago Da Silva 27 R  
    Jason Grilli 36 R Pittsburgh Pirates
    Alex Maestri 27 R  
    John Mariotti 28 L  
    Luca Panerati 23 L  
    Nick Pugliese 27 R  
    Dan Serafini 39 L  
    Brian Sweeney 38 R Seattle Mariners
    Matt Torra 28 R Washington Nationals
    Pat Venditte 27 S New York Yankees
    Catchers Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Drew Butera 29 R Minnesota Twins
    Tyler LaTorre 29 L San Francisco Giants
    Infielders Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Jeff Bianchi 26 R Milwaukee Brewers
    Chris Colabello 29 R Minnesota Twins
    Mike Costanzo 29 L Washington Nationals
    Anthony Granato 31 S  
    Juan Infante 31 S  
    Alex Liddi 24 R Seattle Mariners
    Nick Punto 35 S Los Angeles Dodgers
    Anthony Rizzo 23 L Chicago Cubs
    Alessandro Vaglio 24 R  
    Outfielders Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Lorenzo Avagnina 32 L  
    Mario Chiarini 32 R  
    Chris Denorfia 32 R San Diego Padres
    Stefano Desimoni 24 L  

     

    Current MLB Players On Roster: Five

    Former MLB Players On Roster: None

    Current Minor League Players On Roster: Nine

    IBAF Ranking9

    All-Time WBC Record: 2-4

    Highest WBC Finish: 10th (2006 and 2009)

    Odds Of Winning: 100-to-1 (per Bovada)

     

    Italy has some talented pieces on the roster, but this team has a long way to go before it can compete with the likes of Canada and the United States, two of its fellow Pool D participants.

    Anthony Rizzo is one of the up-and-coming stars in the game, manning first base for the Chicago Cubs, but after him the lineup is full of role players like Alex Liddi, Nick Punto and Chris Denorfia.

    That's not going to get the job done in the WBC, especially with a pitching staff that, as far as I can tell, lacks a big-time, front-of-the-rotation arm.

    It's going to be a quick exit from this year's festivities for the Italians, I'm afraid.

     

    Player To Watch: Pat Venditte

    You may have noticed that I put an "S" next to Pat Venditte's name under the "throws" column above.

    That's not a typo—Venditte throws with both arms, a rare switch-pitcher.

    He's such an oddity that the Professional Baseball Umpires Corporation issued rules upon Venditte's arrival to the professional ranks.

    Here's how the rule reads, via Peter Abraham, now with the Boston Globe:

    The pitcher must visually indicate to the umpire, batter and runner(s) which way he will begin pitching to the batter. Engaging the rubber with the glove on a particular hand is considered a definitive commitment to which arm he will throw with. The batter will then choose which side of the plate he will bat from.

    The pitcher must throw one pitch to the batter before any “switch” by either player is allowed.

    After one pitch is thrown, the pitcher and batter may each change positions one time per at-bat. For example, if the pitcher changes from right-handed to left-handed and the batter then changes batter’s boxes, each player must remain that way for the duration of that at-bat (unless the offensive team substitutes a pinch hitter, and then each player may again “switch” one time).

    Any switch (by either the pitcher or the batter) must be clearly indicated to the umpire.
    There will be no warm-up pitches during the change of arms.

    If an injury occurs the pitcher may change arms but not use that arm again during the remainder of the game.

    Venditte has been quite successful pitching out of the bullpen in the Yankees' minor league system, posting a 2.30 ERA and 1.05 WHIP while averaging more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings of work over the past five seasons.

    If nothing else, he's fascinating to watch, and it is so rare that we get a chance to watch a switch-pitcher at work that catching at least one of Italy's games during the WBC is an absolute must for baseball fans.

Japan (Pool A)

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    Roster    
    Pitchers Age Throws
    Takeru Imamura 21 R
    Kenta Maeda 24 R
    Kazuhisa Makita 28 R
    Masahiko Morifuku 26 L
    Atsushi Nomi 33 L
    Kenji Otonari 28 L
    Hirokazu Sawamura 24 R
    Tadashi Settsu 30 R
    Toshiya Sugiuchi 32 L
    Masahiro Tanaka 24 R
    Tetsuya Utsumi 30 L
    Hideaki Wakui 26 R
    Tetsuya Yamaguchi 29 L
    Catchers Age Bats
    Shinnosuke Abe 33 L
    Ryoji Aikawa 36 R
    Ginjiro Sumitani 25 R
    Infielders Age Bats
    Yuichi Honda 28 L
    Hirokazu Ibata 37 R
    Nobuhiro Matsuda 29 R
    Kazuo Matsui 37 S
    Hayato Sakamoto 24 R
    Takashi Toritani 31 L
    Outfielders Age Bats
    Hisayoshi Chono 28 R
    Yoshio Itoi 31 L
    Atsunori Inaba 40 L
    Katsuya Kakunaka 25 L
    Sho Nakata 23 R
    Seiichi Uchikawa 30 R

     

    Current MLB Players On Roster: None

    Former MLB Players On Roster: One

    Current Minor League Players On Roster: None

    IBAF Ranking3

    All-Time WBC Record: 12-5

    Highest WBC Finish: First (2006 and 2009)

    Odds Of Winning: 7-to-2 (per Bovada)

     

    The two-time defending WBC champion, Japan is one of the only teams in this year's tournament without an active major league player on its roster.

    Infielder Kazuo Matsui, 37, is the only member of Team Japan with any major league experience, having played for three different teams (the New York Mets, Colorado Rockies and Houston Astros) from 2004 through 2010.

    Despite the lack of MLB experience on its roster, Japan remains one of the favorites to win, and rightfully so.

    The pitching staff is deep and talented, led by Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles ace Masahiro Tanaka and Hiroshima Carp ace Kenta Maeda, while the team will look to Yomiuri Giants catcher Shinnosuke Abe to carry the offensive load.

    Abe, 33, is the reigning Central League MVP after posting a .340/.429/.565 slash line, 27 home runs and 104 RBI in 138 games during the 2012 season.

    Six members of this year's team play for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, the team that calls Fukuoka Yahoo! Japan Dome home during the regular season, the location of the first round of play in Pool A.

    Seven members of the team play for the Yomiuri Giants, who call the Tokyo Dome home, site of Pool A's second-round action.

    With a feverish home crowd behind it and familiar surroundings, it would be shocking to not see Japan advance to the semifinals of this year's WBC.

     

    Player To Watch: Masahiro Tanaka

    Masahiro Tanaka looks like the next big thing to come out of Japan, following in the footsteps of Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish, both of whom opened some eyes in previous editions of the World Baseball Classic and eventually landed lucrative MLB deals through Japan's posting system.

    Over the last two seasons for the Golden Eagles in the Japan Pacific League, Tanaka has gone a ridiculous 29-9 with a 1.53 ERA and 0.95 WHIP, striking out 410 batters in 399 innings while walking only 46.

    Over his six-year professional career, all with Rakuten, Tanaka has gone 75-35 with a 2.50 ERA and 1.14 WHIP, averaging two walks and 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings of work.

    Expected to be posted at the end of the 2013 season, there will be a fierce bidding war for his services, as Tanaka is more than two years younger than Darvish was when he entered the posting system.

    According to Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News, the Texas Rangers have already scouted Tanaka multiple times and are thought to have serious interest in pairing him with Darvish in the rotation for 2014.

Korea (Pool B)

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    Roster    
    Pitchers Age Throws
    Woochan Cha 25 L
    Won Jun Chang 27 L
    Taehyon Chong 34 R
    Wonsam Jang 29 L
    Kyung Eun Noh 28 R
    Seunghwan Oh 30 R
    Heesoo Park 29 L
    Jae Weong Seo 35 R
    Seunglak Son 30 R
    Seung Song 32 R
    Wonsang Yoo 26 R
    Hisang Yoon 27 R
    Sukmin Yoon 26 R
    Catchers Age Bats
    Kabyong Jin 38 R
    Minho Kang 27 R
    Infielders Age Bats
    Jeong Choi 26 R
    Keunwoo Jeong 30 R
    Jungho Kang 25 R
    Sangsu Kim 22 R
    Taekyun Kim 30 R
    Dae Ho Lee 30 R
    Seung Yuop Lee 36 R
    Sihyun Son 32 R
    Outfielders Age Bats
    Junwoo Jeon 27 L
    Hyunsoo Kim 25 L
    Jin Young Lee 32 L
    Yongkyu Lee 27 L
    Ahseop Son 24 R



    Current MLB Players On Roster: None

    Former MLB Players On Roster: Jae Weong Seo

    Current Minor League Players On Roster: None

    IBAF Ranking4

    All-Time WBC Record: 12-4

    Highest WBC Finish: Second (2009)

    Odds Of Winning: 10-to-1 (per Bovada)

     

    While Korea is still one of the best teams in the world, the squad that enters WBC play will be far less intimidating than its previous incarnations.

    Both outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and left-handed pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu decided to stay in spring training with their new clubs, the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers, respectively, rather than partake in this year's classic.

    First baseman Seung Yeop Lee is a five-time Korean Baseball Organization MVP and one of only three professional baseball players to hit 400 home runs before their 30th birthday, joining Japanese legend Sadaharu Oh and Alex Rodriguez, the embattled and injured third baseman for the New York Yankees.

    On the mound, Jae Weong Seo, who spent the bulk of his six-year MLB career with the New York Mets, leads a somewhat mediocre pitching staff. Closer Taehyon Chong has the ability to confuse and frustrate the opposition with a submarine delivery and an array of offspeed pitches to setup his fastball.

     

    Player To Watch: Hyunsoo Kim

    A two-time Golden Glove Award winner and the 2008 KBO Batting Champion at the age of 20, Hyunsoo Kim is arguably the best player on the Korean squad.

    He made the All-Star team at the 2009 WBC as a designated hitter after hitting .393 (11-for-28) with four RBI, six runs scored and seven walks.

    More experienced and physically mature, Kim has the ability to put Korea on his back and carry this squad into the second round of the tournament.

Mexico (Pool D)

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    Roster      
    Pitchers Age Throws MLB Affiliation
    Alfredo Aceves 30 R Boston Red Sox
    Marco Estrada 29 R Milwaukee Brewers
    Yovani Gallardo 26 R Milwaukee Brewers
    David Hernandez 27 R Arizona Diamondbacks
    Rodrigo Lopez 37 R  
    Luis Mendoza 29 R Kansas City Royals
    Oliver Perez 31 L Seattle Mariners
    Horacio Ramirez 33 L  
    Cesar Ramos 28 L Tampa Bay Rays
    Dennys Reyes 35 L  
    Francisco Rodriguez 29 R  
    Sergio Romo 29 R San Francisco Giants
    Fernando Salas 27 R St. Louis Cardinals
    Oscar Villareal 31 R  
    Catchers Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Jose Felix 37 R  
    Ali Solis 25 R  
    Sebastian Valle 22 R Philadelphia Phillies
    Infielders Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Jorge Cantu 31 R  
    Luis Cruz 29 R Los Angeles Dodgers
    Adrian Gonzalez 30 L Los Angeles Dodgers
    Edgar Gonzalez 34 R  
    Walter Ibarra 25 S New York Yankees
    Efren Navarro 26 L Los Angeles Angels
    Ramiro Pena 27 S Atlanta Braves
    Gil Velazquez 33 R New York Yankees
    Outfielders Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Eduardo Arredondo 28 L  
    Karim Garcia 37 L  
    Luis A. Garcia 34 R  

     

    Current MLB Players On Roster: 12

    Former MLB Players On Roster: Seven

    Current Minor League Players on Roster: Four

    IBAF Ranking11

    All-Time WBC Record: 5-7

    Highest WBC Finish: Sixth (2006)

    Odds Of Winning: 20-to-1 (per Bovada)

     

    Stuck in a pool with Canada and the United States, it's easy to see why Mexico might fly under the radar heading into the tournament (though the oddsmakers certainly have taken notice).

    With a bona fide ace at the front of the rotation in Yovani Gallardo, a deep bullpen and Sergio Romo, the man who clinched the San Francisco Giants' most recent World Series championship in the ninth, Mexico's pitching is solid.

    Mexico's lineup would be in better shape had Danny Espinosa opted to play, but the second baseman decided against playing, choosing to continue rehabbing a shoulder injury in spring training with the Washington Nationals instead.

    That being said, Adrian Gonzalez is a beast in the middle of the lineup, while former major leaguers Jorge Cantu and Karim Garcia both know how to hit big league pitching. 

    I don't think Mexico has enough talent in the starting rotation to get out of the opening round of the tournament, but this is a team that could surprise people, myself included.

     

    Player To Watch: Adrian Gonzalez

    While Adrian Gonzalez picked up the fifth 100-RBI season of his career in 2012, his 18 home runs on the season were his lowest total since becoming a full-time player with the San Diego Padres in 2006, when he went deep 24 times.

    He also saw a significant reduction in his walk rate, dropping from more than 10 percent for his career to just above six percent in 2012. That may not seem like a huge drop, but it's significant enough to wonder what exactly was going on.

    It will be interesting to see whether that was the result of a tumultuous 2012 season or a sign of things to come.

    For Mexico and the Los Angeles Dodgers, both better hope that it's the former.

Netherlands (Pool B)

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    Roster      
    Pitchers Age Throws MLB Affiliation
    David Bergman 31 R  
    Leon Boyd 29 R  
    Robbie Cordemans 38 R Washington Nationals
    Kevin Heijstek 23 R  
    Jonatan Isenia 19 R Baltimore Orioles
    Diegomar Markwell 32 L  
    Shairon Martis 26 R Minnesota Twins
    Mark Pawelek 26 L  
    Tom Stuifbergen 24 R Minnesota Twins
    Berry Van Driel 28 R  
    Loek Van Mil 28 R Cincinnati Reds
    Orlando Yntema 27 R  
    Catchers Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Johnny Balentina 41 R  
    Sebastiaan Nooj N/A R  
    Dashenko Ricardo 22 R  
    Infielders Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Xander Bogaerts 20 R Boston Red Sox
    Yurendell de Caster 33 R  
    Quintin de Cuba 25 R  
    Jonathan Schoop 21 R Baltimore Orioles
    Andrelton Simmons 23 R Atlanta Braves
    Curt Smith 26 R  
    Hanley Statia 27 S Milwaukee Brewers
    Outfielders Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Wladimir Balentien 28 R  
    Roger Bernadina 28 L Washington Nationals
    Michael Duursma 35 R  
    Andruw Jones 35 R  
    Randolph Oduber 23 R Washington Nationals
    Kalian Sams 26 R Seattle Mariners

     

    Current MLB Players On Roster: Three

    Former MLB Players On Roster: Two

    Current Minor League Players On Roster: Nine

    IBAF Ranking7

    All-Time WBC Record: 3-7

    Highest WBC Finish: Seventh (2009)

    Odds Of Winning: 33-to-1 (per Bovada)

     

    The Netherlands has an intriguing team heading into the WBC, though it's a bit light on the pitching side of things.

    Other than Shairon Martis, there's a lack of major league experience on the hill, and that should be cause for concern.

    It's the lineup—the infield specifically—that makes you stop and say "wow," as it includes some of the best young talent in the game. 

    Andrelton Simmons has established himself as not only the starting shortstop for the Atlanta Braves, but someone who the team deems as "untouchable," refusing to include him in any trades this winter (and still landing Justin Upton).

    Xander Bogaerts is one of the best prospects in all of baseball, while Jonathan Schoop isn't far behind. We could be watching three future MLB All-Star infielders take the field at the same time when the Netherlands gets going.

    Andruw Jones, Roger Bernadina and Wladimir Balentien have all spent significant time in major league outfields, and while Jones is no longer the player that he once was, he still has the ability to take the ball out of the park in a hurry.

    With Pool B looking pretty wide open, there's no reason that the Netherlands offense couldn't carry the team into the second round.

     

    Player To Watch: Xander Bogaerts

    The best prospect Boston has had since Hanley Ramirez, Xander Bogaerts is a future MLB All-Star biding his time in the minors.

    A tremendous hitter who has a smooth swing and raw power to all fields, this will be the first chance that most baseball fans will get to see him play, other than appearances at MLB's Future Stars Game during All-Star weekend.

    In 127 games last year between High-A and Double-A, Bogaerts posted a combined .307/.373/.523 slash line with 20 home runs and 81 RBI.

    He was 19 years old.

    As he gets older and more physically mature, he's only going to get better. We'll see some of that growth on display at the WBC.

Puerto Rico (Pool C)

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    Roster      
    Pitchers Age Throws MLB Affiliation
    Giancarlo Alvarado 35 R  
    Jose Berrios 18 R Minnesota Twins
    Hiram Burgos 25 R Milwaukee Brewers
    Fernando Cabrera 31 R Los Angeles Angels
    Xavier Cedeno 26 L Houston Astros
    Jose De La Torre 27 R Boston Red Sox
    Nelson Figueroa 38 R Arizona Diamondbacks
    Orlando Roman 34 R  
    J.C. Romero 36 L  
    Andres Santiago 23 R Los Angeles Dodgers
    Mario Santiago 28 R  
    Giovanni Soto 21 L Cleveland Indians
    Javier Vazquez 36 R  
    Catchers Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Martin Maldonado 26 R Milwaukee Brewers
    Jose Molina 37 R Tampa Bay Rays
    Yadier Molina 30 R St. Louis Cardinals
    Infielders Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Mike Aviles 31 R Cleveland Indians
    Irving Falu 29 S Kansas City Royals
    Luis Figueroa 39 S  
    Andy Gonzalez 31 R  
    Carlos Rivera 34 L  
    Pedro Valdes 39 L  
    Outfielders Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Carlos Beltran 35 S St. Louis Cardinals
    Jesus Feliciano 33 L  
    Angel Pagan 31 S San Francisco Giants
    Alex Rios 32 R Chicago White Sox
    Eddie Rosario 21 L Minnesota Twins
    Andres Torres 35 S San Francisco Giants



    Current MLB Players On Roster: 
    10

    Former MLB Players On Roster: Five

    Current Minor League Players On Roster: Six

    IBAF Ranking12

    All-Time WBC Record: 8-4

    Highest WBC Finish: Fifth (2006 and 2009)

    Odds Of Winning: 20-to-1 (per Bovada)

     

    Were it in any of the other three pools, Puerto Rico would have a much better chance of advancing past the first round. With the Dominican Republic and Venezuela in the same pool, Puerto Rico's going to have a tough time advancing.

    Offensively, Puerto Rico can hang with most teams.

    Angel Pagan, Carlos Beltran, Alex Rios and Yadier Molina are certainly more than capable of putting runs on the board, but it's on the mound where Puerto Rico may run into some trouble despite having the Molinas behind the plate calling the action.

    While the bullpen is solid, the starting rotation is a bit shaky, led by former All-Star Javier Vazquez, who hasn't pitched since the 2011 season.

    Vazquez, who has drawn interest from multiple teams this winter as he ponders making a comeback to MLB, will certainly be looking to impress clubs with his performance in the tournament.

     

    Player To Watch: Jose Berrios

    One of the more highly touted pitching prospects to emerge from Puerto Rico in some time, Jose Berrios could be the difference-maker on the mound that Puerto Rico needs.

    Drafted 32nd overall by the Minnesota Twins in the 2012 MLB draft, Berrios went 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA and 0.62 WHIP in his first taste of professional baseball, striking out 49 batters in just over 30 innings.

    He has the best fastball of any Twins prospect, sitting in the 92-to-95 mph range and the ability to throw the pitch for strikes to batters on both sides of the plate. His changeup is a solid secondary pitch, and his slider shows signs of life as well.

    Berrios is far from a complete package and still has plenty of room to develop, but a strong showing at the WBC could put him on a faster track to Minnesota than previously thought.

Spain (Pool C)

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    Roster      
    Pitchers Age Throws MLB Affiliation
    Richard Castillo 23 R St. Louis Cardinals
    Rhiner Cruz 26 R Houston Astros
    Eric Gonzalez 26 R  
    Ivan Granados 27 L  
    Ricardo Hernandez 25 L  
    Chris Manno 25 L Cincinnati Reds
    Eddie Morlan 26 R  
    Leslie Nacar 29 R  
    Yoanner Negrin 28 R Chicago Cubs
    Antonio Noguera 25 L  
    Sergio Perez 28 R Houston Astros
    Richard Salazar 31 L  
    Nick Schumacher 27 R  
    Catchers Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Salomon Manriquez 30 R  
    Adrian Nieto 23 S Washington Nationals
    Blake Ochoa 27 R  
    Infielders Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Barbaro Canizares 33 R  
    Paco Figueroa 30 R  
    Jesus Golindano 29 R  
    Jesus Merchan 31 R San Diego Padres
    Nestor Perez 36 R  
    Yunesky Sanchez 28 R  
    Outfielders Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Rafael Alvarez 36 L  
    Engel Beltre 23 L Texas Rangers
    Jose Cruz 28 R  
    Daniel Figueroa 30 R  
    Yasser Gomez 32 L  
    Gabe Suarez 28 R Texas Rangers




     

    Current MLB Players On Roster: None

    Former MLB Players On Roster: None

    Current Minor League Players On Roster: Eight

    IBAF Ranking16

    All-Time WBC Record: N/A

    Highest WBC Finish: N/A

    Odds Of Winning: 200-to-1 (per Bovada)

     

    With all due respect to the members of the Spanish contingent that will be playing in the country's first WBC—better luck next time.

    Stuck in a pool with behemoths like the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, Spain has little to no chance of advancing past the first round.

    The team lacks pitching, both in the starting rotation and bullpen, while the lineup leaves plenty to be desired.

     

    Player To Watch: Engel Beltre

    One of the few bright spots for Spain during the tournament is likely to be the performance of outfielder Engel Beltre.

    Known primarily as a superb defensive outfielder—Baseball America calls him the best defensive outfielder in Texas' minor league system—the 23-year-old flashed some pop at the plate in 2012, hitting a career-high 13 home runs in his second full season at Double-A Frisco.

    He's also got plenty of speed, setting a new career high with 36 stolen bases in 2012, getting caught only 10 times.

    Spain needs someone to be a catalyst on offense—Beltre very well could be that player.

United States (Pool D)

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    Roster      
    Pitchers Age Throws MLB Affiliation
    Jeremy Affeldt 33 L San Francisco Giants
    Heath Bell 35 R Arizona Diamondbacks
    Mitchell Boggs 29 R St. Louis Cardinals
    Steve Chisek 26 R Miami Marlins
    Tim Collins 23 L Kansas City Royals
    Ross Detwiler 26 L Washington Nationals
    R.A. Dickey 38 R Toronto Blue Jays
    Gio Gonzalez 27 L Washington Nationals
    Luke Gregerson 28 R San Diego Padres
    Derek Holland 26 L Texas Rangers
    Craig Kimbrel 24 R Atlanta Braves
    Chris Perez 27 R Cleveland Indians
    Glen Perkins 29 L Minnesota Twins
    Vinnie Pestano 28 R Cleveland Indians
    Ryan Vogelsong 35 R San Francisco Giants
    Catchers Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    J.P. Arencibia 27 R Toronto Blue Jays
    Jonathan Lucroy 26 R Milwaukee Brewers
    Joe Mauer 29 L Minnesota Twins
    Infielders Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Willie Bloomquist 35 R Arizona Diamondbacks
    Brandon Phillips 31 R Cincinnati Reds
    Jimmy Rollins 34 S Philadelphia Phillies
    Mark Teixeira 32 S New York Yankees
    David Wright 30 R New York Mets
    Ben Zobrist 31 S Tampa Bay Rays
    Outfielders Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Ryan Braun 29 R Milwaukee Brewers
    Adam Jones 27 R Baltimore Orioles
    Giancarlo Stanton 23 R Miami Marlins
    Shane Victorino 32 S Boston Red Sox

     

    Current MLB Players On Roster: 28

    Former MLB Players On Roster: None

    Current Minor League Players on Roster: None

    IBAF Ranking2

    All-Time WBC Record: 7-7

    Highest WBC Finish: Fourth (2009)

    Odds Of Winning: 5-to-2 (per Bovada)

     

    Despite possibly not having Gio Gonzalez available until the second round of the tournament—a realistic scenario, according to the Washington Times' Amanda Comak—the United States is the team to beat in this year's WBC.

    With a rotation headed by Gonzalez and the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, a bullpen full of live arms and the game's best closer over the past two seasons, Craig Kimbrel and a deep lineup, it's easy to see why that's the case.

    The United States lineup is littered with All-Stars and former MVP winners, a mix of seasoned veterans and young, up-and-coming stars.

    It's hard to find a weak spot on this roster.

     

    Player To Watch: Giancarlo Stanton

    One of the game's brightest young stars and a future MVP, nobody in the game today has as much raw power as Giancarlo Stanton, who is averaging 31 home runs and 124 games played a season.

    His ability to not only change the game with one swing of the bat—but to hit some mammoth, regal blasts—makes watching him play worth the price of admission alone.

Venezuela (Pool C)

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    Roster      
    Pitchers Age Throws MLB Affiliation
    Henderson Alvarez 22 R Miami Marlins
    Ronald Belisario 30 R Los Angeles Dodgers
    Jhoulys Chacin 25 R Colorado Rockies
    Enrique Gonzalez 30 R  
    Deolis Guerra 23 R Minnesota Twins
    Cesar Jimenez 28 L Philadelphia Phillies
    Wil Ledezma 32 L  
    Jose Mijares 28 L San Francisco Giants
    Ramon A. Ramirez 30 R  
    Juan Rincon 34 R  
    Francisco Rodriguez 31 R  
    Anibal Sanchez 29 R Detroit Tigers
    Alex Torres 25 L  
    Carlos Zambrano 31 R  
    Catchers Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Ramon Hernandez 36 R Colorado Rockies
    Miguel Montero 29 L Arizona Diamondbacks
    Salvador Perez 22 R Kansas City Royals
    Infielders Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Elvis Andrus 24 R Texas Rangers
    Asdrubal Cabrera 27 S Cleveland Indians
    Miguel Cabrera 29 R Detroit Tigers
    Omar Infante 31 R Detroit Tigers
    Mario Lisson 28 R Kansas City Royals
    Pablo Sandoval 26 S San Francisco Giants
    Marco Scutaro 37 R San Francisco Giants
    Outfielders Age Bats MLB Affiliation
    Carlos Gonzalez 27 L Colorado Rockies
    Gerardo Parra 25 L Arizona Diamondbacks
    Martin Prado 29 R Arizona Diamondbacks
    Alex Romero 29 L  




    Current MLB Players On Roster: 17

    Former MLB Players On Roster: Five

    Current Minor League Players on Roster: Three

    IBAF Ranking8

    All-Time WBC Record: 9-5

    Highest WBC Finish: Third (2009)

    Odds Of Winning: 15-to-2 (per Bovada)

     

    Venezuela's lineup would fit in any All-Star Game.

    Led by Miguel Cabrera, the reigning American League MVP and the game's most recent Triple Crown winner, Venezuela is going to put up runs quickly on the competition.

    Not only is Venezuela's lineup incredible on paper, but when you consider the players that are just entering or already in the prime years of their careers (both Miggy and Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez, Miguel Montero and Pablo Sandoval), it's downright scary how good this lineup should be.

    With Jhoulys Chacin and Anibal Sanchez on the mound, the pitching isn't too shabby either.

    There are some questions after that, as Carlos Zambrano hasn't been effective in two years, while Henderson Alvarez is relatively unproven, only 40 starts into his major league career.

    But with the lineup that Venezuela has, this is as dangerous a team as there is in the tournament. Nobody wants to see these guys on the other side of the field.

     

    Player To Watch: Salvador Perez

    Let's be honest. Nearly everyone on Venezuela's roster is worth watching.

    But picking Miguel Cabrera for this spot just seems so...obvious.

    So let's try a different approach.

    With Ramon Hernandez and Miguel Montero also on the roster, playing time for Salvador Perez is sure to be at a premium.

    But the 23-year-old catcher is one of the more underrated youngsters in baseball. Over the first 110 games of his career, Perez has posted a .311/.339/.471 slash line with 14 home runs and 60 RBI.

    He knows how to hit, has flashed some of his natural talents in limited playing time (he missed much of 2012 due to injury) and will be a difference-maker for Venezuela when he gets a chance to play.

MLB Team Rankings

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    If you were wondering how your favorite MLB team was represented at this year's World Baseball Classic, here's your answer.

    Of the 30 teams in MLB, only one, the Oakland Athletics, is not represented at this year's WBC.

    Totals include both major league and minor league players.

    Team Number of WBC Participants
    Arizona Diamondbacks 7
    Atlanta Braves 5
    Baltimore Orioles 8
    Boston Red Sox 4
    Chicago Cubs 5
    Chicago White Sox 4
    Cincinnati Reds 5
    Cleveland Indians 6
    Colorado Rockies 4
    Detroit Tigers 7
    Houston Astros 6
    Kansas City Royals 8
    Los Angeles Angels 3
    Los Angeles Dodgers 7
    Miami Marlins 3
    Milwaukee Brewers 13
    Minnesota Twins 13
    New York Mets 2
    New York Yankees 7
    Philadelphia Phillies 9
    Pittsburgh Pirates 6
    San Diego Padres 6
    San Francisco Giants 10
    Seattle Mariners 7
    St. Louis Cardinals 5
    Tampa Bay Rays 7
    Texas Rangers 6
    Toronto Blue Jays  9
    Washington Nationals  10