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World Baseball Classic 2013 Preview: Predicting How Far Each Team Will Go

Robert KnapelCorrespondent IJuly 21, 2016

World Baseball Classic 2013 Preview: Predicting How Far Each Team Will Go

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    There have already been two completed World Baseball Classics and both times, the trophy has gone to Japan. Fifteen other teams will be looking to take that trophy away from them this year.

    A number of the top major leaguers as well as elite talents from leagues around the globe will be representing their nations in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

    Upsets will happen and some of the favorites may fall early. Regardless of how it ends up, the 2013 World Baseball Classic should be a very entertaining tournament.

Japan

2 of 17

    Appearances: Two

    Best Finish: Champion (2006, 2009)

    Key Players: Masahiro Tanaka (SP), Tadashi Settsu (SP)

    As the only team that has won the World Baseball Classic, there will be very high expectations for the Japanese team this year. It could be difficult for Japan to win a third straight title this year as they will be without some of their top talent from MLB.

    Both Ichiro Suzuki and Yu Darvish have opted not to play for their home country in the tournament. These are significant losses for Japan, but they still have one of the better teams in the tournament.

    Prediction: Runner-Up

China

3 of 17

    Appearances: Two

    Best Finish: 11th (2009)

    Key Players: Ray Chang (IF), Jiangang Lu (SP)

    Team China will have some long odds to get out of Group A since it features both Japan and Cuba. If they are going to surprise one of these teams, it will likely be as the result of an outstanding pitching performance.

    China did defeat Chinese Taipei in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, but both Japan and Cuba are better than those teams. It is possible that China could pick up a win against Brazil in group play.

    Prediction: Eliminated during Pool Play

Cuba

4 of 17

    Appearances: Two

    Best Finish: Runner-Up (2006)

    Key Players: Jose Dariel Abreu (1B), Alfredo Despaigne (OF)

    Cuba has always been a solid performer in international competitions and that should be no different at this year's World Baseball Classic. While many of the players on the rosters may not be household names, a number of them have a world of talent.

    A number of Cuban players have come to the States over the past few seasons and have proven that they have what it takes to be successful. There are many players on the current Cuban roster that could do the same in a few years.

    However, not having Yoenis Cespedes or Aroldis Chapman on the team roster will hurt Cuba's performance.

    Prediction: Fourth Place

Brazil

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    Appearances: Zero

    Best Finish: N/A

    Key Players: Luiz Gohara (SP), Andre Rienzo (SP)

    The 2013 World Baseball Classic will be Brazil's inaugural appearance in the tournament. Considering the fact that Brazil has two of the tournament's titans in their pool, the team's stay in the WBC may not be too long.

    Getting to the World Baseball Classic through the qualifying tournament was a major accomplishment for Brazil and they could use the publicity from the appearance to try to garner some more popularity for the game in a land where futbol reigns supreme.

    Prediction: Eliminated in Pool Play

South Korea

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    Appearances: Two

    Best Finish: Runner-Up (2009)

    Key Players: Lee Seung-Yeop (1B), Lee Dae-Ho (1B)

    South Korea has made an appearance on the medal stand in each of the past two World Baseball Classics. They placed third in 2006 and finished second in 2009. Could this be the year that they go for gold?

    While South Korea's roster is missing a few of its stars from 2009 with both Shin-Soo Choo and Ryu Hyun-Jin not participating, they are still a threat to go deep in the tournament.

    However, with the stiff competition that South Korea could face after pool play, missing these two players may have a huge impact.

    Prediction: Quarterfinalist

Netherlands

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    Appearances: Two

    Best Finish: 7th (2009)

    Key Players: Andrelton Simmons (IF), Xander Bogaerts (IF)

    The one thing that immediately stands out about the Dutch team is the depth that they have in their infield. In addition to Andrelton Simmons, the team also has top prospects Xander Bogaerts and Jonathan Schoop.

    While the Netherlands may be in a good position from both an offensive and defensive standpoint, their pitching could be an issue. Without an ace, the Dutch team may get through pool play, but they will struggle to go any further.

    Prediction: Quarterfinalists

Australia

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    Appearances: Two

    Best Finish: 12th (2009)

    Key Players: Ryan Rowland-Smith (SP)

    During their first two appearances in the World Baseball Classic, Australia struggled mightily. The team has won just one out of six games and has been outscored 46-28.

    This year, the Aussies are hoping for something different. They have a few major leaguers and minor leaguers on their roster, so they are capable of putting together a surprise or two.

    Prediction: Eliminated in Pool Play

Chinese Taipei

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    Appearances: Two

    Best Finish: 12th (2006)

    Key Players: Hung-Chih Kuo (SP), Chien-Ming Wang (SP)

    In a short tournament like the World Baseball Classic, it is incredibly important for a team to have good pitching. Chinese Taipei has former major leaguers such as Hung-Chih Kuo and Chien-Ming Wang on their roster, but they may not be able to out-duel the other starters that they will be facing. 

    The team does have one major advantage as the games for Pool B will be played in Taichung, Taiwan. If Chinese Taipei can use this home-field advantage, they may be able to reach the quarterfinals of the tournament for the first time.

    Prediction: Eliminated in Pool Play

Venezuela

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    Appearances: Two

    Best Finish: 3rd (2009)

    Key Players: Miguel Cabrera (1B), Anibal Sanchez (SP)

    A quick glance at the roster of Team Venezuela and there is a lot to like. Missing Felix Hernandez will certainly hurt the team, but they are incredibly strong on the corners with Miguel Cabrera and Pablo Sandoval.

    The Venezuelan team is one that can win either with the bat or from the mound. However, the team could run into trouble since they lack a true No. 3 starter.

    Prediction: Third Place

Puerto Rico

11 of 17

    Appearances: Two

    Best Finish: 5th (2006, 2009)

    Key Players: Yadier Molina (C), Carlos Beltran (OF)

    Puerto Rico will be led in the 2013 World Baseball Classic by two members of the St. Louis Cardinals. Both Yadier Molina and Carlos Beltran will be expected to be leaders for the Puerto Rican team.

    With the local fans cheering them on in San Juan, the Puerto Rican team should get an extra boost. The question is, will it be enough to get them out of pool play?

    Prediction: Eliminated in Pool Play

Dominican Republic

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    Appearances: Two

    Best Finish: 4th (2006)

    Key Players: Robinson Cano (2B), Jose Reyes (SS)

    With all of the talent in the World Baseball Classic, the best infield may belong to the Dominican Republic. The team will run out Edwin Encarnacion at first, Robinson Cano at second, either Jose Reyes or Hanley Ramirez at shortstop and then Adrian Beltre at third base.

    There is no doubt that the Dominican Republic has a loaded lineup and in addition, they have a solid bullpen. However, their starting rotation, led by Edinson Volquez, could be an issue.

    Prediction: Quarterfinalist

Spain

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    Appearances: Zero

    Best Finish: N/A

    Key Players: Engel Beltre (OF)

    After making it through qualifying to reach the World Baseball Classic, anything that the Spanish team can do there will just be icing on the cake.

    There are a few talented players on the Spanish roster, but it is hard seeing them turning into world-beaters, even for a day, and taking down the All-Star lineups that Venezuela and the Dominican Republic will be running out.

    Prediction: Eliminated in Pool Play

United States

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    Appearances: Two

    Best Finish: 4th (2009)

    Key Players: R.A. Dickey (SP), Ryan Braun (OF)

    Even though a number of top players decided not to represent the United States in the World Baseball Classic so that they could focus on spring training, Team American still has a very solid roster.

    Led by R.A. Dickey and Gio Gonzalez, Team USA has two pitchers that could absolutely shut down an opposing team for nine innings. Considering the team that they have behind them, they could make a run for the championship.

    Prediction: Champions

Mexico

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    Appearances: Two

    Best Finish: 6th (2006)

    Key Players: Adrian Gonzalez (1B), Yovani Gallardo (SP)

    One of the issues that Mexico faces in the World Baseball Classic is its lack of depth. While the team does have Adrian Gonzalez and Danny Espinosa in their infield, they will be running out Karim Garcia in their outfield.

    It will be very difficult for Mexico to contend for a championship with the team that they are sending to the WBC, but that does not mean that they should be counted out.

    Prediction: Quarterfinalists

Italy

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    Appearances: Two

    Best Finish: 10th (2006, 2009)

    Key Players: Anthony Rizzo (1B), Alex Liddi (3B)

    It should be considered no small feat that Italy was able to finish in 10th place during both of their previous appearances in the the World Baseball Classic. Winning a game in the tournament is not easy, and it is certainly more difficult when a large portion of a team's roster has not played in a top flight league.

    However, Italy could put a scare into one of the big players that is in Pool D.

    Prediction: Eliminated in Pool Play

Canada

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    Appearances: Two

    Best Finish: 9th (2006)

    Key Players: Joey Votto (1B), Justin Morneau (1B)

    While Team Canada may not be throwing their best possible roster out there for the World Baseball Classic, the team could still find a way to sneak through and reach the quarterfinals of the tournament.

    Canada has some bats that can carry their offense and if they can get a strong start out of top prospect Jameson Taillon, that could be enough to finish second in Pool D and move on to the quarterfinals. However, this may prove to be a tall task.

    Prediction: Eliminated in Pool Play

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