The 2013 World Baseball Classic officially gets underway this weekend with 16 teams vying for the right to be called the best in the world.
It's not just an opportunity for each country to gain bragging rights, however. It also opens up the sport to the entire world, further globalizing a sport that originated in the United States.
What holds true in Major League Baseball is what will be a major factor in determining the winner in the WBC as well—good pitching.
With that in mind, here is a ranking of the top six starting rotations that could help lead their respective country to victory.
One veteran major league pitcher will help lead Puerto Rico in the WBC as they begin play in Pool C action early next month.
Javier Vazquez will front a starting rotation that's short on experience. Vazquez, who hasn't pitched in the majors since 2011, is rehabbing from surgery to repair a torn meniscus but should be ready in time for the WBC.
Beyond Vazquez, Puerto Rico will have Nelson Figueroa, minor league prospect Andres Santiago, Cleveland Indians prospect Giovanni Soto and Milwaukee Brewers prospect Hiram Burgos, who could impact the Brewers' roster at some point this season.
It's not nearly as star-studded as other WBC rotations, but with a set pitching limit in the early rounds, Puerto Rico could do some damage in their effort to advance.
The Dominican Republic features a roster much like Venezuela—a lineup stacked with veteran stars with a starting rotation not quite as loaded.
Wandy Rodriguez and Edinson Volquez are the most established major leaguers for the Dominican squad. Alexi Ogando opted to forgo the tournament to focus on establishing himself as a starter once again for the Texas Rangers.
Sam Deduno, who posted a 6-5 record and 4.44 ERA in 15 starts for the Minnesota Twins last season, was recently added as well.
The Dominican Republic will be challenged to get past both Venezuela and the United States in Pool D action. They just might have to rely more on their bullpen to get them there.
Japan will bring a young, domestic-based squad to the WBC this season in defense of their title.
The only winners of the previous two WBC tournaments, Japan, this time around, features no active MLB players. However, the starting rotation has a very impressive resume.
Masahiro Tanaka tops the starting staff with a 75-35 record, 2.50 ERA and 1,055 strikeouts in four seasons with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.
Kenta Maeda of the Hiroshima Carp, Tadashi Settsu of the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, Tetsuya Utsumi, the 2012 Japan Series MVP, and Toshiya Sugiuchi of the Yomiuri Giants will also be pitching in.
While this quartet may not have experience playing on American soil, they are more than ready to show the rest of the world that they are capable of leading Japan to a third straight WBC title.
Mexico won't have an easy time of it in their first-round action that commences on March 7. But they have an impressive starting rotation that could make life interesting for other countries.
Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada lead the rotation with Rodrigo Lopez, Alfredo Aceves and Luis Mendoza pitching in to provide support as well.
Mexico has a tough first-round draw with Italy, Canada and the United States. Their first two games against Italy and the U.S. will be crucial if they're to advance to second-round action.
Having Gallardo lead the way in their first game will certainly give them an advantage over a weaker Italian team.
Venezeula features a team that promises to be electric. With veterans Miguel Montero, Salvador Perez, Elvis Andrus, Miguel Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval, Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez, Gerardo Parra and Martin Prado, Venezuela is clearly one of the favorites in the upcoming WBC.
It would be foolhardy to look past the starting rotation as well. While Felix Hernandez pulled out of the tournament, Anibal Sanchez and Jhoulys Chacin will help lead the way. Carlos Zambrano and Henderson Alvarez also help in providing depth.
Venezuela faces a tough battle with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Spain in first-round play. However, Sanchez and Chacin could be enough to help Venezuela navigate their way through Pool C action.
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander announced two weeks ago that he would not participate in the WBC.
It won't much matter—the United States starting rotation is absolutely stacked.
R.A. Dickey, Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Vogelsong, Derek Holland and Ross Detwiler make up the current rotation for the U.S., who have failed to get past the semifinal round in their first two appearances.
A rotation featuring last year's Cy Young Award winner, a 21-game winner and a postseason hero bodes very well for the United States' chances.
Along with a bullpen that features Craig Kimbrel, Jeremy Affeldt, Steve Cishek and Luke Gregerson, among others, the U.S.'s chances of finally winning the WBC are certainly enhanced.