World Baseball Classic 2013: Power Ranking the Lineups
The third World Baseball Classic kicks off this coming Saturday, and it appears that Team USA has as good a chance as ever to take home the title after Japan claimed the first two.
Much like in the MLB postseason, pitching is what carries a team to victory, but having a stacked offense of stars certainly doesn't hurt in the WBC.
Three teams appear to be head and shoulders above the rest of the pack from an offensive standpoint, but there are some underrated offenses that could surprise and make some noise as well.
16. Brazil (Pool A)
The Cinderella story of the 2012 qualifying tournament to earn its first trip to the WBC, Brazil is a team loaded with unknowns, but the team does have some players with minor league experience.
Yan Gomes was set to be the star of the team, but he backed out to focus on making the Opening Day roster for the Indians.
Without him, what was already expected to be an uphill climb has only gotten tougher, but the fact that this team made the tournament at all was a major victory for the Brazilians.
15. China (Pool A)
The Chinese lineup is short on major league talent, as 29-year-old Ray Chang is the only player with major league experience.
Chang went 5-for-11 with a home run and two RBI in the team's three games back in 2009, and he hit .241/.304/.271 in Triple-A for the Twins last season.
Also back from the 2009 lineup are shortstop Delong Jia (three games, 0-for-7) and first baseman Fujia Chu (three games, 1-for-9, 1 R), but the China lineup will likely struggle to score runs once again this time around.
14. Spain (Pool C)
Buried in a pool that includes juggernauts Dominican Republic and Venezuela and a third strong lineup in Cuba, the Spain team will have trouble stacking up to the other offenses it'll be facing.
The star of the team will be Rangers outfielder Engel Beltre, as the 23-year-old has dynamic speed and hit .261/.307/.420 with 13 home runs and 36 steals in Double-A last season.
Second baseman Paco Figueroa, shortstop Yunesky Sanchez, third baseman Jesus Golindano and outfielder Yasser Gomez each tallied five RBI in the team's four qualifying games, so there are some other bats.
However, a lack of power and big league experience coupled with a tough pool-play draw will make things awfully tough on Spain.
13. Italy (Pool D)
Gone from Team Italy is staple Frank Catalanotto, who is now part of the coaching staff, but there is still big league talent on the roster.
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo ranks as the team's top bat, as the 23-year-old will be the team's top power threat and star of the roster.
Dodgers infielder Nick Punto and Padres outfielder Chris Denorfia give the team some veteran big league talent, while Mariners infield prospect Alex Liddi should provide some pop as well.
With a thin pitching staff, the team will need a solid offensive showing to have a chance of advancing out of pool play.
12. Australia (Pool B)
The Australian team has its share of former big league players and current minor league players, but there is no one currently on a big league roster.
Former top MLB prospects Justin Huber and Chris Snelling will be back after hitting in the middle of the team's lineup during the 2009 WBC, as will infielders Luke Hughes, Brad Harman and James Beresford.
Outfielder David Kandilas (COL) and third basemen Stefan Welch (PIT) and Mike Walker (MIL) are low-level minor league prospects with some offensive potential. Catcher Allan de San Miguel (BAL) is a solid defensive backstop.
However, there is a clear lack of top-end talent here. The Aussies will have a tough time advancing out of pool play.
11. Chinese Taipei (Pool B)
After getting swept in the 2009 WBC, Chinese Taipei was forced to qualify for the tournament and did so in grand fashion, outscoring opponents 35-0 over its three games.
Center fielder Che-Hsuan Lin is the big league name some may recognize, as he's hit .256/.347/.344 and swiped 145 bases over six minor league seasons with the Red Sox.
Outfielder Chien-Ming Chang (.545 BA, 6 RBI) and third baseman Yung-Chi Chen (.444 BA, 6 RBI) led the way offensively in qualifying.
They have a real chance at advancing out of pool play, as they have some offense, but they will likely need to pile up the runs to succeed with an unproven pitching staff.
10. Mexico (Pool D)
The Mexican team's lineup is shorter on MLB talent than it has been in its previous two WBC appearances, but it still has some solid bats.
Adrian Gonzalez will lead the offense once again, as he hit a pair of home runs and drove in seven last time around.
Jorge Cantu is also back, and while his big league career has fallen by the wayside, he is still just 31 and adds a proven bat.
The team's most interesting hitter may be former big leaguer Karim Garcia, who hit .334 with 22 home runs and 80 RBI in the Mexican League last season and still has some pop as a 37-year-old.
9. Korea (Pool B)
The Korean team will be without star outfielder Shin-Soo Choo this time around, but it still has some solid bats in the lineup.
Five-time Korean Baseball Organization MVP Seung Yuop Lee is perhaps the biggest name on the roster, as he has hit 483 home runs between the KBO and the Nippon Professional Baseball League.
Outfielder Hyunsoo Kim may be the team's best player, and he was named to the All-WBC team in 2009 when he went 11-for-28 with four RBI and three doubles.
First baseman Taekyun Kim made the All-WBC team as well, going 10-for-29 with three home runs and 11 RBI, and there is talent there for the Korean team this time around.
8. Netherlands (Pool B)
Though he didn't play last time around, the most well-known player to come out of the Netherlands in recent memory is outfielder Andruw Jones.
After launching 434 home runs over 17 big league seasons, Jones signed a one-year deal with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Pacific League.
He's joined in the outfield by Nationals speedster Roger Bernadina and former Mariners prospect Wladimir Balentien, as the team has plenty of big league talent.
The infield is where the real intriguing talent is though, as Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons is joined by Red Sox top prospect Xander Bogaerts and Orioles prospect Jonathan Schoop.
Rangers prospect Jurickson Profar would have joined that group as well had he not dropped out, but the lineup is still enough for the team to make a run at winning a wide-open Pool B.
7. Japan (Pool A)
The Japanese team is without an active major league player on its roster, as stars like Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui and others aren't around this time.
Second baseman Kaz Matsui hit .267/.321/.380 with 102 steals in seven big-league seasons, and the 37-year-old will serve as the team's veteran leader.
Catcher Shinnosuke Abe hit .340/.429/.565 with 27 home runs and 104 RBI last season for the Yomiuri Giants to capture Central League MVP honors.
The team also has a solid up-and-coming talent in 24-year-old shortstop Hayato Sakamoto, who hit .311/.359/.456 with 14 home runs and 69 RBI while also playing for Yomiuri. Pitching will carry this team, but the offense should be solid as well.
6. Cuba (Pool A)
The Cuban team is a tough one to get a feel for, as it clearly has no big league talent given our relations with Cuba and that its talent pool tends to be thinned by players defecting.
Cuba was knocked out by Japan in 2006 and 2009, but it has plenty of talent returning from the 2009 team and should have a solid all-around squad.
While outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Leonys Martin are no longer with the team after defecting, 2009 standouts Frederich Cepeda (12-for-24, 3 HR, 10 RBI) and Yulieski Gourriel (8-for-24, 2 HR, 6 RBI) return to lead the offense.
One player to watch is first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu.
The 26-year-old hit .453/.597/.986 with 33 home runs and 93 RBI over just 66 games back in 2011, then followed that up with a .394/.542/.837 line and 35 home runs in 2012.
5. Puerto Rico (Pool C)
The Puerto Rico team is thin on pitching, and that may keep it from advancing out of pool play, but this team has an offense that should at least make some noise.
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina enjoyed a breakout offensive season last year, hitting .315 with 22 home runs and 76 RBI.
Indians infielder Mike Aviles leads a relatively thin infield that also includes Royals prospect Irving Falu and Twins prospect Eddie Rosario.
The outfield is solid though, as it has a pair of All-Star-caliber sluggers in Carlos Beltran and Alex Rios. Those two will be joined by Giants outfielders Angel Pagan and Andres Torres.
4. Canada (Pool D)
The Canadian lineup will be driven by four proven big league hitters in Michael Saunders, Justin Morneau, Brett Lawrie and Joey Votto.
Beyond those four, infielders Taylor Green and Pete Orr both have plenty of experience, and catcher Chris Robinson is a seasoned minor league veteran.
Outfielder Adam Loewen is an interesting case, as he threw 3.2 shutout innings against Team USA in the inaugural WBC before transitioning to the outfield, where he has developed into a solid power threat.
As for an unknown to watch, center fielder Tyson Gillies should serve as a table-setter and provide plenty of speed. He enters the season as the No. 26 prospect in the Phillies organization, according to the Baseball America Prospect Handbook.
3. Dominican Republic (Pool C)
The Dominican team is once again loaded with MLB star power, and it starts with a deep infield that will lead the team offensively.
With Edwin Encarnacion at first, Robinson Cano and second, Jose Reyes at shortstop and Hanley Ramirez at third base, there is a good mix of power and speed.
Indians catcher Carlos Santana and Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz give the team two more proven power bats, but there are some holes in the lineup.
White Sox speedster Alejandro De Aza will likely start in center field, and 24-year-old Blue Jays outfielder Moises Sierra seems like the most likely candidate for the third outfield spot, but all in all it is as talented a lineup as any in the WBC.
2. Venezuela (Pool C)
Led by sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Gonzalez, the Venezuela team has one of the most complete lineups in the entire tournament.
Elvis Andrus, Asdrubal Cabrera and Pablo Sandoval will join Miguel Cabrera in the starting infield, and versatile veterans Omar Infante and Marco Scutaro fill out the bench.
Gerardo Parra and Martin Prado are the team's other two starting outfielders, while Miguel Montero and Salvador Perez give the team a dynamic one-two punch behind the plate.
With a pitching staff led by Anibal Sanchez and Jhoulys Chacin, the Venezuelans not be the favorite to win it all, but their offense will be enough to put them right in the thick of things.
1. United States (Pool D)
Team USA is missing some of the country's marquee names, especially on the pitching side of things, but its offense should still rank among the best in the tournament.
The outfield may be the team's most impressive area, as Shane Victorino, Adam Jones, Giancarlo Stanton and Ryan Braun give the team four of the best outfielders in the tournament.
A starting infield made up of Mark Teixeira, Brandon Phillips, Jimmy Rollins and David Wright, with Ben Zobrist coming off the bench, should hold its own as well.
Catcher Joe Mauer rounds out the starting lineup, and he'll be backed up by Jonathan Lucroy and J.P. Arencibia. There is no clear hole in the USA lineup, and the team has a solid mix of young stars and veterans.