World Baseball Classic 2013: Breaking Down All 16 Teams
While many fans know about some of the teams in the World Baseball Classic, there are some teams that are big unknowns because a majority of their players are not in the MLB. Some of these teams are actually among the best in the tournament.
Each team has its own unique strengths and weaknesses based on its roster, and all are all hoping for a chance to be named the champions of the World Baseball Classic.
Predictions for the 2013 World Baseball Classic are certainly based on the skill sets that each team possesses. In addition, learning more about the teams makes the series more enjoyable to watch.
Best Hitter: Shinnosuke Abe (C)
It can easily be argued that the NPB is the best professional baseball league outside of the MLB. With that league's biggest stars participating in the tournament for Japan, the team will have no shortage of talented hitters in its lineup.
Japan will be led offensively by Shinnosuke Abe. He has demonstrated both 40-homer power and the ability to bat over .300 during his time with the Yomiuri Giants.
Best Pitcher: Masahiro Tanaka (SP)
Even without Yu Darvish, the Japanese team will have one of the best starting rotations in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
The ace of Japan's rotation is Masahiro Tanaka, a former Eiji Sawamura award winner. Tanaka is not the only pitcher on Japan's roster to have won that prestigious award. Tadashi Settsu has taken home that award as well.
Given the talent that Japan has on its roster, it should come as no surprise that Japan is one of the favorites in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
Best Hitter: Ray Chang (IF)
China is not exactly known as a baseball powerhouse, so it should come as no surprise that many fans will not know many, if any, players on the team's roster.
Ray Chang is the only major player on China's roster who is a member of a major league organization. As a member of the Minnesota Twins Triple-A team, Chang hit .241 in 2012.
Best Pitcher: Jiangang Lu (SP)
During the team's six games in the first two renditions of the World Baseball Classic, China has only managed one win.
It came after a strong pitching performance by Jiangang Lu in 2009 in a game against Chinese Taipei. He went 5.1 innings and only gave up one run. China will need their other pitchers to pitch at that level if it's going to have a chance to win a game or two.
The chances that China makes it out of Pool A are incredibly slim, but if the team can put a scare in one of the major players in the pool, China can show how far it has come since 2009.
Best Hitter: Jose Dariel Abreu (1B)
Missing Yoenis Cespedes will certainly have an impact on Cuba's lineup during the 2013 World Baseball Classic, but the team will certainly not be short of power bats.
Jose Dariel Abreu and Alfredo Despaigne are both big bats who have no problem knocking an opposing pitcher's fastball over the fence. These two players are complimented by a number of strong hitters in the Cuban team's lineup.
Best Pitcher: Odrisamer Despaigne (SP)
Another big name missing from the Cuban roster is Aroldis Chapman. He certainly is the type of player who could have been a difference maker for the country.
Cuba will still have a decent rotation, led by Odrisamer Despaigne, that could help lead the team deep into the tournament.
While Cuba may be missing some of its biggest names, it's still a threat to win the tournament. There is a reason why Cuba is currently ranked as the No. 1 team in the world.
Best Hitter: Iago Januario (1B)
As baseball gains popularity in Brazil, there will be more and more players who reach the minor leagues. At the moment, the team has four position players in MLB organizations.
Iago Januario played for the Tampa Bay Rays team in the VSL and slugged 11 home runs in 52 games. Another name to watch is Paulo Orlando, a minor leaguer in the Kansas City Royals organization.
Best Pitcher: Andre Rienzo (SP)
There are also a few minor leaguers among Brazil's pitching staff, but none stand out as much as Andre Rienzo. The Chicago White Sox pitcher is the ace of the staff and a good start from him will likely be Brazil's best chance of getting a win.
Just making it to its first World Baseball Classic was a major accomplishment for Brazil. Anything else will just be icing on top of the cake.
Best Hitter: Lee Seung-Yeop (1B)
As the defending runner-up at the World Baseball Classic, there will be high expectations for South Korea in 2013. The team will have to live up to the hype despite not having Shin-Soo Choo on its roster.
Lee Seung-Yeop won five MVP awards during his time in the Korean Baseball Organization before he went to play in Japan. He will be expected to provide veteran leadership to the team.
Best Pitcher: Suk-Min Yoon (SP)
The 2011 season was a very good one for Suk-Min Yoon. He won the pitching Triple Crown for the Korean Baseball Organization and was named the league's MVP.
Yoon has also performed well on an international stage in the past, going 2-0 in the last World Baseball Classic. He will be the ace of a fairly talented Korean pitching staff.
South Korea is certainly a team to watch in the 2013 World Baseball Classic and it could place in the top three this year.
Best Hitter: Andrelton Simmons (IF)
The real strength of the Dutch team lies with the middle of its infield. The team has both Andrelton Simmons and Xander Bogaerts on its roster.
Andrew Jones will provide the team with a veteran presence, and if he has anything left in his bat, he could be an impact player in this tournament.
Best Pitcher: Shairon Martis (SP)
Once Jair Jurrjens decided that he would not be participating in this edition of the World Baseball Classic, the Netherlands' pitching staff went from poor to bad.
Shairon Martis, a pitcher who has been a member of three MLB organizations in the past three years is likely the team's best pitcher. That should say a lot about the team's pitching staff.
If the Dutch team is going to make a run in the World Baseball Classic, it will have to be on the strength of its defensive play and the performance of its hitters.
Best Hitter: Stefan Welch (1B)
The Australian lineup is one that may have some trouble over the course of the World Baseball Classic. It has a few minor leaguers, but it lacks a truly elite talent.
It appears as if the Australian team may need to hope it catches a pitcher on a bad day if it's going to put up some decent run totals.
Best Pitcher: Ryan Rowland-Smith (P)
As with the Australian starting lineup, there are no names that really stand out on the team's pitching staff. Australia is going to hope that one or two of its starters can have one of the better performances of his life.
It would be a pretty big surprise if the Australian team found a way to make it out of pool play.
Best Hitter: Cheng-Min Peng (1B)
Even though Chinese Taipei lost its only two games in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, it has a chance to make it out of pool play this year. That is in part due to Taipei's home-field advantage.
The crowds will be going crazy when players like Cheng-Min Peng, a five-time batting champion in the Chinese Professional Baseball League, come to the plate.
Best Pitcher: Jen-Ho Tseng (SP)
One of the things that carried Chinese Taipei through the qualifiers was its superb pitching. The team did not allow a run in any of the three games that it played.
Jen-Ho Tseng is an up-and-coming talent for the team and was a huge part of its success in the IBAF U18 Championships in 2012.
Chinese Taipei could be one of the more surprising teams in the tournament this year and may challenge to make the quarterfinals.
Best Hitter: Miguel Cabrera (3B)
In a lineup loaded with MLB talent, one name stands out. Triple Crown winner and 2012 American League MVP Miguel Cabrera is the best player on Venezuela's roster.
He is being supported by Pablo Sandoval, Carlos Gonzalez, Elvis Andrus and others. The team certainly has an immensely talented lineup.
Best Pitcher: Anibal Sanchez (SP)
Venezuela took a big hit when Felix Hernandez had to be removed from its roster. Without Hernandez, the team still has a good pitching staff, but it does not have a legitimate ace.
In addition to its rotation, the Venezuelan team also has a strong bullpen that will help it hold close leads late in games.
Venezuela has the talent on its roster to medal in the tournament.
Best Hitter: Yadier Molina (C)
One of the biggest benefits of having Yadier Molina on its roster is not his offensive talents, but rather his ability to handle a pitching staff. This skill is invaluable in a short tournament.
In addition to the offense that Molina provides, hitters such as Carlos Beltran will also make sure that the runs keep coming for the Puerto Rican team.
Best Pitcher: J.C. Romero (RP)
The biggest weakness for the Puerto Rican team is likely its pitching staff. With the news that Javier Vazquez will miss the 2013 World Baseball Classic, the team is in a tough spot (Ruben Rodriguez of El Nuevo Dia via NBC Sports). The team's best starter may be Minnesota Twins prospect J.O. Berrios, who is one of the biggest under-the-radar players in the WBC.
Additionally, Puerto Rico's bullpen does feature some MLB talent such as J.C. Romero, but it may not be strong enough to keep the team alive for a long run in the tournament.
Puerto Rico has the talent to win more than a few games in this tournament. However, the team could also struggle to make it past pool play because of its pitching.
Best Hitter: Robinson Cano (2B)
The Dominican Republic has a nice mix of power and speed on its 2013 World Baseball Classic team. Edwin Encarnacion and Robinson Cano lead the big bats, while speedster Jose Reyes can cause problems on the basepaths.
Its lineup is incredibly deep and also features Carlos Santana, Hanley Ramirez and Nelson Cruz. If the team lasts long enough in the tournament, it could lead it in runs scored.
Best Pitcher: Edinson Volquez (SP)
While the Dominican Republic does not have the best rotation in the tournament, the strength of its lineup and bullpen can certainly make up for it.
Fernando Rodney, Jose Valverde and Santiago Casilla could team together to make sure that the Dominican Republic hangs on to its leads.
There is no doubt that the Dominican Republic team is a threat offensively, but how far it goes could depend on its pitching.
Best Hitter: Engel Beltre (OF)
With three very strong teams in Pool C, Spain has a very tough road ahead of themselves in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
Using a lineup that will consist mostly of minor league players, the Spanish team will find it difficult to compete against lineups that have big league stars.
Best Pitcher: Rhiner Cruz (RP)
Opposing teams may be looking to feast on the pitchers on Team Spain. Some of the pitchers have minor league experience, but have not reached the majors.
It would not be surprising if the Spanish team gave up a number of runs during its three games in the tournament.
Qualification was a start, and hopefully the Spanish team can find a way to build off of this.
Best Hitter: Ryan Braun (OF)
Even though the United States does not have some of its top players, it's still able to put together a very formidable lineup that can make some noise.
Supporting Ryan Braun will be players such as David Wright, Giancarlo Stanton, Adam Jones, Joe Mauer, Brandon Phillips and Mark Teixeira. That lineup sounds like an All-Star team.
Best Pitcher: R.A. Dickey (SP)
Having a Cy Young award winner as the ace of your pitching staff is always a good sign about a team's chances. R.A. Dickey's knuckleball can baffle hitters from around the globe.
Gio Gonzalez is a very strong No. 2 and Ryan Vogelsong is a solid No. 3. Considering the fact that the USA has some lockdown pitchers in its bullpen, its pitching staff looks like one of the better ones in the tournament.
Even though the United States has struggled in some international competitions in the past, its 2013 World Baseball Classic team could come away from the tournament as champions.
Best Hitter: Adrian Gonzalez (1B)
Once you get past Adrian Gonzalez, the talent level of the Mexican roster drops off significantly. To illustrate this point, Karim Garcia will be one of the team's outfielders.
For Mexico to have a chance of getting out of pool play and making an impact in this tournament, it's going to need an unsung hero to emerge.
Best Pitcher: Yovani Gallardo (SP)
Thankfully, Mexico's pitching situation is much better than its offensive one. Yovani Gallardo leads the team's starting rotation and is followed by Marco Estrada.
While there is not much behind Gallardo and Estrada in the starting rotation, the team has a decent bullpen that features players such as Sergio Romo.
The second spot in Pool D appears to be open for the taking, and Mexico has a chance to grab it.
Best Hitter: Anthony Rizzo (1B)
Italy has landed a few players based on the World Baseball Classic's eligibility rules that will make a big impact for it in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. Anthony Rizzo is one of those talents.
In addition to Rizzo, the Italian team has a few other players with major league experience, such as Alex Liddi, who can help it play spoiler.
Best Pitcher: Jason Grilli (RP)
While Italy does have some talent on the offensive side of the ball, it does not have the same level of skill on the mound.
Jason Grilli is the best pitcher on Italy's roster, and the team also has the switch pitching Pat Venditte in its bullpen. Italy's rotation is a big question mark for the team.
Italy beat Canada in the last World Baseball Classic, and it would not be incredibly shocking to see Italy do it again. If Italy can get some luck with its starting pitchers' performances, it could move past pool play.
Best Hitter: Joey Votto (1B)
Adding Joey Votto to the roster as a late addition was huge for Team Canada and significantly improves Canada's chances of having a strong performance in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
Justin Morneau and Brett Lawrie are also solid players. The three of them will have to carry the load of the weight for Canada offensively.
Best Pitcher: Jameson Taillon (SP)
While the strength of Canada's pitching may lie in its bullpen, the best pitcher on its staff is starter Jameson Taillon. The youngster has looked great in the minors, and he should be able to hold his own in pool play.
As for the Canadian bullpen, it features John Axford, Jesse Crain, Phillippe Aumont and others. It is certainly a serviceable group.
Canada will be looking to make it out of pool play at the World Baseball Classic for the first time in the team's history, and it has a roster that may just be able to pull it off.