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World Baseball Classic 2013: X-Factors for Team USA

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World Baseball Classic 2013: X-Factors for Team USA
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Looking at the rosters for the World Baseball Classic, there are few squads with more talent than Team USA. However, that does not mean it will be an easy path to victory.

The United States has struggled in the past events due to various reasons, most notably a lack of interest in the event. It is hard to stay focused when there is an entire regular season still ahead.

Still, the squad's mix of pitching, speed and power should make it one of the top contenders in this tournament. All it will take is a few x-factors to bring it all together.

These are not the most talented players on the roster, but good performances from them will boost the United States to a championship.

 

Ben Zobrist

J. Meric/Getty Images

Although Ben Zobrist never puts up eye-popping numbers for the Tampa Bay Rays, he is one of the most valuable players in baseball.

In fact, he finished sixth in the American League last season in Wins Above Replacement. He does not do anything great, but he does almost everything well.

Zobrist also has played at every position in the major leagues except pitcher and catcher, and his versatility will be very important in the WBC. Manager Joe Torre is likely to move him around throughout the event to try to get his best lineup on the field.

In addition, his patience at the plate will be incredibly valuable if he hits in front of big-time hitters like Ryan Braun, Mark Teixeira and David Wright.

While he is not the first man you notice on the roster, Zobrist could end up being the most important.

 

J.P. Arencibia 

J. Meric/Getty Images

In all likelihood, former AL MVP Joe Mauer will get the start at catcher. He is more experienced, is better defensively and provides more consistency at the plate.

However, this will leave J.P. Arencibia to be a valuable hitter off the bench.

The Blue Jays backstop was one of the best power-hitting catchers in baseball last year with 18 home runs. In 2011, he was third among catchers with 23 long balls.

Catchers are rarely used as pinch hitters because managers want to avoid disaster in case of injury, but Jonathan Lucroy will also provide depth at the position.

This means that Arencibia should be the best option if the squad needs a big hit late in a game. At that time, it will be important that he comes through.

 

R.A. Dickey

Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Yes, R.A. Dickey is expected to be one of the team's best players after winning the NL Cy Young award last season. However, his early-season struggles make him an x-factor in this tournament.

The knuckleball pitcher usually does much better once the weather gets warmer as his signature pitch is able to get more movement.

Over the past three seasons, Dickey has an ERA of 4.12 in April. No other month approaches this mark as he has totaled an ERA of 2.95 over that stretch.

You can see the difference in his June ERA of 2.02. Amazingly he has allowed fewer home runs in 115.2 innings in June than in 63.1 innings in April.

If the knuckleball dances like it did last season, the rest of the world will struggle to even make contact. However, team USA will be in trouble if its presumed ace cannot provide enough movement in the cold weather.

 

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