The World Baseball Classic is one of the most exciting tournaments sports fans will ever witness, and the 2013 edition will feature a few under-the-radar teams that will challenge for a championship.
This is only the third WBC in history—Japan won the first two installments of the event—and perennial favorites like Team USA and the Dominican Republic have the talent to perform well again.
As great as those teams are, this tournament is all about the squads that work best together and form into a team that can shock the world.
Each of the following teams could be the underdog that wins it all.
The South Koreans will not receive the fanfare from the mainstream media that many of the other teams in the tournament will, but the camaraderie of this unit and its experience playing together is undeniable.
South Korea made the finals in the 2009 edition of the World Baseball Classic, and the team will have 11 of the players from that roster back this time around. As much as that experience will work in the team’s favor, the players aren’t getting any younger.
Stars like Lee Seung-Yeop, Kim Tae-Kyun and Kang Jung-Ho will give South Korea a great chance to win the whole tournament, but with so many veterans and such a short turnaround between games, age will be this team’s biggest challenge in trying to win the championship.
While Cuba is known for its love of baseball, the lack of players from the MLB allowed to play with the team because of political issues has sent the Cuban team falling down the power rankings for this tournament.
Despite the lack of well-known players, the love for the game and the raw talent of the country’s representatives to the WBC will result in a great team and a serious contender.
Led by Jose Dariel Abreu, Odrisamer Despaigne and Frederich Cepeda, the Cubans will look to build off their success in 2006 (lost in the finals) to make up for their failures in 2009 (lost in the second round) and bring home the 2013 championship.
Most fans are talking about the United States, Japan or the Dominican Republic, but the team that should be heralded as the tournament favorite is Venezuela.
With huge MLB names like defending AL MVP Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez, Elvis Andrus, Asdrubal Cabrera and Pablo Sandoval, this lineup will be one of the most dangerous in the entire tournament.
Pitching will be a concern for Venezuela, but an offense as power-packed as this lineup could easily get hot and win the whole WBC. In the same vein, they could also slump and be eliminated early.
That’s what happens in baseball when you lean on hitting.