The 2013 World Baseball Classic is right around the corner, as 16 nations gear up for a three-week tournament that will crown the best baseball team on the planet.
Japan has taken home the crown at the last two World Baseball Classics, winning in 2006 and 2009. But while the Japanese will once again be a squad to follow closely, there are a number of other contenders out there, including the Dominican Republic, the United States and Venezuela, who all possess elite individual players.
With the tournament nearly underway, it's time we power rank the five best players set to showcase their talents on the world stage this March.
No. 5. Joey Votto, Canada, 1B
Although superstar first baseman Joey Votto still hasn't made up his mind as to whether he'll suit up for the Canadian team this March, he remains one of the best players in the world.
The 2010 National League MVP, Votto is a Toronto native and an offensive force at the plate. He's hit 129 home runs for the Reds over the course of his last five seasons and boasts a career batting average of .316.
If he decides to represent his country at the World Baseball Classic this March, then he'll be a player to keep an eye on for sure.
No. 4. R.A. Dickey, United States, P
Only Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez won more games in 2012 than R.A. Dickey (20-6). And only three major league pitchers finished the year with a better ERA than Dickey (2.73).
The veteran had a remarkable season with the New York Mets, earning his first winning record as a starter since 2003 when he was with the Texas Rangers. Look for the reigning Cy Young Award winner to shine on the mound for Team USA.
The U.S. roster features a number of elite pitchers, including Gonzalez, but Dickey certainly stands out from the rest.
No. 3. Robinson Cano, Dominican Republic, 2B
Robinson Cano has emerged as one of the top home run hitters and defensive players in baseball over the years with the New York Yankees.
Cano went yard 33 times this past season in the Big Apple, batting .313 with 94 RBI and a .550 slugging percentage. He was also a stud in the infield for the Yankees, boasting a .992 fielding percentage in 2012.
Cano is the best player on a loaded Dominican Republic roster this year. You won't want to miss him.
No. 2. Ryan Braun, United States, OF
There's certainly no denying that the Americans will have the best outfield this March, as Milwaukee's Ryan Braun is arguably the best offensive outfielder in baseball today.
The 2011 National League MVP, Braun led the NL with 41 homes runs last season. He also ranked in the top five in the NL in batting average (319) and RBI (112) in 2012. His speed is another advantage; he stole 30 bases last season for the Brewers.
With the United States once again fielding a deep, talented roster, Braun will be under pressure to perform on both sides of the ball at the World Baseball Classic.
No. 1. Miguel Cabrera, Venezuela, 3B, 1B
The reigning American League MVP, Miguel Cabrera is arguably the most talented offensive player on the planet right now. He has power that he utilizes at the all the right times and the ability to get on base as well.
Cabrera's greatness was cemented by his Triple Crown-winning performance in 2012, in which he led the American League in batting average (.330), home runs (44) and RBI (139).
With Cabrera loading up at the plate, Venezuela has a great shot to dethrone Japan this March.
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