World Baseball Classic 2013: Sleeper Squads Set to Make Impact in Tournament
The World Baseball Classic is full of powerhouse teams like Japan, Cuba and Team USA, but that doesn't mean under-the-radar squads are to be written off completely.
Look at the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid. Nobody expected Team USA to even compete in hockey, and the team went on to win the gold medal.
Such could be the case for this year's WBC, which features first-time teams from Brazil and Spain, not to mention returning underdogs in Australia and Canada.
These teams aren't stocked with stars that are household names, but don't count them out just yet. The talent that exists on these seemingly low-profile teams could surprise everyone once the tournament is in full swing.
OK, so maybe Canada isn't a conventional underdog. After all, the team does have former National League MVP Joey Votto along with a bevy of other MLB veterans, so it can be argued that the Canadians do have some sort of upper hand.
However, what gives Canada its underdog status is its young pitching staff. Save for John Axford and Jesse Crain, the rest of the team is largely unknown unless you follow the minor leagues religiously.
This is why other veteran teams, especially Team USA, could be at a disadvantage. Many of Canada's pitchers, like Phillippe Aumont and Jameson Taillon, are hurlers they have never seen before. Save for scouting reports, there's not much to go on in terms of how to approach them.
Keep an eye on this pitching staff for sure, as it could be full of surprises down the stretch.
Believe it or not, Australia has been making an impact in MLB for the past few decades. Infielder Craig Shipley made his debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1986 (though he was educated at the University of Alabama), and Dave Nilsson spent seven seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers starting in 1992.
This year, Australia brings some solid talent to the WBC. MLB regulars like Peter Moylan and Luke Hughes won't be playing, but former Seattle Mariners standouts Ryan Rowland-Smith and Chris Snelling should provide some fireworks for the fans.
The odds of this team winning the championship are slim, but the Australians are definitely not to be counted out.
That's right, folks. You read that correctly. Brazil is sending a team to the WBC this year!
Though most of us may regard the country as a soccer mecca, baseball has apparently made enough of an impact there that a team was fielded for 2013. Though any of their games could seem like a blowout waiting to happen, don't be so quick to count Brazil out.
Though none of the team's players are household names, 11 members of the roster play in the Japanese leagues, be it Nippon Professional Baseball or the Japanese Industrial League.
Seeing as how Japan has won both WBC championships thus far, this gives Brazil a unique advantage, especially since the team is in the same pool as Japan. Some of these players know their opponent well, and that could give the Brazilians an advantage when it comes time to play Japan.
Throw in that the team's manager is Hall-of-Famer Barry Larkin, and this is definitely not a team to be taken lightly.
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