This weekend, the 2013 World Baseball Classic is set to begin in countries all around the world. This gives a chance for the world's best baseball players to represent their country in a winner-takes-all tournament.
MLB players are allowed to skip the first few weeks of spring training in order to battle it out for their homeland. Professional players from various countries can make their name known, just like Daisuke Matsuzaka did in the previous WBCs.
The World Baseball Classic doesn't have a long history, but the tradition is building each time it’s played. This is the third World Baseball Classic. Japan won the first two times and will look to continue its streak this year.
The highest finish for the United States team was fourth place in 2009. However, their year’s team is stacked compared to the past squads. The International Baseball Federation ranked the US team No. 2 in the world because of players like R.A. Dickey, David Wright, Ryan Braun and Mark Teixeira that lead the way.
There are also some young guns in the roster that could be the difference and bring the United States success this year. Here are three Team USA players with the most to prove in this year's tournament.
The 23-year old outfielder for the Miami Marlins has really started to breakout in the majors over the last two seasons. Last year, he had a .290 batting average, 37 home runs and 86 runs batted in, which earned him a spot on the National League All-Star team. He is poised to have an even better fourth season in the league, but has to prove himself first in the World Baseball Classic.
The youngster has never been on a stage like this, and team USA will need his power hitting throughout the tournament. If he can bring his bat every game, then the US team has a good chance to take gold.
Pitching will be crucial for Team USA's success in the World Baseball Classic. Although its pitching rotation isn't as good as it could be, there are some highly qualified arms in the starting five. Ryan Vogelsong needs to be effective and consistent when he takes the mound.
He has been an excellent middleman for the San Francisco Giants' rotation and has to continue to produce quality pitches. There are excellent hitters on opposing teams that Vogelsong will face, and he needs to step up and make some major contributions.
Adam Jones is another young outfielder who needs to prove himself in the World Baseball Classic. Jones was one of the main reasons why the Baltimore Orioles made it to the playoffs last season after a 15-year drought. He made it to the All-Star team and won the Gold Glove Award for the second time in his career.
Jones will be an important factor in Team USA's success in the WBC. He needs to get hits when he steps up to plate and be a defensive presence in the outfield. If Jones can play the way he does for the Orioles, then Team USA should be in good shape to win the World Baseball Classic.