With only two of the four pools beginning play in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, it's tough to gauge which countries have the edge in this year's tournament.
For Pools C and D, the best we can do is analyze the rosters and make predictions based on past performances and current talent.
That's exactly what I've done here, predicting the top three teams I believe will compete for the 2013 WBC title.
3. Dominican Republic
Anytime your roster owns one of the best hitters in baseball in Robinson Cano, you're going to have a shot to compete for the title.
To go along with four-time All-Star Cano, the D.R. boasts a hefty lineup with the likes of Jose Reyes, Nelson Cruz, Hanley Ramirez and Edwin Encarnacion.
Pitching certainly isn't the Dominicans' strength in 2013—its most notable starters include Edinson Volquez and Wandy Rodriguez—but they have enough offense to make up for a subpar pitching staff.
The Dominican Republic finished fourth in the inaugural WBC in 2006, its best finish in the short history of the tournament.
The D.R. will begin its road to title town on Thursday, March 7, when Pool C play starts with a matchup against a strong Venezuelan team.
As the only country to ever win the WBC (2006 and 2009), Japan is again a heavy favorite in 2013.
According to Vegas Insider, the Japanese team has 5-to-2 odds of winning the tournament this year.
For the first time ever, Team Japan is without pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, who won the MVP award in each of Japan's WBC championships.
Playing in Pool A, Japan is already 2-0 in the early going, scoring five runs in each of its first two games against Brazil and China.
Japan has arguably the best pitching staff in the tournament and takes a sense of national pride in the WBC, which is why it's had so much success.
With former MVP Shinnosuke Abe and ace Masahiro Tanaka, Japan is poised to make it a three-peat in 2013.
Maybe I'm biased, but I just think this is a different year for the U.S. in the WBC.
Between starters R.A. Dickey and Gio Gonzalez and flame-throwing closer Craig Kimbrel, the U.S. has the necessary pitching to make a deep run in 2013.
As far as offense, there's no questioning the potential of Team USA's lineup, with the likes of Ryan Braun, Giancarlo Stanton, Adam Jones, Brandon Phillips and David Wright, among others.
The biggest concern for the U.S. will be its level of effort.
With the 2013 MLB season starting in less than a month, guys may not give their all and save it for the 162-game season.
If Team USA gives its full effort and plays to its potential, though, it'll be on top of the baseball world for the next four years.
The USA's title pursuit begins Friday, March 8, when it takes on Mexico in Group D play.
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