Although the World Baseball Classic has just begun, Cuba has made an early statement and is already through to the second round.
Cuba is currently ranked No. 1 in the world, according to the International Baseball Federation.
After two huge victories, as well as the fact that the USA roster is without many of the best Americans in baseball, Cuba may already be a lock to win the entire tournament.
They have a deep roster, and many of the baseball-crazed Cubans have become stars in the MLB, including Aroldis Chapman and Yoenis Cespedes.
The star of this year’s team is 26-year-old first baseman Jose Abreu. He has put up video-game-esque numbers in Cuba’s top baseball league. Two years ago, despite missing 23 games due to bursitis in his shoulder, he had the most ridiculous stats you’ll ever see: Abreu hit an unreal .453 with 33 home runs, 93 RBI, 79 runs, a .597 on-base percentage and a .986 slugging percentage.
He also accomplished those stats in only 66 games.
Abreu followed that performance by hitting .394 with 35 home runs and 99 RBI the next season.
Not surprisingly, Abreu already has a double, grand slam and five RBI through the first two games of the WBC. He should continue to put up gaudy numbers for Cuba throughout the tournament, and he will contribute immensely if Cuba makes a deep run.
Abreu may be the source of offensive firepower for Cuba, but the rest of the team is very talented, and there are few holes in this squad.
Even more, through two games the team has already shown the ability to put teams away when it's ahead, as well as the ability to gut out close games and find ways to win.
Cuba won its first game 5-2 against a scrappy Brazil team, led by the superb pitching of ace Ismel Jimenez. The game was closer than that score indicates, as Cuba singled Brazil to death and scored all five runs in the fifth and sixth inning.
Next, Cuba dominated a relatively weak China team in only seven innings, 12-0. But that score itself also doesn’t reflect the outcome of the game, as Cuba was far ahead of China in talent. Cuba will next face an elite Japan team to determine the winner of the pool. Japan knocked Cuba out of the last World Baseball Classic in the second round, the lowest finish ever from a Cuban team.
Cuba is a powerful and well-conditioned team. It has the pitching depth and offensive talent to make a deep run, as well as the sheer desire after the disappointing result in the last WBC.
As long as this team plays at the level it is capable of, there is no reason to believe Cuba has not already established itself as the favorite to win the tournament.
Information from worldbaseballclassic.com