World Baseball Classic 2013: USA and Teams That Will Advance to Second Round

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistMarch 5, 2013

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 28:  Miguel Cabrera #24 of the Detroit Tigers reacts after a pitch by Max Scherzer #37 of the Detroit Tigers in the first inning during Game Four of the Major League Baseball World Series at Comerica Park on October 28, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

While we know that Cuba and Japan have already advanced out of Pool A, and Pool B is still shaking itself out at the time of this writing, we've yet to see some of the most talented teams on paper play in this tournament.

But that all changes on Thursday, when Pool C and Pool B commences. Japan may be the two-time winner of this tournament, but the real heavy hitters are on the other side of the bracket. 

Let's break down how Pool C and B will play out.

 

Pool C

Teams: Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Spain

Breakdown: Have you seen the rosters for Venezuela and the Dominican Republic?  Venezuela boasts Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez, Elvis Andrus, Asdrubal Cabrera and Pablo Sandoval, while the Dominican Republic features Robinson Cano, Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Nelson Cruz and Edwin Encarnacion.

Sure, neither team is particularly stacked at pitcher, but with those all-star lineups, who cares? Poor Spain doesn't stand a chance, while Puerto Rico (Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina, Angel Pagan, Alex Rios and home-field advantage in the group stage) is a possible but unlikely sleeper.

Prediction: Seriously, did you see those rosters? Venezuela and the Dominican Republic advance.

 

Pool D

Teams: United States, Mexico, Italy, Canada

Breakdown: Not to be mean, but I think it's pretty safe to say that Italy isn't going to scare anyone. Meanwhile, the United States has to be the group favorite, with a roster that includes Ryan Braun, David Wright, Giancarlo Stanton, Adam Jones, Joe Mauer, Brandon Phillips, Jimmy Rollins, Mark Teixeira, R.A. Dickey and Gio Gonzalez.

So the real question is, do you prefer Mexico or Canada as the second team to advance out of the group? Each team has major stars (Mexico's Adrian Gonzalez and Canada's Joey Votto, who will play), and Mexico's staff is headlined by Yovani Gallardo and its bullpen by Sergio Romo.

Canada doesn't have great pitching outside of John Axford in the bullpen, but the team is very strong on the corners with Justin Morneau and Brett Lawrie. 

Prediction: The United States advancing is a given. Canada and Mexico are nearly too close to call, but I'm going to give the Canadian side the advantage.

 

Follow TRappaRT on Twitter