World Baseball Classic 2013: Complete Predictions for Pool C and Pool D
The two groups that haven't begun World Baseball Classic play will do so starting on Thursday. The unique format means Pools A and B are already complete while Pools C and D are just getting a chance to start.
Pool C features the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Spain and Venezuela. The games will take place in Puerto Rico. Pool D features Canada, Italy, Mexico and the United States, with the action happening in Arizona.
The top two nations from each pool will advance to the next round. Here's a look at predictions for both groups. To check out the complete schedule for the tournament, visit the WBC's official site.
Pool C Winner: Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic's lineup is stacked. The infield alone features four All-Star-caliber players in Edwin Encarnacion, Robinson Cano, Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez. Add in Carlos Santana and Nelson Cruz and scoring runs shouldn't be an issue.
That alone should be able to power the Dominican Republic to the top of Pool C. The other three teams in the group don't have enough pitching depth to keep those stars at bay for nine innings, especially with an automatic pitch count.
The biggest question moving forward will be the team's starting rotation. It's nowhere near as deep or talented as the batter order, with Wandy Rodriguez and Edinson Volquez, but it won't become a major issue until the latter stages of the event.
Which nation will win Pool C?
Pool C Runner-up: Venezuela
If you're looking for a potential sleeper champion, Venezuela is a solid choice. Like the Dominican Republic, they are built on a strong offensive foundation. Miguel Cabrera, who won the American League Triple Crown last season, leads the way.
The team also has a couple prototypical glue guys in Omar Infante and Martin Prado. They aren't going to attract a lot of attention due to all of the tournament's star power, but they are crucial to a team's success because they can help in so many areas during the course of the tourney.
Again, starting pitching could be an issue, but they do have some upside in Jhoulys Chacin and Henderson Alvarez. If they exceeded expectations alongside Anibal Sanchez in the rotation, Venezuela is suddenly a serious contender.
Puerto Rico will finish in third in Pool C with overmatched Spain rounding out the group.
Pool D Winner: United States
The United States hasn't lived up to expectations in the World Baseball Classic. The Americans failed to make the semifinals in the inaugural event and then lost both games in the final round to end up in fourth the last time around.
Losing Mark Teixeira, who was forced to withdraw due to injury, leaves the United States lacking some pop. But it still has one of the most complete lineups in the event, including the terrific outfield trio of Ryan Braun, Giancarlo Stanton and Adam Jones.
But the pitching staff is what gives the American squad an edge. R.A. Dickey is the ace of a rotation that goes at least four strong and the bullpen should be nearly unhittable, especially in the ninth inning when Craig Kimbrel comes in to close.
Which country will win Pool D?
Pool D Runner-up: Canada
It will be an interesting battle for second between Canada and Mexico. Neither side will likely have enough talent to keep pace with the United States, but a strong case could be made for both sides to reach the second round.
Ultimately, the advantage goes to the Canadians thanks to Joey Votto, Justin Morneau and Brett Lawrie. Having that group in the middle of the order should help generate enough runs to squeak by a Mexican squad that lacks pop.
The other thing working in their favor is having John Axford to close out games. He's racked up 105 saves over the past three seasons for the Milwaukee Brewers. He will bring some stability to an otherwise questionable bullpen.
Mexico likely falls just short in third place and will be followed by Italy.
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