With Pool A and Pool B play complete, we now look ahead to Pool C and Pool D action in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
In Pool C, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela are looking to make waves this year. In Pool D, USA, Canada and Mexico are legit contenders to advance to the next round.
Thursday kicks things off with the Dominican Republic and Venezuela facing off and Mexico and Italy battling.
Here's a look at the competition in Pool C and Pool D in the 2013 WBC. For the complete bracket, check out WorldBaseballClassic.com.
*Favorites according to Bovada
Teams: Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Spain
Favorites: Dominican Republic, Venezuela
The Dominican Republic is a championship contender this year. With 21 current Major League Baseball players on the roster, this team is stacked, particularly on offense.
Take a look at the position players on the roster: Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Edwin Encarnacion, Erick Aybar, Carlos Santana.
The pitching isn't bad, either. Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez and right-hander Edinson Volquez highlight the starting pitching. And if the Dominican Republic heads into the later innings with the lead, it can lock down the game with relievers Fernando Rodney, Santiago Casilla and the ageless Octavio Dotel.
Venezuela boasts 16 current major leaguers.
On offense, the team has Miguel Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval, Carlos Gonzalez, Elvis Andrus, Asdrubal Cabrera, Martin Prado, Omar Infante, Marco Scutaro and Gerardo Parra.
The Venezuelans have right-handers Anibal Sanchez and Jhoulys Chacin. Ronaldo Belisario and Jose Mijares highlight the relievers.
Puerto Rico is no slouch, either.
Yadier Molina and outfielders Alexis Rios, Carlos Beltran and Angel Pagan highlight the position players. Relievers Hector Santiago, Xavier Cedeno and left-hander Javier Lopez offer some depth in the late innings.
On the other hand, the starting pitching is a weakness, and that could doom the Puerto Ricans when all is said and done.
Spain is a newcomer this year. Many aren't expecting the squad to do much. The Spaniards sport only four current major leaguers (Rhiner Cruz, Fernando Martinez, Paco Rodriguez, Engel Beltre) and none of them stand out.
Teams: USA, Mexico, Canada, Italy
Favorites: USA, Canada
USA is simply loaded this year (like it is every year in the World Baseball Classic). The Americans sport 15 All-Stars, three MVPs and one Cy Young Award winner (Mark Teixeira withdrew from the tournament).
The position players include: 2009 American League MVP Joe Mauer; infielders David Wright, Brandon Phillips, 2007 National League MVP Jimmy Rollins and Ben Zobrist; and outfielders 2011 National League MVP Ryan Braun, Giancarlo Stanton, Adam Jones and Shane Victorino.
Of course, USA also comes complete with 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, as well as starting pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Ryan Vogelsong.
Don't forget relievers Craig Kimbrel, Chris Perez and left-hander Jeremy Affeldt.
Canada sports position players such as Joey Votto, Justin Morneau and Brett Lawrie, but those players will have to carry an otherwise mediocre squad to advance to the next round.
I actually like Mexico better. Not only does the squad boast four-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove Award winner Adrian Gonzalez, it also has speed with second baseman Danny Espinosa and pitching with right-handers Yovani Gallardo and Miguel Gonzalez and relievers Sergio Romo, David Hernandez and Oliver Perez.
Italy, like Spain, is basically an afterthought this year. Young first baseman Anthony Rizzo is a solid player, but beyond outfielder Chris Denorfia and reliever Jason Grilli, there isn't much support there.
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