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5 International Players That Earned Themselves an MLB Future at the WBC

Robert KnapelCorrespondent IMarch 20, 2013

5 International Players That Earned Themselves an MLB Future at the WBC

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    Not only does the World Baseball Classic allow some of the MLB's top talent to compete for their countries, but it also provides an opportunity for players that are not a part of the league to showcase their talents.

    This has already led to contracts for some players. Netherlands first baseman Curt Smith signed a deal with the Minnesota Twins after his strong performance in the 2013 World Baseball Classic (h/t Tyler Kepner of The New York Times).

    Smith is not the only player that has signed a deal following the tournament. His teammate Dashenko Ricardo has signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers (h/t Ken Gurnick of MLB.com).

    In addition to these two, there are a number of other players that have proven that they deserve a shot in the MLB based on their WBC performance.

Masahiro Tanaka

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    One of the strengths of the Japanese teams over the past few editions of the World Baseball Classic has been their pitching. Masahiro Tanaka is another outstanding pitcher that Japan has had on its roster.

    Tanaka pitched out of the bullpen after starting the first game of the tournament for Japan, but he still looked very strong in this role. In four appearances, Tanaka gave up two earned runs and stuck out 12 hitters over seven innings.

    Prior to the tournament, Tanaka had been drawing attention from the Texas Rangers, and after his performance it would not be surprising if more teams kept an eye on him (h/t Gerry Fraley of The Dallas Morning News). 

Kenta Maeda

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    Kenta Maeda was already considering a move to the MLB, and he wanted to use the 2013 World Baseball Classic as a litmus test to see if he could compete against the world's best talents (h/t Yakubaka.com). Maeda certainly passed the test based on his performance.

    In three starts, Maeda allowed just one run on six hits over 15 innings. He also struck out an impressive 18 hitters and proved to be Japan's best pitcher during the tournament.

    Maeda already has a Sawamura Award, the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young Award, in his trophy case, so it is fair to say that a number of teams will have an interest in him if he is posted.

Alfredo Despaigne

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    In recent years, Cuban players have been able to have a high level of success at the major league level. Based on the 2013 World Baseball Classic, there might be a few more that can follow in the footsteps of Yoenis Cespedes and Aroldis Chapman.

    Alfredo Despaigne was already a player to watch based on his impressive power performances both in the Cuban Serie Nacional and international competition.

    Despaigne once again put that power on display during the 2013 World Baseball Classic. In six games, Despaigne hit three home runs, drove in eight and had a .389 batting average.

    If he manages to defect from Cuba, Despaigne will be an incredibly popular international free agent.

Jose Abreu

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    Jose Abreu's name is also one that has been on the international radar for the past few years. During the 2010-11 season in the Cuban Serie Nacional, Abreu put up video-game numbers. He had a triple slash line of .453/.597/.986 to go along with 33 home runs and 93 RBI in just 66 games (h/t Baseball-Reference). Along with Yoenis Cespedes, Abreu set the league's home run record that year.

    The 2013 World Baseball Classic only confirmed what was already known about Abreu, that he is a tremendous power hitter. In Cuba's six games, Abreu batted .360 with three home runs and nine RBI.

    Abreu has the potential to be a superstar if he ever makes it to the United States and the MLB.

Dae-Ho Lee

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    Dae-Ho Lee was expected to be one of the best players on the Korean team at the World Baseball Classic and he lived up to the billing. He had a good tournament as he hit .455 while driving in two and drawing two walks in Korea's three games.

    Prior to this year's World Baseball Classic, Lee spent years dominating the Korean Baseball Organization. He spent 2012 in Japan and proved that he could still perform against better competition.

    Although Lee is currently 30 years old, there is certainly a chance that he could jump to the MLB once his contract with the Orix Buffaloes expires following the 2013 season.

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