WBC Preview: Pool C

Pool C

Pool C moves to the Americas as the other side of the world gets to show their strength in the WBC. The pool will feature a number of strong powers from the Caribbean which is a powerhouse of baseball. Places like the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico have been the base of the talent pool in the MLB as they have boasted some of the best players in the MLB. The area has become one of the top places to scout talent with the MLB flooded by great Caribbean players. It has been this way for a while and now this area of the world can be linked to some of the best players in the league. Both the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico will be back in the WBC to prove that they are still factories for baseball. In the way will be one team on the rise and another team looking to prove they belong. The Venezuelans are a team looking to prove that they are the new powerhouse in the MLB with a great roster. Then there is Spain who is not known for being a baseball nation but earned their spot in the tournament and is looking to change the perception of their team. Pool C has some clear favorites but more important than these favorites is the simple battle between the old school and the new school. On one side are the Caribbean teams looking to prove they are still the teams to beat and on the other is a rising country trying to show they are the new team to beat. In between this battle is another team trying to prove that they can hang with the big teams.

 

Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is a country that has been one of the best in producing major league players. They are a team that has had some success but they are not the most successful team in the tournament as they have a tendency to fall just short. They may go down as the most talented team of the tournament though with a roster that reads like an all-star team. The Dominicans have the star power to go all the way this year with players like Robinson Cano, Carlos Santana, Hanley Ramirez, and Jose Reyes on the roster and all of them are only in the infield. The rest of the team has plenty of great talent to round out the rest of the roster as they seem to be clear favorites to run through this pool. Then again they have had this type of roster before and have failed to meet expectations. In the 2009 WBC they would fail to make it out of the first round losing to the Netherlands twice in the pool stage. It was an extremely disappointing tournament for the Dominicans and this year they will be looking to show that they can take advantage of this talent. They are clear favorites in the pool this year and there is no reason to think that they can’t win the pool. They only need to avoid the letdown of previous international tournaments if they hope not to disappoint again this year. The Dominicans should be a solid choice to win this pool but there is no doubt that they can’t get too lazy with plenty of good teams ready to knock them off.

 

Strength:
Top-Tier Talent
– The roster is one of the most talented in the tournament with all-stars at almost every position meaning that they should have no problem putting up great numbers against opponents if they stay focused

Weakness:
Past Disappointments
– In 2009 the Dominicans would not even get out of the first round of the WBC while they would also fail to advance during the IBAF World Cup as despite their talent they have not had a good run in international tournaments

Player to Watch:
Edwin Encarnacion, 1B (Toronto Blue Jays)
– In a roster full of great talent Encarnacion may be one of the more intriguing as he broke out in 2012 with 42 home runs in 2012 to lead the Blue Jays and now he will get a shot on the international stage to show if the newfound swing will work at the WBC

 

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

The Puerto Rican system was one of the best in the 1980s and the 1990s when they produced players like Carlos Delgado and Roberto Alomar. Since that time though they have not been the same powerhouse they used to be with less players coming out of the Puerto Rican system. They are in the midst of a bit of a drought with plenty of veterans and young stars but nobody in between. This year they are looking to prove that Puerto Rico is still a major power on the international stage and they will do so with a host of veteran players. The Puerto Ricans have been a good team in international play with plenty of experience playing the best teams in the world. They have finished 5th in the last two WBC tournaments and although both were not where they wanted to finish they continually make it out of the first round. This year they will be looking to do the same and take it one step further as they look to a number of veteran MLB players to get above 5th place. The Puerto Ricans have one clear goal in mind throughout the WBC tournament as they hope to prove that Puerto Rico is still a great baseball nation. They will come under fire for that though as they will take on one of the bigger baseball powers and another baseball nation on the rise. The Puerto Ricans will be out to fight for their spot and they are far from a team guaranteed to make it to the next round. As they move into the tournament they do have a shot at making the next round but they will have to fight for it as a top two spot is far from guaranteed for Puerto Rico.

 

Strength:
Roster Experience
– The Puerto Rican roster is full of MLB veterans as there is no situation that this roster has not been in and will not be able to handle when they begin playing at the WBC ensuring that they will never be over their heads throughout the tournament

Weakness:
Age
– Although the veterans provide some great leadership they are still all much older meaning that many of the players may have lost a step or will not be able to get up to speed in time to make an impact in the tournament

Player to Watch:
Javier Vazquez, RHP (Caguas)
– Vazquez is an interesting player on the team as he is not currently with an MLB team but played in the league for years and this tournament could be the beginning of his comeback as he hopes to prove he belongs in the MLB after taking 2012 off

 

Spain

Spain

Spain is another European team that usually brings images of the soccer pitch and not the baseball field. The baseball team is not known for much but they did qualify this year and will make their WBC debut. Spain is at the very beginning of their growth as a baseball team and like many in this stage they do not depend on a lot of Spanish players. Instead they look for the so-called “passport players” who were not born in Spain but have a Spanish passport. These players usually have a parent from Spain and cannot crack the rosters of their home country so they decide to play for another. The Spanish team is not the first team to do this as many European teams have to look outside of their own country for top players while they build a better program. Unfortunately for the Spanish the qualification round might be the height of their year as they have been put in a very tough pool. The Spanish team will be the team that many expect to fall under three good teams. Usually this would make for a great darkhorse pick but the Spanish simply don’t have the talent to compete with many of the teams in the pool. Even with that they may be able to pull off a surprise win is one of the top three teams overlooks them and gets lazy. Spain made the WBC for the first time this year and that is a great accomplishment for this growing program but to expect much more of them might be too tough as they will probably finish at the bottom of the pool.

 

Strength:
Nothing to Lose
– There is nobody who thinks that the Spanish team can make it out of this pool and so they really have nothing to lose as they can go out and take risks that can help them win if they pay off and if they don’t they lose like many expect them to

Weakness:
The Pool
– The Spanish may have had a better shot against a less talented pool but unfortunately for them they were put in what could be the strongest pool in the tournament meaning they will need to fight every step of the way

Player to Watch:
Engel Beltre, OF (Frisco RoughRiders)
– One of the many “passport players” on the Spanish team Beltre is originally from Cuba but will play for Spain and the Texas Rangers prospect is one of only a few players for Spain that is in the MLB system

 

Venezuela

Venezuela

The Venezuelans are not a traditional power in baseball but since the beginning of the WBC they have grown to be one of the best in the world. The amount of talent that has come out of Venezuela in the last five years has been amazing and almost came out of nowhere. The 2012 World Series was a perfect example of how far the Venezuelan program has come as there were a total of 9 Venezuelan players in the series. The names have now become known across the baseball world as some of the best in the sport. Players like Pablo Sandoval, Felix Hernandez, Miguel Cabrera, and Anibal Sanchez have taken the country to new levels. In their first year in the WBC they would finish in 7th place in a good but not great showing. Then in 2009 the Venezuelans got better finishing in 3rd place in the tournament. Now it seems more and more like 2013 could be their coming out party. The Venezuelans could boast the most talented roster in the WBC this year, although they will compete with the Dominicans and Americans for that title. The Venezuelan team is looking like they are ready to take another step this year and with so much talent on the roster. It should not be too challenging for this team to compete with the top teams in the tournament and in their pool. They should go far in this tournament although anything past the round robin stage is almost a toss-up. Venezuela is one of the favorites to win everything this year and winning the pool is a very real possibility as they should fight with the Dominican Republic for the top spot.

 

Strength:
Overall Talent
– The Venezuelans will be one of three teams that boasts an all MLB lineup in the WBC and the argument could be made that they are the best team on paper in the tournament as their talent in every aspect of the game is something that most teams wish for

Weakness:
The Pressure
– The Venezuelans are not used to the spotlight that has been given to them as they are now on top of a shortlist of potential winners and although there are plenty of level heads in the locker room an international spotlight may cause one or two crucial mistakes

Player to Watch:
Marco Scutaro, 2B (San Francisco Giants)
– He is not the biggest star on the roster but he has been a member of the Venezuelan team since the start of the WBC and he will be back to bring his hard-working never quite style to the team less than a year after winning the World Series with the Giants

 

Prediction:
1. Dominican Republic
2. Venezuela
3. Puerto Rico
4. Spain

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