WBC Preview: Pool D

Pool D

Pool D could easily be known as the North American Pool as it features all three North American teams including a European team. The USA considers baseball their national pastime while the countries surrounding them have their own, although less historic, traditions in baseball. This is the area of the world that will pay very close attention to the WBC as it will give them the baseball fix they have been waiting for since the World Series. The tournament, in large part, was created by the USA as a way to showcase their game on a grand scale. Now they sit once again waiting to win as they take on the rest of North America in Pool D of the 2013 World Baseball Classic. The Americans are the clear favorites of the pool as the country invented the sport and is still the hotbed of baseball. Then there are the other two North American teams in Mexico and Canada who are growing programs looking to finally make their impact in the WBC. To round out the pool the Italians will be back another go at the WBC as they hope to improve on past performances. This pool is not the most stacked of the tournament but the battle for a spot in the second round could be a good one with plenty of teams looking to fight for second. It seems almost sure that the Americans will win and if they do the battle may be for second place which could be very wide open. It will be interesting to see this battle along with the constant struggle of the USA not to disappoint as Pool D will be one to watch.

 

Canada

Canada

The Canadians are a team with a bit of an inferiority complex as they try to grow the game of baseball while in the shadow of the USA. It is inevitable that the Canadians compare themselves to their neighbours to the north but the system is not as strong. The Canadians have been a solid team in international play but they could never really make much of an impact. They have a 2-3 record in their two WBC tournaments and have yet to make it out of the first round. There is some positive for the Canadians though as they are a fast growing team and program. There have always been a number of Canadians in the MLB with a few of them like Larry Walker or Ferguson Jenkins making a big impact. Now there are more impact players than ever from Canada and most will be looking to make an impact at the 2013 WBC tournament. With more major leaguers coming out of the country the team is getting better as they would reach heights never before seen. Winning the 2011 Pan-Am Games Gold Medal would be the biggest win ever for Canadian baseball and they are hoping to take that momentum into the World Baseball Classic to finally make it out of the first round. The Canadians are looking to a veteran team with a lot of experience in international and MLB games. They will put the best team they have ever had on the field this year and the possibility of making it out of the first round is very high. They will likely fight for that second spot and one loss could be the difference but the Canadians could be on their way to a second round berth this year.

 

Strength:
Momentum
– The Canadian program is on a hot streak since the 2009 WBC as they have won two bronze medals in the World Cup and a gold at the Pan-Am Games and now they are looking to carry those performances into the 2013 WBC

Weakness:
Big Holes
– The Canadians have a good roster with some very strong players but there are specific areas like the middle infield and the starting rotation that are less than perfect and could be exposed by better teams in the WBC

Player to Watch:
Jameson Taillon, RHP (Bradenton Marauders)
– With a good amount of MLB players on the Canadian roster but one stands out with Taillon representing the new breed of Canadian baseball players as the American with a Canadian passport and first round pick of the Pirates in 2010 will be a key part of the starting rotation

 

Italy

Italy

The Italians are another European team that likes to focus on “passport” players and were one of the first to do so successfully. The Italians have been a part of the WBC since the beginning and they would blaze the trail for the European teams. They would be one of the first teams to fill a roster almost completely with passport players. They would show that teams could compete on an international level using the rules to their advantage. For many this way of doing things is not right with few truly naturally born players on the team. The Italians are doing it right though as they have used many passport players in the past while they build their homegrown talent. The Italians are building their program from the ground up and they have been getting more good players from their own country. This year the Italians are looking to improve their performance in the World Baseball Classic by making it out of the first round this year. The Italians will once again go into the tournament with a number of passport players but they will use some talented natural-born Italians. They are a better team than they have been but the fact is they do not have the same level of talent as most of the teams in the tournament. As much as the Italians have improved it may not be enough to get them into the next round against some good teams in the pool. The Italians have been known for pulling off upsets in the WBC and they could do that again. Expect them not to go down easily but a second round berth does not seem in the cards for the Italians.

 

Strength:
Their Fight
– The Italians have been in the WBC since it started and every year they seem to be able to pull off some big upsets as they are not willing to back down against any team and that could lead to some great games and should give them hope for some key wins

Weakness:
Talent Pool
– The Italians do use a lot of passport players on their team but the problem with passport players is that many of them are the players who cannot make their national teams and look for places to play that will accept them

Player to Watch:
Alex Liddi, 3B (Seattle Mariners)
– With so many passport players Liddi stands out as the first naturally born Italian player to make a major league club as the 3rd baseman from the Seattle Mariners is the leader of the Italian movement into the MLB

 

Mexico

Mexico

Much like the Canadians the Mexican Baseball Team suffers from a bit of an inferiority complex with their neighbours to the north. Mexico is further along than the Canadians though as they are a team that has plenty of experience in the MLB and in international play. Mexico has developed into a good baseball nation with their own Triple-A league used to develop some top flight MLB players. They enter the 2013 WBC with a number of MLB players but that has caused a rift in the Mexican baseball community. The Mexican League sees this tournament as a way to show off the talent that is in their own league. Meanwhile the governing body of baseball in Mexico, The Mexican Baseball Federation, would like to look to the major leagues to fill the roster. It has been a constant struggle in Mexico as the tournament approaches and it seems as though the Mexican Baseball Federation has won out as the team is loaded with players from the MLB. The Mexicans will go into the tournament trying to improve on their latest performances where they have finished no higher than 6th in two appearances in the WBC. They will have a number of good players as they are led by Adrian Gonzalez of the Dodgers and will be boosted by plenty of Mexican fans. The Mexicans are still not favorites in the pool with USA and Canada ranked above them but that doesn’t mean they can’t pull out a key win that could put them in the second round. The Mexican team will likely not get the top spot in the pool but expect them to fight for the second place spot and a place in the second round.

 

Strength:
The Fans
– Mexican sports fans are some of the most fanatic in the world and they will be sure to have their voices heard in the WBC this year as they will travel to see their team and drown out any other fans to push their team from the stands

Weakness:
Controversy
– The Mexican Baseball Federation and the Mexican League are very much opposed on how to manage this team and the disagreement has led to the Mexican league threatening their players if they play in the WBC and that means they are without some top talent from that league

Player to Watch:
Sergio Romo, RHP (San Francisco Giants)
– He took over the closer role from an injured Brian Wilson and helped the Giants to the 2012 World Series win and now he will be the closer for the Mexican team meaning that if they are ahead in the 9th not many people will be able to beat them

 

USA

USA

This is the USA‘s tournament as they consider the sport as one of their oldest past times and as something that is just simply American. Yet after two years in the WBC the Americans have yet to win Gold instead conceding that title to the Japanese. The Americans were shocked in 2006 when the first WBC would show that they are not the super power they thought they were in the sport. The US team would go into the tournament believing that a lineup of minor league and semi-pro players would be able to beat any combination of players from other countries. Then they got a rude awakening as they would not even make the top five teams in the tournament finishing in 8th place overall. They would realize quickly that their dominance in the game of baseball was not as big as they had once thought. In 2009 they would change things around bringing in a number of major league and high level minor league players to try to win the tournament. They came close but once again fell short this time finishing in 4th place and essentially showing that the world has caught up to the states in the sport of baseball. The Americans are going into 2013 with something to prove as they are hoping to show that they are the biggest baseball country in the world. They will do this with a roster made up entirely of MLB players and although it may not be the most stacked team in the tournament there are few holes. The Americans are always favorites to win the tournament yet they have fallen short twice as they will likely win the pool but beyond that is a mystery.

 

Strength:
The Legend
– The Americans are always considered the best baseball nation in the world and that can intimidate some teams into trying to do too much to beat them and in turn providing openings for a good American team to win games

Weakness:
Getting Ahead of Themselves
– This has been the story of the WBC for the Americans so far as they are always favorites to win but they know this and overlook teams that are not as good as them leading to games that can get away from the USA fast

Player to Watch:
RA Dickey, RHP (Toronto Blue Jays)
– He was one of the best stories of the 2012 season as this power pitcher turned Knuckleballer will be the ace of a very good USA pitching staff as the USA hope that his devastating knuckleball will confuse the best batters in the world

 

Prediction:
1. USA
2. Canada
3. Mexico
4. Italy

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