2017 WBC Preview: Pool C

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Baseball is a sport with a rich history and one that dates back to centuries ago but officially took hold around 1845.

The place where the sport evolved into the game that it is today was in the USA where it is widely recognised that the sport began, at least in the form it is now.

America is the place where the sport was created and where it grew into one of the big four in North America.

It became America’s past-time and has been engrained in the culture of the country for centuries with legends that are a part of American history coming from the MLB.

So, when the IOC decided that baseball was no longer a part of the Olympic program and the MLB stepped up to create the World Baseball Classic everyone assumed that the Americans would be the team to beat.

When the WBC started the Americans came into the tournament as the easy favourites while the rest of the world were just playing for second.

They came into the tournament without many of their biggest stars but that still seemed like it would be fine for this team.

They were the country with the deepest pool of talent so bringing in what was essentially a “B” team was still not enough to see them lose.

Then the tournament began and the Americans were far from the dominant team that everyone expected.

In a massive upset, the Canadians surprised everyone by beating the Americans and immediately bringing some doubt to the Americans’ claim on the title.

They moved past the pool stage but lost in the next level keeping them out of the semi-finals and out of the top three.

Things didn’t get better the next time as the Americans once again finished outside of the top three and all of a sudden America’s past-time was no longer their sport.

Japan had won two straight titles while the Americans had been unable to get close and the game was no longer theirs to claim.

The Americans did get close in 2013 finishing sixth but once again they were out of the top three and didn’t get a chance in the finals.

After three tournaments the Americans have yet to win a title that everyone thought they had already locked up.baseball-sidebar

In 2017 they are back and this time they really want that WBC title to prove that they are truly the best country in the world.

They will do so in Pool C and in front of a home crowd with a group that offers a few interesting match-ups and challenges.

They will take on their neighbours to the north in Canada who have never been a dominant team on the international stage but have talent.

The Canadians are a constant in the international baseball scene and a few new arrivals to the team could make them an upset watch.

They will also take on the Colombians who have not had the most experience on the international stage but found their way to this year’s tournament.

Perhaps the biggest challenge from the Americans will be that from the defending champions, the Dominican Republic.

The Dominicans were the latest in surprises at the World Baseball Classic although they were less of a surprise than usual.

During that time the Dominicans had yet to burst on the scene but one look at the roster and it was clear that the team was ready to compete.

They got through everyone and even took on the reigning two-time champions to get the title and show that the Dominican Republic was here to stay.

They are sure to be the biggest test for the Americans this time around as they will both compete for the pool.

The Americans enter another tournament with a lot to prove as they are fighting not only for a title but for their identity.

They will be fighting against a team that has taken a part of that identity along with a team that already surprised them once before.

That is the story that will take place in Miami as a few teams seek upsets while others seek to meet heavy expectations.

Only one side will win out and depending on what happens it could be an interesting pool round.

canada

If there is one team that can challenge the Americans for their history with baseball it is Canada who saw games played even before the reported first game in America. Yet the sport never took off as much in Canada and they never produced the same amount of talents as their neighbours to the south. Still, there has always been a steady Canadian influence in the MLB that continues to this day. They are a country that can field a great team if all of their starters played but also a team that has never had the depth of others on the international stage. The same can be said this year as the Canadians bring possible one of the strangest groups to the tournament that they have ever brought. It is a mix of young talent that has yet to play in the MLB, current MLB stars, and MLB stars from a long time ago. It is a strange mix and one that has left many to wonder just how this team is going to perform this year. The pitching staff is a good example as there are young stars like Phillies’ prospect Nick Pivetta and current players like Adam Loewen. They will be joined by past MLB veterans like Ryan Dempster and a bullpen with a lot of questions that will be led by John Axford and Eric Gagne. If either of these two former MLB closers still has something in their arm the Canadians will have a shut-down pair late in games but if they don’t have anything they might be more of a liability. The offence is no different either as they are full of the same mix. There are players like the 39th ranked prospect in the MLB, Tyler O’Neill and outfielder on the cusp of the MLB, Dalton Pompey. There is also current MLB star Freddie Freeman who made the decision to play for Canada after the death of his mother, who was born in Toronto. The Canadians are a strange mix of players this year but that makes them one of the most interesting groups too. Nobody knows how they will play but if all of the players meet their potential, or turn back the clock, they could surprise a number of teams. It will not be easy for them to make it out of the group against the Americans and the Dominicans but nobody knows what to expect from this group.

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colombia

When it comes to baseball, South America has not necessarily been a hotbed for talent in the MLB and around the world. When thinking of the area there is more about soccer than anything else and when teams find their way to the international stage it is usually a surprise. That fell on to the Brazilians over the last few tournaments as they were more of a constant than anyone else from the region. This time around it will be the Colombians to carry the region into the World Baseball Classic. They will attend their first WBC ever and bring a surprising history into their first appearance in this tournament as they have taken two Baseball World Cups in their long history. As they enter this tournament for the first time they will look to try to make an impression but it won’t be easy. They are in a pool with a defending champion and a favourite to win it all alongside another team with experience to spare. They head into the tournament with talent though and most of that talent is on their pitching staff. That is where their two best players will be as Jose Quintana and Julio Teheran will lead the group. Both have proven to be great MLB pitchers and they are sure to give the Colombians a chance when they start games. Beyond them, though the staff is not the deepest and with a tournament that ha pitching limits that could be an issue. Teheran and Quintana will only be able to go so deep into games with very little to back them up after their limits are reached. On offence, the team will be led by the surge of Colombians players in MLB systems. That includes a top 100 prospect in Jorge Alfaro who will catch for the Colombians and could be their offensive leader. Alongside players like Donovan Solano and Giovanny Urshela, Alfaro will try to produce runs against some very good pitching. That could be their issue though as the offence is made up of a lot of minor league players but nobody that has regularly faced top pitchers in the league. The Colombians have some bright spots as they are a team with some big name talent. The real question will be how far those stars can take them and it likely won’t be out of the pool with too many very good and very deep teams to get past.

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dominican-republic

If the Japanese winning the first two tournaments was a wake-up call that there were better baseball nations the 2013 winners were a wake-up call about who rules the MLB right now. It was a quiet take over as nobody truly realised how big they were until they were all placed on the same roster. That 2013 roster read like an all-star team with the best hitters in baseball all playing together. They rode that offence to and undefeated tournament and essentially the WBC title showing that the Dominicans had truly taken over the league. The same could be said this year as the Dominicans once again have a roster full of all-stars that include some of the best players in the league. Every player is a current leader on their MLB team and they have proven to be a close-knit group despite all playing on different teams. Where the talent really shines through is on offence where veterans like Jose Bautista and Nelson Cruz join superstars like Hanley Ramirez and Robinson Cano. There is the ability to hit with players like Cano and Starling Marte along with massive power from players like Bautista, Ramirez and Manny Machado. It is a batting order that is simply too deep to pitch around as every spot can do damage. No matter the pitching they face the Dominicans can hit against anyone as they have all done it before. Their pitching staff doesn’t have the same depth but it is not bad as Johnny Cueto leads them alongside Dellin Betances. There are also some young stars including the #6 ranked MLB prospect Alex Reyes while Jeurys Familia and Fernando Rodney hold down the bullpen. This amount of talent on one team is hard to ignore and nobody is ignoring them this time around as they are clear favourites to win again this year. Making it out of the pool is almost assumed for the Dominicans and it is easy to see why as the only way they don’t make it out is by getting too cocky and running into a number of cold streaks. It is possible as a few of these players have hit cold streaks before but for the entire roster to get cold at the same time seems impossible. The Dominicans will make it out with their only challenge coming against the USA in the pool as they have a good shot at repeating.

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usa

The Americans were always supposed to dominate this tournament and as of yet, they have never played in the final. Every tournament they return hoping to change that fact as they try to find their way to the finals with a new team. The first time many thought the excuse was that the Americans never took it seriously and most of their stars never attended the tournament. That has changed and yet they still haven’t been able to find their way to the finals making every tournament more important than the last. This year they enter the tournament again with hopes of winning it all and a lot of people have them as the favourites. Whether they can live up to that hype remains to be seen but they certainly have the talent on the roster to compete with the best in the world. The USA is not necessarily a team that will do anything one thing really well as their depth everywhere makes them dangerous. In the pitching staff, there are any number of options for the Americans from veteran and young starters to overpowering bullpen pitchers. Starters like J.A. Happ, Sonny Grey, Marcus Stroman and Chris Archer will lead the way from the start. Meanwhile, bullpen pitchers like Andrew Miller and Sam Dyson will look to shut things down. They may have a good chance to do just that too as the offence is loaded with all-stars that can do everything. Giancarlo Stanton stands as one of the most powerful hitters in the game but he won’t be alone as Eric Hosmer and Paul Goldschmidt can add to the power. Other stars like Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Andrew McCutcheon can do just about everything else. The Americans are as talented as any of the top teams in the tournament but that has never changed from tournament to tournament. There is some type of mental block with the Americans though as they never seem able to overcome the pressure they are under to win. This team has the ability to overcome that pressure but they still need to prove that they can. Making it out of the pool seems like it is a good bet for the Americans but beyond that is a mystery as the same things have been said and expected from this team without the results. Winning the title is not out of the question but there are teams that are better and so they will likely not take home a title for yet another Classic.

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Prediction:
Pool C is an interesting group in that there are two very clear favourites to win and two teams that some see as good upset picks. That is the game that will play out as the Canadians and Colombians both look to launch upsets and hopefully move on to another level. It doesn’t seem likely though as the Americans and the Dominicans seem like they are just too good. The Canadians and Colombians will fight for qualification and the experience of the Canadians will come out on top even with a strange roster. The matchup everyone wants to see is the Dominicans and Americans who will play for first place after beating the other two teams. The Americans have a great team but it is not as deep or as good as the Dominicans who will come out as the pool winners.

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