Friday, March 06, 2009

Batter up: World Baseball Classic, Pool D

The 2009 World Baseball Classic officially began in the wee hours of Thursday morning. Most teams, including these ones, get started on the weekend.

Next up: a preview of Pool D (San Juan): Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, and the Netherlands.
This pool was much the same in 2006, except with Cuba instead of the D.R. This time around, none of these teams will face Cuba until the semifinal.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
  • Opener: Saturday, March 7 vs. the Netherlands (11 a.m., all times Eastern)
  • WBC 2006: 4th overall: 5-1 in group play, lost to Cuba 3-1 in semifinal.
  • Players to watch: SS Jose Reyes (Mets), DH David Ortiz (Red Sox), RHP Edinson Volquez (Reds), 2B Robinson Cano (Yankees), SS Miguel Tejada (Astros), SP Pedro Martinez
  • Who's missing: Adrian Beltre and some guy named Rodriguez.
  • Pitching: Jose Arredondo, Juan Cruz, Damaso Marte, and Rafael Perez are varying degrees of dangerous out of the bullpen: Perez has had more strikeouts than innings in every major-league season. And with Volquez and Johnny Cueto, the Dominicans are probably No. 1 in "2008 pitcher performance minus 2007 pitcher performance." But they also have Pedro in camp, who considers himself "the old goat in this group."
  • Hitting: Without Beltre or A-Rod, it's not as scary as it was a week ago. But it's still better than most in this tournament. Willy Aybar can fill in at third in their absence.
  • Fielding: First base and outfield is a little less packed than second, third, and short (Cano, Reyes, Tejada, Hanley Ramirez can play too). Willy Tavares is probably in CF by default. Nelson Cruz can handle RF, but Jose Guillen and Moises Alou have never been great so Jose Bautista might show up in one of the corners by default.
  • Predicted Round 1 finish: First place.
  • Tournament potential: They're good enough to make the final four. They'll have to beat two of these teams (easy enough) then probably two more of Puerto Rico/USA/Venezuela. Their pitching may not carry them all the way to the final, though.
PUERTO RICO
  • Opener: Saturday, March 7 vs. Panama (5 p.m.)
  • WBC 2006: 5th overall: 4-2 in group play and did not make semifinals. They beat Cuba 12-2, but lost to them 4-3 in the second round.
  • Players to watch: RHP Javier Vazquez (Braves), C Geovany Soto (Cubs), OF Alex Rios (Blue Jays), 1B Carlos Delgado (Mets), OF Carlos Beltran (Mets), other Mets named Carlos
  • Who's missing: Not too many pitchers available. Only 17 Puerto Rican pitchers have made their major-league debut in the last 10 years. A big loss is Mike Lowell, third baseman, .279/.343/.467 lifetime hitter, and one of the best guys in baseball, who is recovering from hip surgery. He really wanted to play.
  • Pitching: Behind Vazquez, it's kind of thin: Javier Lopez and Pedro Feliciano can contribute out of the bullpen, but with Ian Snell and Jonathan Sanchez 2-3 in the rotation, they'll need relievers more often than is convenient.
  • Hitting: Soto was the 2008 NL Rookie of the Year and the starting catcher in the All-Star Game. Delgado is Delgado. Beltran and Rios add power. Mike Aviles came out of nowhere to hit .325/.354/.480 for the Royals last year and Felipe Lopez is also a decent hitter. They have legit major-leaguers at basically every spot, 1 through 9, and four of them need to be handled with care.
  • Fielding: If Soto falters, then Yadier Molina, the best fielder among the Flying Molina Brothers, is solid behind the plate. Ivan Rodriguez is on the roster as well, although Soto is probably a better option to start. Lopez used to play shortstop but wasn't good, and Alex Cora should play there over Aviles. (Bernie Williams is apparently on the roster and should be kept away from an outfielder's glove.)
  • Predicted Round 1 finish: Second-place behind the Dominicans, or first if they send Vazquez against them.
  • Tournament potential: Maybe the semifinals if their pitching holds up. They can certainly ride their bats to Round 2.
PANAMA
  • Opener: Saturday, March 7 vs. Puerto Rico (5 p.m.)
  • WBC 2006: One of four teams to lose all three games, although they kept Puerto Rico within one and took Cuba to eleven innings. They were also memorably no-hit by 18-year-old Shairon Martis of the Netherlands in their final game.
  • Player to watch: OF Carlos Lee (Astros)
  • Who's missing: Mariano Rivera, possibly the best pitcher ever (you can make the argument)
  • Pitching: Manuel Corpas is probably the best pitcher, but he rarely goes more than two innings. After him it's Manny Acosta, another reliever, and Bruce Chen, who could start but shouldn't. There are a remarkable number of A-ball players on this roster.
  • Hitting: Carlos Lee and, um, Carlos Lee. Carlos Ruiz also has major-league experience. The president of Panama convinced him that they needed a catcher, but with a career OPS+ of 77, Ruiz won't cause opposing pitchers to pace nervously and talk to themselves (any more than they already do).
  • Fielding: No clue. Lee's not great, that's all I can tell you.
  • Predicted Round 1 finish: Third
  • Tournament potential: They'd have to upset and/or kidnap somebody to get into Round 2.
NETHERLANDS
  • Opener: Saturday, March 7 vs. Dominican Republic (11 a.m.)
  • WBC 2006: Their only win was the aforementioned no-hitter over Panama.
  • Players to watch: Sidney Ponson, I guess. Shairon Martis isn't listed on the roster this year. Randall Simon hasn't played in North America for a while but will forever be known for this:

    You know Letterman would be all over this, too.

  • Who's missing: Martis, Jair Jurrjens, and Andruw Jones.
  • Pitching: Sidney Ponson, I guess. Rick VandenHurk is #2 on a weak staff. Rick VandenHurk's career ERA is 7.
  • Hitting: Former Ottawa Lynx outfielder Gene Kingsale is there, but don't get too excited.
  • Fielding: I hope Sharlon Schoop gets a lot of playing time behind the plate, because his name is Sharlon Schoop.
  • Predicted Round 1 finish: Fourth
  • Tournament potential: Guess.

2 comments:

matthias @ mopupduty.com said...

Awesome write-up.

I had no idea that Puerto Rico's pitching staff was so thin. Tough to go with anyone except the Dominican after reading the rundown.

Rob Pettapiece said...

"Predicted Round 1 finish: Fourth"

Thanks for playing, Rob.