Early Thursday morning the second World Baseball Classic will begin in Tokyo. While it is not on the level of the World Cup or Olympic Hockey, it is certainly better than Olympic Basketball. The idea is good in theory but the main problem lies in that the pitchers are not allowed to go all out and there are some great players who are not playing due to injury or because of their MLB team. That said it is still exciting because there are a lot of talented teams, players and there are no overwhelming favorites like USA basketball or Canada hockey. It is a 16 team tournament and there are 8 teams with legitimate teams that conceivably win the Classic. I have ranked the talent level of the teams 1-8. Part 1 is teams 5-8.
2006 Result: 2-1 Lost tiebreaker in Pool B to Mexico and USA
2B Pete Orr
C Russell Martin
CF Jason Bay
1B Justin Morneau
DH Joey Votto
LF Mark Teahen
RF Matt Stairs
3B Corey Koskie
SS Chris Barnwell
Notable Pitchers: Jesse Crain
Assets: They have a pretty formidable middle of the lineup with a lot of power
Issues: Lack pitching, poor middle infield and left-handed heavy lineup (Martin, Bay and Barnwell only righties).
Outlook: They were hurt by some notable pitchers not participating such as Erik Bedard, Adam Loewen, and Jeff Francis. Lack of any pitching and the fact that they are in the toughest pool will be their downfall as they are likely to finish third in Pool C.
2006 Result: 3-3 Lost in 2nd Round Pool
SS Jerry Hairston Jr.
2B Edgar Gonzalez
1B Adrian Gonzalez
3B Jorge Cantu
C Rod Barajas
LF Scott Hairston
RF Karim Garcia
DH Freddy Sandoval
CF Alfredo Amezaga
Notable Pitchers: Oliver Perez, Luis Ayala, Jorge Campillo, Joakim Soria
Assets: Very good closer in Soria and two good hitters in Adrian Gonzalez and Cantu
Issues: Not a lot of speed, poor outfield and lack of pitching depth
Outlook: Not an overly impressive team but in an easier Pool and it is in Mexico so they should advance to the second round but end there.
6. Puerto Rico
2006 Result: 4-2 Lost in 2nd Round Pool
2B Felipe Lopez
SS Mike Aviles
CF Carlos Beltran
RF Alex Rios
1B Carlos Delgado
DH Geovany Soto
C Yadier Molina
LF Bernie Williams
3B Ramon Vazquez
Notable Pitchers: Ian Snell, Jonathan Sanchez, Javier Vazquez, JC Romero
Assets: Very Good Middle of the Lineup
Issues: Lack Pitching Depth, Bernie Williams, lackluster middle infield
Outlook: Has some big talent in Beltran, Rios and Soto but Delgado is a little old and Bernie Williams is way to old. Don't have the depth of the more elite teams but should finish similar to 2006.
2006 Result: 5-3 Lost in Final to Japan
I have no idea
Notable Pitchers: No idea
Cuba is the great unknown in the tournament. Unlike other Caribbean nations ther players are not allowed to leave and they all play for the national team. They get a bonus because they are a team that has been together for years and is training for this event. They also have talent. Cuba players that do defect ususually are impact players in the MLB. Alexei Ramirez was on the Cuba team in 2006. Other notable players from Cuba are Jose Conseco, Yunel Escobar, Livan Hernandez, Orlando Hernandez, Tony Oliva, Rafael Palmeiro. The talent is there I just have no idea where it is. The reason why they are not ranked higher is that the talent they have is not as well developed as a major league vetren. They may have a player with All-star talent but they are not All-stars. The team with mostly the same players just finished second at the Bejing Olympics. They did however beat the USA team 10-2 but that team did not have Dustin Pedroia and Chipper Jones.