Tuesday, March 3, 2009

WBC Preview (Part 2)

Here are the teams 1-4.

4. Japan
Pool A
2006 result: 5-3 Won 2006 Classic
Notable Hitters:
C Kenji Johjima
2B Aki Iwamura
RF Kosuke Fukudome
CF Ichiro Suzuki
Notable Pitchers:
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Outlook: Japan is very similar to Cuba in that they are a great unknown. Most of their talent plays in Japan and are the great unknown. Japan is a little more well known than Cuba as they do have Major Leaguers on their team. No one is going to blown away by Dice-K this time around. Japan has been scoured for talent since the arrival of Ichiro and it's success in the WBC and most of the elite talent has been found with the latest arrivals having mixed results like Fukudome or Kei Igawa. They have the easiest Pool and should make the semifinals where anything can happen so they should be able to compete to defend their title but I don't expect them to win it this year.

3. Venezuela
Pool C
2006 Result: 3-3 Lost in Round 2 Pool
Probable Lineup:
SS Cesar Izturis
2B Jose Lopez
LF Bobby Abreu
1B Miguel Cabrera
RF Magglio Ordonez
DH Carlos Guillen
3B Melvin Mora
C Ramon Hernandez
CF Endy Chavez

Notable Pitchers: Felix Hernandez, Carlos Zambrano, Carlos Silva, Armando Galarraga, Francisco Rodriguez

Assets: 3-6 Hitters very solid, Three solid starters, very good closer
Issues: Hitters are on the older side and lack athleticism. Lack of pitching depth.
Outlook: A very solid team with some elite talent. They could use Johan Santana to add to the pitching depth. The biggest problem for them is they are in the hardest Pool with USA and Canada and if they advance they will be put in the same Round 2 pool with USA, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. They have the talent but the road they face and the lack of pitching depth likely will be their downfall and they will likely have a similar result as 2006.

2. Dominican Republic
Pool D
2006 Result: 5-2 Lost in Semifinals to Cuba
Probable Lineup:
SS Hanley Ramirez
2B Robinson Cano
DH David Ortiz
3B Alex Rodriguez
LF Jose Guillen
1B Willy Aybar
C Miguel Olivo
RF Nelson Cruz
CF Willy Taveras

Possible Lineup if postions are flexible
SS Jose Reyes
CF Hanley Ramirez
DH David Ortiz
3B Alex Rodriguez
1B Miguel Tejada
LF Jose Guillen
2B Robinson Cano
C Miguel Olivo
RF Nelson Cruz

Notable Pitchers: Edinson Volquez, Pedro Martinez, Johnny Cueto, Ubaldo Jimenez, Jose Arredondo

Assets: Young Pitchers with outstanding stuff, infield depth, speed
Issues: Lack of closer or outstanding middle relief, outfield, finding places for talent
Outlook: The biggest problem for the Dominican Republic is finding a way to get the talent on the field. Having Reyes, Tejada and Beltre on your bench does not help you win games. I think they might end up getting very creative with the positions. There is talk Tejada might play 1st base and they could move Hanley to the outfield and put Reyes at shortstop. If they can find a way to bat Reyes and Hanley 1-2 they will cause a lot of problems for team. They also have been hurt by Carlos Marmol not participating as he could have been the closer they need. This team has a lot of talent and is a serious threat to win the title if they can utilize their ability.

1. USA
Pool C
2006 Result: 3-3 Lost in Round 2 Pool
Probable Lineup:
SS Jimmy Rollins
2B Dustin Pedroia
DH Chipper Jones
LF Ryan Braun
3B David Wright
1B Kevin Youkillis
C Brian McCann
RF Shane Victorino
CF Curtis Granderson

Notable Pitchers: Jake Peavy, Roy Oswalt, Jonathon Broxton, J.J. Putz

Assets: Very well-rounded lineup, pitching depth, middle relief
Issues: Starting Pitching, outfield depth
Outlook: Team USA is in the unique position of being able to form the type of team they want. Judging by the roster they are looking for a bunch of relievers instead of starters. That strategy has taken a hit with Joe Nathan and Brian Fuentes not participating due to injuries. They still have plenty of players that can come in for an inning and get it done like Scot Shields, Matt Thorton, Brad Ziegler and Jonathon Broxton. They may not be as sexy as Clemens but they should be able to fulfill their roles. The lineup is perfectly balanced. There are veterans in Chipper, Jeter and Rollins and their is youth in Braun, Granderson and Pedroia. They have speed and they have power. The most important thing is they all hit for high average. Of the probable starters only Jimmy Rollins hit below .280 last year and he hit .277. 5 of the starters hit over.300. There biggest issues will be overconfidence and the fact that they are the hunted. But if this team plays with pride and matches the intensity of the other countries they should be in the mix for the 2009 World Baseball Classic title.

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