World Baseball Classic Preview: Pool C

BaseballWith only two weeks until Spring Training starts, baseball fans are getting antsy for the first bit of baseball action.  So let’s continue previewing the year’s first big event: the World Baseball Classic.  With previews of Pools A and B done, here is a look at what Pool C has in store.

Pool C is arguably the best bracket in the tournament.  All four teams are good, but three of them are absolute powerhouses that could win the tournament.

Unfortunately, one of these talented teams will be sent home early.

The four teams in Pool C are Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Spain, and the Dominican Republic.  These teams will be facing off at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

In the stands the fans will likely be loud and electric which will make this an incredible venue for the World Baseball Classic (WBC).  On the field, the talent of the players will be incredible as well and there could be many high scoring games in this bracket.  Because the offenses of these teams are so evenly matched, pitching will be a difference maker in Pool C.

Now let’s take a look at each team individually and the expectations each will carry into the tournament.

Spain: Unfortunately Spain got put into a pool with three baseball juggernauts.  To say the Spanish are the underdogs in this bracket is the understatement of the tournament.  Spain has a pretty solid team but will find it incredibly difficult to advance out of Pool C.  With no MLB players on their roster and being ranked #16 in the world by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF), Spain would stand a much better chance in any other bracket.  However, the great part about baseball is its unpredictability and every team stands an equal chance to reach the next round.  So Spain will do its best to hang with the big teams in their bracket but it will be far from easy.

Puerto Rico: When you look at the Puerto Rican roster, some names jump off the page right away: Yadier Molina, Carlos Beltran, Alex Rios, Angel Pagan, Javier Vasquez, and others.  Put together in a lineup, this group of players has the potential to do some special things.  While not as loaded as the next two teams previewed, Puerto Rico still has incredible talent and will battle for a spot in the next round.  While only ranked 12th by the IBAF, the Puerto Ricans will play hard and challenge anyone in this bracket.  Look out if this team makes it out of the first round because they could roll through teams to get to the finals.

Venezuela: While Puerto Rico has an incredibly talented team, the talent of the Venezuelans, especially their offense, is even better.  In fact their projected starting lineup is stupid good.  This lineup has the chance to put up double-digit runs every game.  From top to bottom, this roster is full of superstars, and it’s hard to not look at Venezuela as not only a favorite for this pool but for the entire WBC.  This lineup will contain sluggers Miguel Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval, Elvis Andrus, Carlos Gonzalez, Miguel Montero, Asdrubal Cabrera, and a few other talented position players.  Mix those sluggers with a pitching staff of Felix Hernandez, Anibal Sanchez, and Carlos Zambrano, and this team is poised for a deep WBC run.  Although the IBAF has them ranked #8 in the world, they are easily in the top three teams in terms of talent.  This is definitely one of the most exciting teams in the tournament and Venezuela will be a very tough and intimidating team to play.

Dominican Republic: Venezuela has an incredible lineup, but the Dominican Republic’s lineup isn’t too shabby either.  This is another team that is loaded with offensive talent.  This star-studded Dominican team will feature Carlos Santana, Adrian Beltre, Robinson Cano, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Nelson Cruz, Melky Cabrera, and a few other big names.  WOW.  As good as Venezuela’s lineup is, this Dominican lineup may be just as good if not slightly better (which is a scary thought).  For good measure, this team features a pitching staff that is anchored by Edinson Volquez and Wandy Rodriguez, and has Fernando Rodney closing out games.

The Dominican Republic was stunned in 2009 when it was knocked out of the WBC by the Netherlands.  However, the DR is looking to rebound this year and will have something to prove.  If this team plays to their potential then they very well could be raising the trophy at the end of this tournament.

Prediction: This is one of the toughest, if not the toughest, pool in this year’s World Baseball Classic.  With that having been said, only two of these four teams can advance to the second round.

First off the list is Spain unfortunately.  They got a tough draw and will struggle to win multiple games in this bracket.  Sorry Spain, but maybe in 2017.

The result for the rest of the three teams is really a tossup.  These three teams could beat up on each other and make things very interesting.  I think the #1 and #2 seeds in this pool will come down to who gets the best pitching and situational hitting.  We all know Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic can hit, but can they get guys out and get hits in key moments?  Based on that question, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic will advance from Pool C.  Puerto Rico has a great offense, but they don’t have the arms to shut down the high-powered offenses of the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

When you look at Venezuela and the Dominican team, deciding who will be the 1st and 2nd seeds is the hardest part.  Both teams could win the entire tournament, and I think the #1 seed will come down to the game between these two teams.  In the end Venezuela will edge out the Dominican Republic and take the #1 seed.

Regardless of what happens, Pool C will be exciting and full of great baseball.  Come back for a look at the final pool of the 2013 World Baseball Classic: Pool D.

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