Provisional WBC rosters are loaded
Before the provisional rosters were even announced Monday for the World Baseball Classic, you may (or may not) be happy to know the United States was already favored to win this thing by the savvy folks at bodoglife.com. (Odds: 6-5.)And China and South Africa (both 200-1) were already considered least likely to win this thing. For some reason. But now that we actually have our hands on the provisional 45-man rosters, it's time to take a deeper look. We surveyed people in baseball whom we consider especially internationally savvy. Now here's their early take on the WBC, a month and a half before the second edition of this global baseball extravaganza gets underway:
Missing Persons DepartmentWho are the biggest names missing from this year's rosters? Let's start with the United States. Not playing, though invited, is a group that includes Joe Mauer, Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Josh Hamilton. You may have heard of them.
From Canada: Ryan Dempster, Erik Bedard
From Japan: Pitchers Hiroki Kuroda, Takashi Saito, Magisa Arakaki, Kazumi Saito
From Chinese Taipei: Pitchers Chien-Ming Wang and Chen Wei-Yin
From Cuba: Just-defected pitcher Yadel Marti (shut out the Dominicans for 4 1/3 innings in the '06 semis)
Also: Yankees game-changer Mariano Rivera (Panama), Phillies pitcher/Korean team leader Chan Ho Park (Korea), currently employer-less Amsterdam favorite Andruw Jones (Netherlands), Braves reliever Peter Moylan (Australia) and longtime Chinese national team catcher Wei Wang (China).
|Read Jayson Stark's story in Spanish on ESPNdeportes.com.|
New To The Dance Dept.Is there any doubt which WBC newbie will lead the world in buzz? It's 22-year-old Japanese ace Yu Darvish, who can be to this WBC what Daisuke Matsuzaka was to the last go-round. "This guy," said one of our panelists, "is like a rock star." Other new attractions:
- United States: Roy Oswalt, Jimmy Rollins, David Wright, Dustin Pedroia, Ryan Braun, Grady Sizemore.
Most Improved Teams
- 1. USA
3. Dominican Republic
Best Potential Lineup
- 1. Dominican Republic
One of our panelists called the Dominican's bat collection "ridiculous." And he's not kidding. This is an outfit that can haul out Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Alfonso Soriano at the top of the order (if they can find a way to play Ramirez and Reyes at the same time), and then stack the middle of the lineup with A-Rod, Albert Pujols, Vladimir Guerrero, Big Papi and Carlos Pena. "I'm not sure there are any outs in that lineup," said one exec. Meanwhile, the American pieces appear to fit together better than they did three years ago. And watch out for Cuba, just because "they know how to play in these tournaments," said one panelist. "For pure talent, there are other countries that are better. But for knowing how to play in this setting, there's no one better."
Best Potential Rotation
- 1. Japan
Best Potential Bullpen
- 1. USA
3. Dominican Republic
It was almost impossible to separate the cream of this crop, too. But if the Americans get a lead, they can roll out Joe Nathan, Brian Fuentes, B.J. Ryan, J.J. Putz and Jonathan Broxton to lock it in their safe-deposit box. That'll work. "The USA may have five closers, man," said one panelist. Another said this bullpen "will 'save' the USA -- and get them to the final four" this time around. The Americans also have great left-handed options in Fuentes, Ryan, George Sherrill, J.P. Howell and Matt Thornton. And that always helps. Meanwhile, a bunch of countries also got votes in this department. So picking a top three was officially impossible. Japan and Korea are loaded. Cuba has the ageless Pedro Lazo. And Venezuela has some guy named K-Rod. But we went with the Dominicans, just because of all those live arms (Marmol, Jose Valverde, Francisco Cordero, Octavio Dotel, Damaso Marte, Rafael Perez, etc., etc., etc.).
- 1. China
2. South Africa
3. Chinese Taipei