Following up on the
WBC lineups post
from Monday, here's how the current lineups for Mexico and Canada shake out:
Starting Lineup: IF, Justin Morneau, Pete Orr, Danny Klassen, Corey
Koskie; OF, Jason Bay, Aaron Guiel, Ryan Radmanovich; C, Pete LaForest; DH, Matt
"Smoked Meat" Stairs.
Bench: UT Stubby Clapp, IF Kevin Nicholson, OF Sebastian Boucher, C Max
Starting Pitchers: Adam Loewen (vs. South Africa), Erik Bedard (vs. Team
USA), Jeff Francis (vs. Mexico).
Closer and Key Relievers: Chris Reitsma, Jesse Crain, Rheal Cormier,
Notes: Biggest losses for this team are in the pitching staff, as Rich
Harden won't be in the rotation and Eric Gagne and Ryan Dempster won't be in the
pen. Bay-Morneau-Stairs-Koskie-Guiel in the heart of the order could cause some
damage, although it's a heavily left-handed batting order. Unlike Italy, Team
Canada will give playing time to past international vets such as Clapp and
Radmanovich over fringe major leaguers who haven't played for the Maple Leaf
before; that's an admirable show of loyalty. With its lack of depth in middle
relief compared to Mexico, Canada will be screwed a bit by the combination of
the schedule (South Africa, USA and Mexico in that order on consecutive days)
and the pitch count rule that does not allow anyone who's thrown 30 pitches to
pitch the next day. Given that fact, if they fall behind the US early, Canada
may consider punting that game and letting mop-up guys finish it out so that all
four of their top relievers are eligible to go against Mexico the next day.
Starting Lineup: IF, Adrian Gonzalez, Jorge Cantu, Benji Gil, Vinny
Castilla; OF, Karim Garcia, Luis Garcia, Mario Valenzuela; C, Miguel Ojeda; DH,
Bench: Alfredo Amezaga, Oscar Robles, Humberto Cota, Matias Carrillo
(the Mexican League legend who turned 43 last week, but still hit .360 with 23
homers last year; yeah, the same guy who was with the original Marlins in '93).
Starting Pitchers: Esteban Loaiza, Elmer Dessens and Oliver Perez. If
they go in that order, that means Loaiza would face Team USA in the opener and
Perez would face Canada in the game likely to decide who advances out of the
Arizona pool along with the Americans. Rodrigo Lopez, Sergio Mitre and Mexican
League vet Francisco Campos are all also on the roster, so Mexico could employ a
tandem starting system in the first round if they wanted.
Closer and Key Relievers: Luis Ayala, Oscar Villarreal, Ricardo Rincon,
Notes: Of the contenders, this was the team least hit by defections;
Nomar Garciaparra is a big loss, but he's just about the only name of
consequence on Mexico's provisional roster that backed out. No dominating
closer, but they have a lot of relievers who can give you an inning or two. And
really, when you look up and down the lineup, there's no high-impact player
anywhere on the roster, save perhaps Cantu. When they face Canada in the first
round finale, the three best players on the field -- Bay, Morneau, Francis --
will all be on the other team. However, since Mexico gets to face South Africa
in between their games against the US and Canada, the day-off-after-30-pitches
rule won't hurt them anywhere near as much as it hurts the Canadians.
I was going to put together a similar analysis
for Japan and Korea, bit
MLB.com has already put something like this together for all of the teams in
the Asian pool, so you can go check it out. Here are some additional notes on
the Asian favorites, and also on Cuba:
JAPAN: Veteran Hirotoshi Ishii will close,
while Akinori Otsuka will work in a set-up role. The one player not listed in
the projected starting lineup who could see significant PT is OF Kosuke Fukudome,
who was considered Japan's answer to Andruw Jones a couple of years ago. You
already know that Hideki Matsui and Kenji Johjima both decided not to play for Japan.
Although Bud Selig rues the marketing loss, Matsui
won't be missed as much once the game starts, as Nobuhiko Matsunaka
will fill the cleanup spot just fine. Johjima, however, is a big loss, as he was
clearly their best catcher; what's worse, their next-best catcher, Shinnosuke
Abe, is also out due to injury. Still, you'll recognize Japan's leadoff hitter;
it's the same guy you'll see at Safeco in April. If you're looking for Japanese
players who might be showing up on MLB rosters next season or so, the two
players to watch are third baseman Akinori Iwamura (who might be one of Japan's
very best sluggers) and pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, who's scheduled to start
against Taiwan on Saturday. Both supposedly have wink-wink-nod-nod deals in
place with their current teams that would allow them to leave Japan via the
posting system next winter.
KOREA: 23-year-old Seung-Hwan
Oh, the 2005 Rookie of the Year in Korea, will close; given the numbers he put
up last year (1.18 ERA, 115-to-20
strikeout-to-walk ratio in 99 innings), I'd
like to check him out and see if he's worth putting on a deep dynasty roster.
Just so you know, Japan has a better starting rotation, even though Korea's
three starting pitchers (Jae Seo, Chan Ho Park and Sunny Kim) are all on MLB
rosters. If you've never seen Seung-Yeop Lee, the big slugger who supposedly was
all set to sign with the Dodgers two years ago, here's your chance. This might also be your last
chance to see Hee Seop Choi all season unless the Dodgers trade him.
CUBA: The Cubans announced their final
roster on Tuesday, and they left their best pitcher, 24-year-old Danny
Betancourt, off the squad, officially due to injury. That's a shame, as I was
looking forward to seeing what the buzz was about on this kid; wonder if the
Cubans wanted to keep him away from defection-inducing enticements. With
Betancourt out, the must-see player on the Cuban roster now becomes 21-year-old
Yulieski Gourriel, who slugged .894 (yes, that's a slugging percentage, not an
OPS total) in last year's IBAF World Cup. Gourriel, who has played both second
and third base for Cuba in international play, reportedly will man the hot
corner at the WBC, which will force the Cubans to move slugger Michel Enriquez
to either DH or first base. Neither Panama nor the Netherlands boasts an
imposing roster, so Cuba could easily advance to the second round. However, once
they get there in a group that probably includes the Dominican Republic,
Venezuela and Puerto Rico, Cuba could easily go three-and-out at that stage.
And, some follow-up notes on the teams discussed
It's now official: Manny Ramirez is out of the
WBC. And so, too, is Vlad Guerrero, after three of his cousins died in a car
crash over the weekend. Both Jose Guillen and Wily Mo Pena now probably move
into the Dominican Republic starting lineup in place of Manny and Vlad. Earlier
this week, it was a slam-dunk that the Dominicans had the best batting order in
the tournament; now, if you put the American and Dominican lineup cards
side-by-side, especially now that Vernon Wells (quad) is back in the US lineup
for the first round, it's almost a tossup.
If current rotations hold, we'll get to see both
the reigning AL Cy Young winner (Bartolo Colon) and the guy who should have won
it (Johan Santana) when the Dominicans and Venezuelans start WBC play in Orlando
on Tuesday. Not too shabby.
Puerto Rico released their 30-man roster late
Monday, right after the original post here went up. David DeJesus wasn't put on the roster after all, so
figure either Ricky Ledee or Luis Matos will start in the outfield. Javy Lopez
evidently will see action at either 1B or DH (if it's the former, then figure
Delgado will DH). Bengie Molina extended his regrets, but his brother Yadier
will be on the squad as the backup to Pudge. Javy Vazquez will start the opener
against Panama, and Dicky Gonzalez will indeed be the third starter and go up
And, just as I was wrapping this up, I saw that
C.C. Sabathia and Billy Wagner have expressed their regrets as well. With their
depth of closers, Team USA won't miss Wagner very much at all; however, with
Sabathia out, Roger Clemens had better be ready, because there are a lot of
teams in the second round that can beat up Al Leiter.
Getting WBC player availability news has not been easy. If you spot a
mistake or have later info, feel free to pass along an update. Thanks ...