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World Baseball Classic: more lineups, updates
Posted by Gus Papadopoulos at 3/1/2006 1:53:00 PM
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Following up on the WBC lineups post from Monday, here's how the current lineups for Mexico and Canada shake out:

CANADA
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 St. Pierre.
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, Paul Quantrill.
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.

MEXICO
Starting Lineup:  IF, Adrian Gonzalez, Jorge Cantu, Benji Gil, Vinny Castilla; OF, Karim Garcia, Luis Garcia, Mario Valenzuela; C, Miguel Ojeda; DH, Erubiel Durazo.
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, Antonio Osuna.
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 earlier:

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 against Cuba.

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 ...



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