The fourth World Baseball Classic is set to begin on Monday, March 6, and will consist of 16 countries and hundreds of professional players from dozens of professional leagues. Despite participating in all three of the previous tournaments, the United States has never finished better than fourth-place in 2009. However, this year looks to be different as Team USA’s roster is stacked with MLB talent. In previous years, the United States has struggled to pry major league players away from spring training to participate, but this year, a record number of MLB players have committed to play.
The pitching staff is formidable, led by Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer and Toronto’s Marcus Stroman, with the bullpen anchored by last year’s ALCS MVP Andrew Miller. The lineup is similarly filled with major league stars, ranging from San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey and Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, to Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and Pittsburgh right fielder Andrew McCutchen. Giancarlo Stanton, last year’s home run derby champion, and National League MVP runner up second baseman Daniel Murphy are also slated to start for Team USA. Former Detroit skipper Jim Leyland manages the team.
The tournament follows a format similar to the World Cup, with a group stage in which two teams advance from into a knockout stage. For the group stage, the United States is in group C, which is being hosted in Miami, Florida and consists of Canada, Columbia and the reigning champion, the Dominican Republic.
Canada has a small number of big leaguers on their roster, led by Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman and recently un-retired relief pitcher and Cy Young winner Eric Gagne. Colombia’s only big leaguers are pitchers Julio Teheran and Jose Quintana, who give Colombia one of the tournament’s better rotations. However, the Dominican Republic has a roster with enough MLB players to rival the United States. The Dominican Republic’s lineup is filled with the likes of Robinson Cano, Adrian Beltre, Jose Bautista, Manny Machado and Hanley Ramirez, while the pitching staff has Johnny Cueto, Carlos Martinez and Dellin Betances.
The United States and the Dominican Republic are two of the favorites to make the tournament finals. Other favorites to make the finals are: Cuba, Japan, the Netherlands and Venezuela. Australia, China, Chinese Taipei, Israel, Italy, South Korea, Mexico and Puerto Rico round out the countries participating in the tournament.
Seoul, South Korea; Tokyo, Japan and Jalisco, Mexico will host the group rounds, along with Miami. The second round will be held in Tokyo and San Diego, California. The single-elimination semifinals and finals are being hosted at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California from March 20-22.
Jacob Marsalisi is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.