Thursday, February 21, 2013

World Babseball Classic 2013 Quick Preview: Pool A

Pool A Predicted Finish: Japan, Cuba, China, Brazil

Japan

Notable players: Atsunori Inaba, Kazuo Matsui, Toshiya Sugiuchi

Manager: Koji Yamamoto

First game: March 2 vs. Brazil

Japan dominated in 2009 and will surely compete for the title again this year. So far it looks like most of the roster has changed, but I expect the pitching staff to be strong once again. Sugiuchi did not allow a hit in five appearances (6.1 innings) last time.

Cuba

Notable players: Frederich Cepeda, Yulieski Gourriel, Freddy Alvarez

Manager: Victor Mesa

First game: March 3 vs. Brazil

Cepeda was one of the best players in the 2009 WBC, leading Cuba to the second round with a .500 average, three home runs, and 10 RBIs. However, the team will miss Yoenis Cespedes, who posted similar numbers and earned a huge MLB contract with Oakland. Gourriel hit .333 with a couple of homers last time.

China

Notable players: Ray Chang, Jiangang Lu

Manager: John McLaren

First game: March 3 vs. Japan

China was shut out twice in three games in 2009, finishing 1-2. Chang is a decent minor leaguer, while Lu allowed just one run in 5.1 innings in his last WBC start. Royals pitcher Bruce Chen apparently provided enough documentation to pitch for China this year after playing for Panama in the last two Classics. However, he has now backed out and will remain with Kansas City for Spring Training.

Brazil

Notable players: Paulo Orlando, Leonardo Reginatto, Rafael Fernandes

Manager: Barry Larkin

First game: March 2 vs. Japan

Brazil wasn't in the 2009 WBC field and will have a tough time advancing past the first round in 2013. The roster includes a couple of players who were born after I started college (Class of '95!), so things could be headed in the right direction. Unless Coach Larkin is suiting up, however, I expect the team to see a quick exit.

For complete 2013 World Baseball Classic rosters, schedules, and more, visit the official site.

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