If the World Baseball Classic results in a championship between the Dominican Republic (1-0) and Israel (3-0), it might be one of the greatest David vs. Goliath matchups in sports history. As the competition rolls on and delivers some exciting international drama, that Israel-D.R. final remains a possibility.
Baseball is a very international game, not quite as much as basketball, although like the NBA, MLB is infused by players from all over the globe. By our count, players born in 20 different countries will be represented on 2017 Opening Days rosters. Here’s a look at the current best player from every country (city of birth in parentheses).
Aruba (Oranjestad): Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox
Bogaerts has won back-to-back Silver Slugger awards and earned his first All-Star bid in 2016.
Australia (Attadale): Peter Moylan, RP, Kansas City Royals
The 38-year-old sidearm reliever boasts a 2.91 career ERA. He joined the Melbourne Aces of the Australian Baseball League for their winter season but is still signed with K.C.
Brazil (Sao Paulo): Yan Gomes, C, Cleveland Indians
Injuries marred Gomes’ 2015 and 2016 seasons, which followed a 2014 campaign that saw him jack 21 homers and slash .278/.313/.472.
Canada (Toronto): Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds
The 2010 NL MVP and Canadian God of Walks has been a model of consistency (career .313 hitter) since entering the league in 2007.
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Colombia (Cartagena): Julio Teheran, SP, Atlanta Braves
After a down year in 2015, the Braves ace bounced back last season with a 3.21 ERA/1.05 WHIP and 4.07 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.
Cuba (Campechuela): Yoenis Cespedes, OF, New York Mets
Cuba’s representative could very well be “The Cuban Missile” Aroldis Chapman but the tie goes to the hard-hitting position player.
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Curacao (Mundo Nobo): Andrelton Simmons, SS, Los Angeles Angels
The defensive maestro was good for 4.2 WAR in 2016 and 21.5 over his 5-year career.
Dominican Republic (Santo Domingo): Adrian Beltre, 3B, Texas Rangers
The majority of the dozens Dominican-born players in MLB are high-impact starters, including Robinson Cano, Edwin Encarnacion, Albert Pujols, Starling Marte, Johnny Cueto and so on. Beltre is entering his 20th major-league season and will likely notch his 3,000th hit sometime before the All-Star Break (currently he's at 2,942).
Germany (Berlin): Max Kepler, OF, Minnesota Twins
Kepler grew up in Germany, where he played youth baseball and up into the professional ranks until the Twins signed him as an international free agent in 2009. In 2016, the 24-year-old slugged 17 home runs in 396 at-bats.
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Italy (dual-citizen): Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs
Rizzo was born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, so this is (totally) cheating, but he did play for Italy’s 2013 World Baseball Classic squad. So we’ll take it. So he’s one part Italian, one part American, one part Bryzzo.
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Japan (Habikino): Yu Darvish, SP, Texas Rangers
This coming year will (hopefully) mark Darvish’s first full season since missing all of 2015 during his Tommy John recovery. The 6-foot-5, three-time All-Star righty wasn’t too shabby in his 17 starts last year, striking out 132 batters in just 100.1 innings pitched (3.09 FIP).
Mexico (Sonora): Marco Estrada, SP, Toronto Blue Jays
Ironically, Estrada’s numbers improved when he move from the NL to AL. The 33-year-old has twirled a 3.30 ERA in 63 games (57 starts) for Toronto over the past two seasons, where countryman Roberto Osuna knocks opponents down in the ninth inning.
Netherlands (Amsterdam): Didi Gregorius, SS, New York Yankees
Didi found his power stroke in 2016 (thanks in part to New York’s short porch), popping 20 homers to go along with a career-high 32 doubles (.447 SLG).
Getty ImagesJim McIsaac
Nicaragua (Rivas): Erasmo Ramirez, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
Ramirez has competition from Royals third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert, both of whom are early in their careers. In two seasons in Tampa Bay, the righty pitcher has compiled an 18-17 record with a 3.76 ERA.
Getty ImagesBrian Blanco
Panama (David): Carlos Ruiz, C, Seattle Mariners
Now that Mariano Rivera is retired, Ruiz can get some recognition. The longtime Phillies catcher is in the twilight of his career, during which he’s been worth 22 WAR.
Puerto Rico (Bayamon): Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinals
The seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glove catcher has been a fixture and a leader behind the plate in St. Louis since 2004 and swings a pretty great stick, too.
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South Korea (Busan): Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Texas Rangers
Choo enjoyed his best season in Cleveland in 2010, but he remains a pretty productive player and may see more time at DH this year.
Chen had a rocky first season in Miami in 2016 after two pretty solid campaigns in Baltimore, and will look to regain a bit of velocity as he tries to return to form.
Scott Rovak-USA TODAY SportsScott Rovak
United States (Vineland, N.J.): Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
It’s hard to believe Trout is still just 25 years old. It will be nice if the Angels can turn things around so the two-time AL MVP (2014, 2016), former Rookie of the Year (2012) and aspiring weatherman can see some October baseball.
Venezuela (Maracay): Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers; Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros
There’s a dozen great Venezuelans in MLB. Between these two, we couldn’t pick just one. So tip of the cap to the two-time AL MVP Miggy and two-time batting champ Jose Altuve, who’s led the AL in hits for three straight seasons and finished third in the AL MVP voting in 2016.