2017 World Baseball Classic Preview and Predictions

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2017 World Baseball Classic coming up, all eyes will be on baseball as it hits the global stage. Here is a look at what is to come.

This year, the fourth edition of the World Baseball Classic will be taking place. In just a few weeks, 16 countries will start a tournament to see who will be the baseball champion of the world. Some nations have had prior success in the tournament before. Others will be competing in the Classic for the first time. No matter the circumstances, we will be seeing some of the best players in the world going head to head while they represent their proud nations.

The World Baseball Classic will be sure to excite the world’s baseball fans. It is a way to show how far the beautiful game of baseball stretches globally. The tournament features countries from five different continents, which is a sure sign of the globalization of the game.

With so many nations represented in the World Baseball Classic, there will be many different calibers of players on the field. There will be All-Stars (63, to be exact), utility players, minor leaguers, players only known in their home countries and retired former major leaguers that bring back memories for fans who followed them. It is a melting pot of different talents and cultures that will be sure to entice all sorts of fans around the globe.

With the tournament just around the corner, there are notes that should be gone over. The four-team pools, the players to watch on each team, the players you didn’t know were still playing, where the games will take place and who will take home the crown. Here is what you need to know about the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

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Pool A in Seoul

The first pool consists of teams from Korea, Chinese Taipei, the Netherlands and Israel. None of these countries really stick out as baseball hotbeds. While Korea is the host country for this pool, their team is not full of big time talent. Neither does the Chinese Taipei squad. Don’t expect either of those to teams to make an impact.

The other two teams have more MLB talent on their respective rosters. Israel’s team will be carried by Scott Feldman, Craig Breslow, Sam Fuld, Ike Davis and Ryan Lavarnway. They also will feature former major leaguer Jason Marquis. Team Israel is not loaded with talent like other rosters, but since qualifying for the tournament they have been an intriguing team to keep an eye on.

The team that will stand out in Pool A is the one from the Netherlands. Their roster features such talents as Xander Bogaerts, Andrelton Simmons, Kenley Jansen, Didi Gregorius and Jurickson Profar. For good measure, they even have former major leaguer Jair Jurrjens. The team from the Netherlands, on paper, is the superior one in Pool A. On the other hand, this is baseball and there is always a chance for surprises.

Pool A Predictions:

Pool A Winners: Netherlands and Israel

Player to Watch: Xander Bogaerts, Shortstop, Netherlands

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Pool B in Tokyo

Pool B consists of teams representing Japan, Cuba, China and Australia. At first glance, this pool looks strong, but the teams from Japan and Cuba will be missing some key eligible players. Japan will not feature such stars as Yu Darvish, Ichiro Suzuki or Shohei Otani. Cuba will be without Jose Abreu, Yoenis Cespedes, Aroldis Chapman, Yasiel Puig and Yasmany Tomas. They are still the teams to be watched in this pool, however. These two countries have been able to produce a ton of MLB talent, and the future talent may be on these squads.

The other two teams in Pool B, China and Australia, don’t have the reputation of performance and development as the other two nations. China could have had Kolten Wong and Vance Worley on their team, but they declined the opportunity. Instead, the player with the most big league experience is pitcher Bruce Chen, who retired in 2015. Australia has Grant BalfourRyan Rowland-Smith, Luke Hughes and Liam Hendriks as players of note on their roster.

Pool B Predictions:

Pool B Winners: Cuba and Japan

Player to Watch: Yoelkis Cespedes, Outfielder, Cuba (Half-brother of Yoenis Cespedes)

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Pool C in Miami

The four-team pool that will play out in Miami is the deepest pool in the tournament. With the United States, the defending champion Dominican Republic, Canada and Colombia, we are in for a treat. While Canada and Colombia are not exactly known for producing a ton of MLB talent, they each have noteworthy players.

Team Canada boasts the likes of Freddie Freeman and Justin Morneau, two players with MLB All-Star resumes. John Axford, the 2011 National League saves leader, will accompany them. Canada will also have two retired pitchers that come to many baseball fans’ memories, Ryan Dempster and Eric Gagne. They have quite the squad above the border. Colombia will roll out pitchers Jose Quintana and Julio Teheran, two bright young pitchers who lead their respective MLB pitching staffs.

The two top dogs are the United States and the Dominican Republic. Look for their stacked squads to battle for the Pool C crown and advance to the second round. With so many big names, it is hard to choose which one has the advantage. The United States has some of the best in the country (besides Mike Trout and Bryce Harper) including Paul Goldschmidt, Buster Posey, Giancarlo Stanton and Adam Jones. That’s just skimming the surface.

The same goes for the Dominican Republic. Their roster includes 2013 World Baseball Classic MVP Robinson Cano, Manny Machado, Johnny Cueto and Dellin Betances. Their roster looks like an MLB All-Star team and they will be in the hunt, yet again, to be the World Baseball Classic champions.

Pool C Predictions:

Pool C Winners: Dominican Republic and United States

Player to Watch: Manny Machado, Third Baseman, Dominican Republic

Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Pool D in Jalisco

The last pool of the World Baseball Classic will be playing south of the border in Mexico. Pool D consists of Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Italy. With the exception of Italy, all of the participants in this pool have deep baseball roots. That will make for some interesting pool play.

Team Italy is the weakest squad. Their players of note at Francisco Cervelli, Drew Butera and switch-throwing pitcher Pat Venditte. That is nothing compared to the other countries in the pool. Mexico’s star representatives include Adrian Gonzalez, Jorge De La Rosa and Yovani Gallardo. Mexico’s roster is impressive, but not as strong as Puerto Rico’s or Venezuela’s.

Puerto Rico is represented at the World Baseball Classic by Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina. While their pitching staff doesn’t have the star power of Mexico’s, their bats make up for it. Venezuela’s roster boasts the likes of Jose Altuve, Miguel Cabrera, Felix Hernandez and Salvador Perez. Their roster may be the deepest in Pool D and they are, overall, the scariest of the four teams in this pool. Look for Puerto Rico and Venezuela to get the Pool D nods.

Pool D Predictions:

Pool D Winners: Venezuela and Puerto Rico

Player to Watch: Jose Altuve, Second Baseman, Venezuela

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Pool E and F, Championship Round in Los Angeles and More Predictions

The next rounds will be Pool E (played in Tokyo) and Pool F (played in San Diego). The championship round will be played in Los Angeles. The final round will consist of two semi-final games and one championship game. All games in the final round are single elimination. Pool E may come down to Cuba and Japan getting into the final round, but the Netherlands shouldn’t be overlooked.

Pool F will be a battle to the finish, as all four teams are contenders for the two finals spots. All of their rosters are deep and each has MLB superstar talent. The Dominican Republic and United States have the two deepest rosters in the pool, but Puerto Rico and Venezuela are both quite impressive. The final four may be controlled by Pool F, as their rosters seem to be more talent heavy than any roster in Pool E.

Remaining Predictions:

Pool E Winners: Cuba and Japan

Pool F Winners: Dominican Republic and United States

Championship Game: Dominican Republic vs. United States

World Baseball Classic Champion: Dominican Republic

World Baseball Classic Most Valuable Player: Manny Machado, Third Baseman, Dominican Republic

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