Puerto Rico isn’t the baseball factory it once was. Once Puerto Rico was included as part of the draft, it ceased to produce as many prospects and as a result the entire culture of baseball on the island has suffered. Thankfully, this might be changing as MLB has helped set up baseball academies on the island, and it appears to be working: Carlos Correa was the top pick of this year’s draft, and he was an alum of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy.
However, despite this, Puerto Rico still has some advantages in the tournament. For one, many of the players will have also played winter ball, so will be more fresh and ready than some of the other teams. For another, it’s possible that the Puerto Ricans will be hosting a part of the tournament- they have the past two times- and if so they will no doubt have a rabid fan base behind them. And, finally, they will have Carlos Beltran, who is still a good enough player to be able to turn a game around single-handedly.
So, anyway, with all of this in mind and after much research, I’ve put together a possible roster for the Puerto Ricans:
- Any player coming off a major injury or who has a history of injuries is unlikely to participate. This is especially true for the pitchers.
- Players that will be on new teams are less likely to participate, but shouldn’t be completely ignored, with the exception of pitchers.
- Teams are made up of 28 players, of which 13 of them must be pitchers and two of them catchers.
- The pitch count rules make relievers extremely important.
More after the jump.
Manager: Edwin Rodriguez
The Puerto Rican baseball federation has already announced that Edwin Rodriguez, current manager of the AA Carolina Mudcats and once the manager of the Marlins, will be skipper of the team.
Puerto Rico is a breeding ground of catchers, and the Yadier Molina is the crown jewel (especially now that Pudge Rodriguez has retired). Martin Maldonado is the backup catcher for the Brewers and would have a similar role with Puerto Rico. Jose Molina of the catching Molina brothers is also included, possibly playing as a audition. Wil Nieves is a veteran catcher (who also has played some 1B) who has been with Colorado this season. You may be wondering why they have so many catchers, and the reason for that is simple: they only have so many Major Leaguers, and most of them are catchers. Therefore, they need to bring more than the usual compliment of catchers, and possibly use one or two of them as a 1B and/or DH.
First Basemen: Neftali Soto
A well-regarded 1B in the Cincy system (and thus doomed to be a part of a future trade). He’s struggled a bit this year, but probably would be the starting 1B for Puerto Rico.
Second Basemen: Ivan De Jesus, Jr.
More of a utilityman than a 2B, the son of Ivan De Jesus is one of many Major League sons who have played for the Dodgers this season.
Third Basemen: None
There are no devoted third basemen in this place, because so many of the utilitymen can play third.
Lindor is a Cleveland farmhand who is on the Futures Game roster and was rated the #37 best prospect by Baseball America before the season. Baez is a Cubs farmhand who is hitting .298 in A-ball this season.
Falu has been a infielder and bench player with the Royals since May. Maysonet was with the Brewers earlier in the season, but is now in AAA. Ruben Gotay is also in AAA.
Carlos Beltran is Carlos Beltran, possibly the greatest Puerto Rican ballplayer of his generation and a hitter good enough that the Cardinals haven’t regretted letting Pujols go as much as everybody probably thought they would.
Andres Torres of the Mets is the other MLBer in the Puerto Rican outfield. Luis Montanez, however, has played in the bigs in the past, and has been in AAA this season. Jesus Feliciano is currently in AAA for the Rays organization.
Angel Pagan isn’t included because he’ll be a FA going into 2013.
Jonathan Sanchez, the only starting pitcher from Puerto Rico this season, isn’t included as he’ll be a free agent going into the 2013 season. So it’ll be minor leaguers, unless somebody can coax Javier Vazquez out of retirement or if Joel Pineiro recovers from injuries enough that he is good enough to make a MLB roster and then uses next spring as an audition.
Leading the way is Julio Rodriguez, currently 5-1 in AA for the Phillies. He’s a member of the Futures Game roster. Andres Santiago, a high-A ball usually-starter in the Dodgers’ organization, was a member of the 2011 Pan American Games team. Giovanni Soto is a lefty with a 5-4 record in Akron (Cleveland AA) this season. Hiram Burgos is 5-2 between A and AA in the Brewers’ system this year.
Then there is Dicky Gonzalez. He’s been pitching in the NPB the last few years and would provide some veteran presence if selected (I didn’t include him but felt like mentioning him). Other Puerto Rican SP in Japan who could be possibilities are Orlando Roman and Carlos Alvarado. None are anything special, but could possibly be chosen.
Lopez has a 2.81 ERA for the Giants as of this writing and was a member of the 2009 WBC team. Cedeno has played for the Astros in 2011 and 2012. Jon Albaladejo has MLB experience and is an All-Star for Reno in the Pacific Coast League this season. Romero is getting up there in years and probably will play in the WBC as a way to audition for a roster spot.
Then there are the minor leaguers: Joe De La Torre is a righty in the Cleveland organization, where he has reached as high as AAA. Fuentes is a lefty (always important) who has a 3.03 ERA for Fort Myers (Twins A+) in 2012, and was a member of the Pan Am team in 2011. Flores is a 2011 Pan Am member and is in the higher parts of the Astros system. Fernando Cabrera, a former MLBer, was named an IL All-Star this season. Nelson Figueroa, who is a Puerto-Rican American who played in the 2009 Classic, is in AAA for the Yankees and is a part-time starter.
So, what might a Puerto Rican lineup look like? Perhaps something like this:
1. Andres Torres, CF
2. Francisco Lindor, SS
3. Neftali Soto, 1B
4. Carlos Beltran, RF
5. Yadier Molina, C
6. Ivan De Jesus Jr., 2B
7. Ruben Gotay, 3B
8. Jesus Feliciano, LF
9. Wil Nieves, DH
SP: Julio Rodriguez