Venezuela. After the USA and Dominican, it provides the most players to the big leagues. But, much like the USA and DR, it hasn’t really played up to the number of big leaguers they have. Their best finish has been third in the 2009 Classic (and that was only because they were ahead of Team USA because of more wins during the primaries). However, they cannot be counted out. Venezuela is a country that often has divided and fluid politics that makes Washington look like a elementary school, but one thing binds them all together: baseball.
As always, these are the rules of how I pick this roster, a combination of the official WBC rules on rosters and some unwritten rules that emerged during the first two tournaments:
- 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.
So, after much research and thought, here are my projections for the 2013 Venezuelan National Team (after the jump):
Manager: Luis Sojo
Sojo, a manager in the low minors for the Yankees the last few years, has been the manager of Venezuela the last few major tournaments. Of course, this assumes Ozzie Guillen doesn’t get fired by the Marlins between now and next March (always a possibility), in which case he’d probably want the job.
All three are Major Leaguers, although only Montero really has a good bat. Yorvit Torrealba isn’t included due to his being a free agent this winter, and Wilson Ramos isn’t included due to his injury.
First Basemen: Ernesto Meija, Luis Antonio Jimenez
Ernesto Meija is a first-baseman in the Braves’ system who is doing well in AAA Gwinnett this season. Luis Jimenez from the Seattle organizaiton is also doing well in AAA. Venezuela does not have a devoted 1B in the Major Leagues as of right now, although perhaps they could have Miguel Cabrera temporarily move back to first if they could sedate the Detroit front office long enough.
Infante could, if needed, fill in at other positions as well, although he’s only been at second the last two years.
Third Basemen: Miguel Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval
Apologies to Alberto Callaspo.
There really isn’t much that needs to be said here, and I wouldn’t want to be Sojo trying to figure out who to play.
Bobby Abreu just misses, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did end up playing.
King Felix is obvious. Johan Santana is a big question mark due to his history with injuries, but I’m including him anyway. Felix Doubront has been one of the better pitchers, at least as far as W-L record, for the Red Sox this season. Henderson Alvarez of the Blue Jays rounds out the rotation.
This is one of Venezuela’s biggest strengths: they have a great bullpen.
Betancourt didn’t play in 2009, but I’m including him. Jose Mijares would provide a lefty out of the bullpen. Belisario, with the Dodgers, has a 1.25 ERA. Brayan Villarreal of the Tigers has an even lower 1.16 ERA. Morales, Mujica and minor leaguers Lester Oliveros, Jose Ortega and Mexican Leaguer Victor Moreno (who has 24 saves and a 1.91 ERA for Campeche this season) round out the bullpen.
Francisco Rodriguez isn’t what he once was, but he still deserves a spot in the bullpen- however, he will be a free agent this winter, so I’m not including him.
So, what would a lineup for this team look like? Perhaps something like this:
1. Jose Altuve, 2B
2. Martin Prado, LF
3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
4. Carlos Gonzalez, RF
5. Pablo Sandoval, DH
6. Miguel Montero, C
7. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
8. Gerardo Parra, CF
9. Ernesto Meija, 1B
Starting Pitcher: Felix Hernandez