Of all the teams that have failed to win any games over the first two WBCs, the Panamanians probably are the best of the bunch. So it isn’t really a surprise that they will be hosting a qualifying pool in November. That pool is going to be brutal: Panama will be joined by Nicaragua, Colombia and Brazil. All four teams have at least one player active in MLB this season. Thankfully for Panama, their qualifying tournament will be in November and not September, meaning they will be able to call upon some of their major leaguers (as opposed to Canada, which will have to try to qualify without the aid of Joey Votto, Brett Lawrie and friends).
So, anyway, with all of this in mind and after much research, I’ve put together a possible roster for the Panamanians after the jump:
- 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.
Manager: Einar Diaz
Diaz, a coach in the Orioles system and a former big-league catcher, managed the Panamanians in the 2011 Pan Am games and World Cup, so I figure he will do so again.
Catcher: Carlos Ruiz, Christian Bethancourt, Damaso Espino
“Chooch” is the best position player from Panama currently active in the big leagues. Back in 2009, he didn’t want to play for the team because he was worried about his spot in the Philadelphia lineup… until the President of Panama called him up and asked him to (he did). Now, though, he has his spot all nice and set, so Panama’s leaders can focus on other things. Technically, he’s a free-agent after this year, but, really, do you honestly think the Phillies would be stupid enough to let him walk? Bethancourt is playing in AA for Atlanta and was selected to this year’s Futures Game. Espino is a long-time minor leaguer who is currently in the White Sox system.
First Basemen: Fernando Seguinol, Jeyckol De Leon
De Leon is a catcher/1B in the low minors for the Mets. Seguinol, a former MLB and NPB player, is now retired, I believe, but the fact he played for Panama in 2011 probably means he’s still in the game, at least for his country.
Carlos Lee is not included because he likely will be a free agent. That said, if he wanted in, he’d be in.
Second Basemen: None
There is no devoted 2B, instead utility guys would take it.
Third Basemen: Angel Chavez, Javier Castillo
Angel Chavez, who played ten games with the Giants in 2005, now plays in the Mexican League with Laguna, where he is hitting .349 as of this writing.
Javier Castillo was in the White Sox organization until 2010, reaching as high as AAA. He was released after that, but the fact he played for Panama in the 2011 Pan Am Games and World Cup means that he’s probably still in game shape.
Shortstops: Ruben Tejada
Ruben Tejada, a member of the 2009 team, is hitting .304 as of this writing for the Mets.
Utility: Jorge Bishop, Dimas Ponce
Bishop is a utility infielder (mainly 2B) in the low minors of the Pirates organization. Ponce is in the Mets organization and although he appears to primarily be a 3B he has also played 2B and SS.
Outfielders: Luis Durango, Ruben Rivera, Luis Castillo, Isaias Velasquez, Julio Aparicio
Luis Durango (that is a great name) has had cups of coffee in the past few years, and is currently in AAA for the Braves.
Ruben Rivera, you may remember, was a big leaguer at the turn of the century, best known for being A) Mariano Rivera’s cousin and B) trying to steal Derek Jeter’s stuff from the clubhouse. Well, he’s been in Mexico since 2007, and is hitting pretty well in his late 30s. He played in the past two WBCs.
Luis Castillo- not to be mistaken for the other Luis Castillo who was a three-time All-Star- is a outfielder in the low minors for the Tigers organization. Velasquez is in AA for the Tampa organization. Aparicio is in A-Ball for the Tigers.
Starting Pitchers: Bruce Chen, Randall Delgado, Angel Cuan, Paolo Espino
Bruce Chen is, indeed, Panamanian, his grandparents had traveled there from China. He’s a crafty lefty who’s finally found what may be a permanent home with the Royals. Delgado is a rookie for the Braves who has had some struggles, but is still rated as one of their best prospects. Angel Cuan is a starter in the Florida State Leagues (High-A) for the Mets. Paolo Espino has split time between AA and AAA in the Cleveland system this season, and pitched in the World Cup in 2011.
Relievers: Manuel Corpas, Manny Acosta, Eliecer Navarro, Isaac Monrroy, Francisco Baso, Alberto Baldonado, Yeliar Castro, Jean Corpas, Arquimedes Nieto
Manny Corpas has done well with the Cubs this season, showing he’s recovered from his injury. Acosta has been up and down this season, and is, I believe, currently in AAA for the Mets. Navarro is a usually-reliever (occasional starter) in high A-ball for the Pirates. Monrroy is a reliever in the low minors for the Mets, although he has yet to throw a pitch this season I haven’t found any evidence that he’s been released or anything. It’s a similar story for Baso, albeit with the Astros instead of Mets. In fact, most of the bullpen is minor leaguers, some of them quite low, or released after last season but presumably still in ballplaying shape.
Mariano Rivera isn’t included due to his injury as well as the fact he never has played in the previous WBCs either.
So, what would the lineup for this team look like?
1. Luis Durango, CF
2. Ruben Tejada, SS
3. Carlos Ruiz, C
4. Ruben Rivera, LF
5. Fernando Seguinol, DH
6. Angel Chavez, 3B
7. Jeyckol De Leon, 1B
8. Isaias Velasquez, RF
9. Dimas Ponce, 2B
SP: Bruce Chen